Some ropey CGI, sledgehammer-subtle social commentary, and hit-and-miss humor make She-Hulk: Attorney at Law a mixed bag at best.
This recap of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law season 1, episode 1, “A Normal Amount of Rage”, contains spoilers.
Lots of people are going to hate She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
That should probably go without saying since it’s about a woman in a man’s world in 2022, the year of review-bombing, so-called “Mary Sues”, and the “woke agenda”. There are only two genders, after all, men and “political”, and of course, there is no place for politics in a world where there’s a man with a Stars and Stripes uniform named Captain America.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law season 1, episode 1 recap
But She-Hulk seems calibrated to annoy these kinds of people more than usual. For one thing, it’s an Ally McBeal-style legal comedy in a franchise that is currently being criticized for becoming too jokey. It’s about a female version of a male hero and at least half of the first episode is devoted to reiterating in every way possible how Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) is just naturally better than Bruce Banner at being a Hulk. Almost every man in the show is a loser or a smug jerk or both. You get the idea.
There’s nothing wrong with any of this in the broad strokes, though it’s frustrating just how simplistic and unsubtle the show’s social commentary is. It can make the whole thing seem unsophisticated and dated. Sure, you could have predicted that people would hate this out of the gate, but you probably wouldn’t have guessed that they might be a little bit justified in their criticisms.
Let’s not get carried away, though. If anything, I don’t mind an “origin story” occurring essentially on fast-forward, since we’ve had plenty of origin stories in the past, and I like how the middle portion of “A Normal Amount of Rage” is designed to subvert the typically tortuous training montage. From the little bit of dialogue between Jen and her paralegal best friend Nikki (Ginger Gonzaga) in the opening scene, we know that Jen can control her Hulk alter-ego to enough of an extent that she can return to work. There was no reason to spend any longer on how Jen became a Hulk, or how she learned to handle it than was necessary.
Besides, the real purpose of those utterly unserious scenes with Bruce is to fill in some blanks in the continuity; we learn that Bruce’s bar hideout in Mexico was built by him and Tony Stark and is where Bruce worked in isolation during the Blip to unite both warring halves of his identity into Smart Hulk. We learn that Captain America wasn’t a virgin. We’re reminded that Hulk spent his self-imposed exile on Sakaar, and since Bruce and Jennifer almost crashed into a Sakaar spacecraft, we’re to understand that there might be a connection with whatever the Grandmaster is up to.
This is all standard, functional storytelling. Sure, it isn’t exactly smooth, and even with the help of some expository fourth-wall breaks, the whole thing’s still a bit clunky and contrived. But it’s getting the essentials out of the way before it transitions into what one assumes will be a more procedural format, and likely a solid backdrop for various other MCU fixtures and fittings to jump in and out week after week.
Yes, some of the CGI is ropey. And yes, it all feels a bit fluffy and inconsequential in a way I’m not especially keen on, especially given that I don’t think the humor works especially well either. I wish there was more going on, and I’m hoping that in subsequent episodes there will be. For now, it’s too early to make much of a determination either way. You might not like the Hulk when he’s angry, but it’ll be awkward if nobody likes She-Hulk at all.