She-Hulk: Lawyer (2022)
Marvel Studios/TV-14/Ten Episodes
Created by Jessica Gao
Directed by Kat Coiro and Anu Valia
With Tatiana Maslany, Ginger Gonzaga, Jameela Jamil, Josh Segarra, Jon Bass, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Tim Roth, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Wong and Charlie Cox
Photography by Florian Ballhaus and Doug Chamberlain
Starts August 18 and Disney+
Debuting tomorrow on Disney+, She-Hulk: Lawyer is the first of Marvel’s Disney+ shows to feel like distinctly episodic television. While some (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) felt more than others (Hawk Eye) as “one long movie,” this new offering is the kind of show that, in pre-release times, would have aired 22 episodes. It’s loose, small-scale, and not remotely about a larger arc or doomsday stakes. The cliffhanger that ends the fourth episode is almost comically inconsequential, and there’s barely a hint of a larger arc or overarching story. After essentially a two-part pilot where we meet our protagonist, learn how she became the Hulk, and then see how she adjusts to her new life as an advocate for superheroes and supervillains, the series becomes, well, a TV show.
There’s a joke in episode three where our heroine notices that story B and story A collide. What a joy it is to even have B-stories. This shouldn’t be a new concept, but it’s cause for celebration when Netflix The Lincoln The Lawyer (developed initially at CBS) dares to offer “Case of the Week” subplots alongside his season-long murder case. Likewise, while Tim Roth’s Abomination is heavily featured in marketing, its story is (apparently) over sooner than expected. The fourth episode is arguably the highlight, an old-school prank-of-the-week episode about the mystical arts co-opted by a C-rate stage magician. Yes, Benedict Wong shows up here and there, and the show admits openly (via fourth-wall-breaking banter) that they’re happy to use his won fandom as a shield.
As befits a show about a lawyer interacting within the MCU, there are plenty of baseball cameos and riffs within. The first episode is a glorified origin story, explaining how Bruce Banner (a Mark Ruffalo game) accidentally infected his cousin (Tatiana Maslany) with his Hulk powers and how she quickly adapted to the trials and tribulations that followed. find there. Jessica Gao’s show relishes the opportunity to see the MCU through a lens of banal boredom; think my favorite Powerpuff Girls episode “Just Another Manic Mojo”. As such, She-Hulk feels like the first of them to feel like “ordinary people living in MCU hell.” I hope the whole case of the week trend continues beyond episode four, as it will help the show avoid a common pitfall with serialized superhero storytelling, which is that superheroes don’t ultimately only interact with each other.
Maslany has fun playing Jessica Walters and She-Hulk, and the show highlights the gender inequalities at play without using yellow highlighter. The much-discussed CGI work is perfect for an episodic TV show. Despite yesterday’s clickbait Variety interview excerpt implying otherwise, the show has a lot of legal eagles and a lot of She-Hulk being She-Hulk. 90% of all cases are settled before going to trial. The vast majority of legal work involves anything but courtroom melodrama. Heck, civil cases that go to trial are so rare that such circumstances are sometimes outsourced to trial attorneys. But I digress. That’s not to say it’s a high-flying legal melodrama, as it’s not a David E. Kelly show, but it gets the job done when it comes to genre appropriation.
She-Hulk: Lawyer is a light, airy, quirky and self-satirical game. He wears his shamelessness in terms of gender appropriation and the MCU’s “easter eggs” as a comedic badge of honor. I love that it doesn’t devote an entire season to a long case and that (so far) the show is much more about She-Hulk as a lawyer than She-Hulk as what a superhero. It’s also the first of those Disney+ shows to offer a human-sized look at life within the chaotic MCU, and it uses its specific setting to set itself apart from other genre-specific offerings. It’s also modest enough to, like Doctor Strange 2remember when Marvel was just another popular franchise and not a glorified monoculture whose every step was viewed through the lens of commercial success and political posturing.