is the latest Marvel TV series for Disney Plus. It’s also the most comical entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as ambitious lawyer Jen Walters transforms into a super-strong green giant to fight bad guys (and sexism).
In myI noticed the show’s ferocious smart streak, but I couldn’t help but feel “it lacks the luscious chicanes of a true legal drama, the rousing action of a sci-fi show, or the heart of a even other Marvel shows.” Now that Episode 1 is streaming on Disney Plus, what are your first impressions?
Here’s our recap of the series’ first episode and the post-credits scene, exploring themes and Easter eggs, mysterious spaceships, and Captain America’s love life. Episode 2 will follow on August 25th and every Thursday (here’s the full). Lots of spoilers to follow!
The series stars Tatiana Maslany, who previously appeared in the award-winning sci-fi show, Perry Mason of HBO and the Broadway show Network. She opens the show with a speech about how people who benefit from power also bear a certain responsibility. Hmm, I’m sure there’s a shorter way to say that…
The speech, delivered directly to the audience as the camera zooms out past law books and a Ruth Bader Ginsberg bobblehead, is clearly intended to explain the show’s manifesto, and nuances Spider-Man’s famous maxim: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Whether this mission will be fulfilled in the series remains to be seen. To be fair, Jen Walters is a closing attorney for a lawsuit, and that’s not a high bar for sincerity. Does she really believe this? I hope so, because she is the hero.
Jen refocuses on the camera at the end of the scene, noting that the first breaks of the show’s signature fourth wall as she talks directly to the viewer. Chronologically, the first fourth wallbreak actually comes later in the episode and earns a double take from both Bruce and Jen, a response that is pure Fleabag. Maybe there’s more to the public’s chats than just simple one-liners?
The Origin Story of She-Hulk
We first meet Jen as she is already She-Hulk and then flash back to the moment she gained powers. That keeps us from spending a lot of time with Jen before we come to power. Yes, the Cheetos with chopstick and her Steve Rogers theory are fun, but what do these cute details tell us about our main character? When we don’t get a clue of who she was before, it’s hard to imagine how the advent of superpowers is turning her world upside down. For example, Jen later calls the Avengers a “secret team for government contractors.” Imagine if she was a staunch anti-superhero before she was given powers. What a predicament that would be!
Anyway, we’re going on a road trip with cousin Bruce, aka Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk. His arm has been in a sling since donning the Infinity Gauntlet in Avengers: Endgame and screwing up his hand while undoing Thanos’ finger snap. Banner was seen with the sling in the post-credits scene of, which came out a million years ago — wait, it was less than a year ago? Lies!
Anyway, it’s time for She-Hulk’s origin story, the event that irreversibly changes her life, the moment that will always remain big in her story, when the themes implicit in the character are expressed in a decisive praxis, and – – yes, a spaceship crashes the car and Jen gets some Brucey blood on her.
Wait, is that it? That’s the origin story? Uh, okay.
When a bruised and battered Jen staggers in a sports bar bathroom, a bunch of party women are shocked by her condition. But they immediately come to her rescue, which feels like the most endearing and truthful moment of the premiere. Jen then Hulks out on some closing creeps, but Bruce tackles her before she can go all the promising young woman.
Where did the spaceship come from?
Strange things find you when you’re a Hulk.” That includes being cut off in traffic by a vehicle that was definitely not designed for the highway. The starship that made the Hulk fender bender a Sakaaran Class A courier vessel , came from the planet Sakaar where Banner and Thor worked as gladiators for Jeff Goldblum’s grandmaster in the movie. But what message could it be, and who could try to reach the Hulk who was once the champion of that weird planet’s arena?
She-Hulk smash (the patriarchy)
Jen wakes up in a mariachi-themed cabana/bunker decorated with Iron Man’s broken helmet. It turns out that while Bruce forced Hulk-ness on Jen, she healed his glove-shriveled arm in return. That doesn’t seem fair, but then it wouldn’t be the first relationship in which the woman gives more than the man. I’m not reaching for subtext there, by the way: during the training montage where we learn more about Jen’s abilities, the themes of the series also crystallize.
The series has a lot to say about being a woman and being a woman in the public eye in particular. It is often said that the power fantasy of the superhero genre appeals to children because it is about getting bigger and stronger and claiming control of the world. The Hulk’s story intriguingly complicates this fantasy by explicitly linking physical strength and violence to fear, anger and pain. By placing Bruce next to Jen, She-Hulk turns this unintelligible raging force into an explicitly masculine thing and contrasts it with the feminine experience.
Bruce tells Jen that the Hulk is triggered by anger and fear. Jen replies that this is the basis of everyday emotions for every woman. The episode is even called “A Normal Amount of Rage”. boom — that is The real origin story of She-Hulk.
“When people start to see you as a monster,” Bruce Jen warns, “it never goes away.” Considering the series is about a woman who reluctantly becomes famous, this line resonates with many women who have been treated cruelly for daring to live their lives in public. Women like Britney Spears, Monica Lewinsky andwere branded and criticized for their behavior – often via grotesque double standards – but have been justified in recent years.
I’m always angry
Remember when Mark Ruffalo first played the Hulk in The Avengers? One of the moments that sealed this perfect casting was when he revealed his tragic secret: that he was always angry.
And yet, have we ever seen Ruffalo’s Banner much worse than crumpled melancholy? It’s intriguing to see if the arrival of a fellow Hulk brings out the conflict in Banner. We glimpse this when Bruce knocks Jen off a cliff in a fit of jealousy, but I think that’s meant to be funny (maybe call back to the “puny god” joke when he slapped Loki in The Avengers).
The argument between Jen and Bruce is actually a lead up to the obligatory fight scene. Anyway, I really hope the conflict in Ruffalo’s Banner develops in later episodes. For an uncontrollable rage monster, Bruce Banner has been too nice for too long.
Court in session
And so we are back to the process. Before Jen can deliver her argument, Jameela crashes Jamil through the wall. She plays Titania, a superpowered influencer who originally appeared in the comics as a willow-like woman who was given superpowers by Doctor Doom during the Secret Wars storyline.
If the TV version has a similar origin, that makes Titania an intriguing mirror to She-Hulk as a normal woman of great power.
Reluctantly, Jen Hulks makes his first public appearance and stops Titania. Hopefully that won’t come back to bite her in the spandex.
Captain America f–!
The scene after the end credits of episode 1 sees Jen put forward her theory about Captain America’s sex life. She only pretends to be drunk because the big thing about Hulkdom is that pounding concoctions are all buzz and no barf. Anyway, Bruce confirms that Steve Rogers lost his virginity to a girl on the USO tour in 1943. The star-studded man with a plan indeed! A handsome blonde autograph hunter catches Steve’s eye at 2:30 a.m. in this song from the 2011 movie The First Avenger — maybe she was the lucky lady:
She-Hulk random thoughts
- Hulks are created by lethal doses of gamma rays, but only when a rare combination of genetic factors synthesizes gamma rays into “something else.”
- When Jen smashes Bruce’s glasses, it seems pretty obvious that he’s just wearing them to show he’s Smart Hulk.
- Maybe it’s just me, but does it ever seem like they’re in Mexico? Or even outdoors?
- Nice bit of Disney cross-brand synergy with the mention of Pixar. Jen recalls the moment Bing Bong jumps off the wagon in Inside Out and oh great now I’m crying.
- Spandex is a Hulk’s best friend.
Movies coming in 2022 from Marvel, Netflix, DC and more
View all photos
The best TV shows of 2022 not to be missed on Netflix, HBO, Disney Plus and more
View all photos