She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (Season 1)
Marvel’s first sit-com is too unfocused
Marvel films have largely blended into one another in terms of style and tone, delivering an expected package to viewers. The TV side of the super-hero brand is where we’ve gotten more daring content, with the likes of WandaVision (2021) and Loki (2021-). Now, Marvel has dropped the closest thing it has to a sit-com yet with She-Hulk: Attorney at Law (2022-).
She-Hulk follows attorney Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) who gets infected with her famous cousin, Bruce Banner’s (Mark Ruffalo) blood. This has Bruce share his superpower of being a Hulk with her. Walters becomes a celebrity, albeit not always for the right reasons.
She-Hulk is created by Jessica Gao, whose cut her teeth on great TV comedies such as Silicon Valley (2014-2019) and Rick and Morty (2013-). She-Hulk has a more breezy and light-hearted approach than most Marvel properties, Jennifer frequently breaks the fourth wall to talk to viewers and becomes self-aware of her place in our pop-culture. Each episode is largely self-contained, so that the stakes of a week-to-week narrative are largely dissipated. This proves to be a double-edged sword for Gao; for one it allows for a more relaxed viewing than most high-stakes and action-heavy Marvel properties, but for another it makes the overarching story for the season feel disjointed and messy.
She-Hulk has many episodes that don’t go anywhere and provide little to no character development. Watching the entire season, it feels as if the story was being improvised on the go instead of having a big picture trajectory. This makes the narrative jumbled and over-crowded. Likewise, during the nine episodes only Jennifer Walters gets any meaningful character work done, with the rest of the supporting cast remaining as clichés. The success with Jennifer’s character is largely thanks to Maslany, who is pin-point perfect in the role. Maslany takes her character by the storm in such a dominating way that it becomes hard to see anyone but her in the role. Certainly, it was Maslany’s charisma and charm that kept me watching during many rancid episodes. The Canadian actress gives depth to the otherwise stale character arc of Jennifer grappling with her two personas.
She-Hulk suffers from much the same issues as its main character, it simply can’t figure out how to balance its identity. There is a great comedic lawyer show within She-Hulk as well as an entertaining superhero story, however, the distracted and disparate episodes we get, give She-Hulk the air of a chaotic and confused writer’s room. Maslany is easily the best aspect of the series, and her all-encompassing performance deserves a compact and focused story.