She-Hulk Is Precisely the Kind of Risk-Taking I Want From the MCU

Dept. of Legally Green


You know what was always missing from Ally McBeal? Kicking and punching. Some good old fashioned violence would have gone a long way towards elevating all of that legal wrangling, comedy hijinks, and postfeminist agitprop. It is a void that She-Hulk: Attorney at Law comfortably fills, both with a flamboyant confidence and a self-assured sense of style.

The MCU has always dipped its toes into genre. The Winter Soldier was a Cold War thriller. Ragnarok was a workplace comedy. Multiverse of Madness dabbled with horror. And Iron Man 3 might be the closest thing they’ve done to a Christmas movie. With She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, they’re going all in.

Their first ever sitcom isn’t a superhero show that’s pretending to be a comedy. It plays comfortably within the genre and relies on familiar tropes, all while capitalizing on its superhero roots in order to subvert our expectations. It is genuinely funny. And it succeeds in creating a family of characters that you actually want to spend time with.

What’s more, She-Hulk also feels more serialized than any other Marvel series to date. This isn’t a four and a half hour movie that’s been arbitrarily chopped up into nine episodes. This is episodic television in every sense. One that doesn’t feel like it’s been burdened by the trappings of the half hour sitcom, using it instead as a powerful tool to tell a story of acceptance and empowerment.

Rock Out With Your Hulk Out


Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) is a single, thirty-something lawyer, who just happens to be the Hulk’s (Mark Ruffalo) cousin. When the both of them are involved in a car accident, Bruce’s blood accidentally merges with Jennifer’s, sousing her genes with gamma radiation, which causes her to transform into a powerful, green behemoth like him. Jennifer, however, unlike Bruce, seems to have a better handle on her superpowers and manages to keep it under control and under wraps. Until one day in court, when her closing brief is unceremoniously interrupted by a third rate villain, and she is forced to “Hulk-out” in order to save the day.

Jennifer is outed against her will and gets fired from her government job. Fate has made her a superhero, but all she wants to do is be a lawyer. Opportunity comes a-knocking when she is offered a chance to lead the superhuman law division for a high-powered firm. They may have hired her because of her Hulkness, but she takes it on as an opportunity to do something different with this new life that has been unceremoniously thrusted upon her.

All of this happens very, very quickly. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law wastes absolutely no time in telling her origin story. In under an hour, the series acquaints us with all the characters and their relationships, sets up the tone, and introduces the underlying conflict from which all of the comedy will arise. It is great television writing. It is a welcome throwback that is unlike so much of the self-indulgent storytelling that this age of streaming has spawned.

Being episodic in nature also means that She-Hulk is the most comic-like MCU series so far. Its case-of-the-week structure allows the series to go places where other Marvel shows could not. There is an overarching theme here, but this is a show that feels more concerned with the emotional development of its character than it does with an explosive endgame. Yes, it’s a procedural, but one that takes some major risks.

Risky Business


Comic books have never been monolithic. The form has always allowed for experimentation, which writers and artists have exploited to great effect. An early issue of What If? put forward a scenario in which Stan Lee, Sol Brodsky, Flo Steinberg, and Jack Kirby – the original members of the Marvel bullpen – were subjected to an insidious experiment, and became the Fantastic Four. The Damage Control comics told the story of a construction company that specialized in repairing the property damage caused by conflicts between superheroes and supervillains. Deadpool and She-Hulk famously broke the fourth wall, not just to address readers and provide exposition, but they did so with an awareness that they were, in fact, characters in a comic book.

It’s something She-Hulk: Attorney at Law pulls off incredibly well. There is a real irreverence here. By having Jennifer Walters “Fleabag” her dates, by making reference to the number of cameos in the show, by having her deal with a clickbaity press and subliterate idiots on social media, Marvel is making fun of itself and its audience. They’re laughing with us and at us. It is a risky choice, which could play in one of two ways. It could alienate fans in the same way Loki did when it flippantly made light of the Infinity Stones, or it could serve as an interesting entry point into the MCU for newcomers.

I for one found it incredibly refreshing and a lot of fun. By undermining the self-seriousness of their cinematic universe, Marvel is attempting to break away from the very template that has been so far so successful. They are no doubt aware of the pitfalls of their “everything is connected” approach to filmmaking and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law feels like their first real attempt at addressing it.

Click here to check out our exclusive interview with She-Hulk: Attorney at Law director, Kat Coiro. Or click here for another take on the series.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premieres on Disney Plus and Disney Plus Hotstar on Thursday, August 18.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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