Even before She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premiered on Disney+ this past August, the internet has had no shortage of jabronis voicing their complaints about the show. There has been so much media made about how She-Hulk is the worst TV show ever. All this negativity toward She-Hulk has led to some giving up on the show. However, with the final episode premiering later this week, now is the perfect time to get back on board so you can see what you’ve been missing, because She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is the best Marvel Cinematic Universe Disney+ show.
She-Hulk is the First Marvel Disney+ Show That Knows How to be a Show
There’s something to be said for a piece of media effectively utilizing the medium in which it exists. A common complaint among the Marvel Disney+ shows is that they feel like movies cut up into 6 pieces and thrown on Disney+. In some cases, it’s a fair criticism. Frequently, the episodes don’t feel like their own concise story, so while the episodes can be separated by certain storytelling functions or a change in location, it still feels like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, or even Ms. Marvel could’ve been better served by cutting out a bunch of the fluff and editing the entire story into a 2-hour long movie. Only What If…?, WandaVision, and Loki had done this right previously, but She-Hulk might be the best at it specifically because unlike What If…?, WandaVision, or Loki, She-Hulk is very explicitly a sitcom.
Part of the charm of a sitcom is that while there are big, season-long arcs – like Diane warming up to Sam in Cheers or Mac getting fat in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – the episodes themselves are largely disconnected and can be watched out of order. Once everything was set in motion, starting with episodes 3 and 4, the creatives on She-Hulk really managed to hit that balance. That balance can be pretty effectively highlighted by focusing on the legal aspect of the series. Every episode is another case. Every case presents a new challenge, introduces a few new characters, and after 22 minutes, everything is neatly wrapped up. Someone could watch episode 1 and then skip to episode 4, and they’d mostly get it.
Some people don’t like this disconnect at the heart of the show, but it’s a feature, not a bug, and whether one likes everything about She-Hulk or not, it’s hard to deny that it’s living up to the promise of a superhuman law sitcom. If you don’t like the idea of sitcoms, then this was never going to work for you, but it’s difficult not to appreciate how She-Hulk is the first MCU show that has embraced the sitcom format.
She-Hulk Expands on the MCU in Interesting Ways
She-Hulk has introduced so many characters and concepts with barely any legwork. This can be attributed to the fact that She-Hulk is the first MCU show that is explicitly about a character dealing with the superhuman side of the universe that audiences don’t really see. Moon Knight had Egyptian gods. Ms. Marvel had Clandestines. They did not have, for instance, a sorcerer just show up; it wouldn’t have made sense and that’s fine. Thematically, it is consistent with the scope of the story. But it’s pretty wild that even though Earth is full of aliens, Asgardians, and all sorts of gods and enhanced people, outside of the Shang-Chi cage fight, there has not been an earthbound project where characters just bump into something weird or acknowledge the weirdness in the rest of the world. She-Hulk is the first MCU show to properly acknowledge the Celestial in the middle of the ocean – that’s incredible because one problem with Phase 4 is that – apart from Wong – it’s felt sort of disconnected. There aren’t those little moments where Coulson mentions a thing he has to deal with that signals to the audience that Thor also exists in this world, or where Bruce Banner name-drops Wakanda. Moments like those are necessary to keep everything balanced outside of the big team-up movies and ground the world in some shared reality, even if it is a weird one.
Phase 4 has done a fair amount of world-building, but it was almost always providing context to past events from the last few phases, like Kamala telling the audience about the end of Avengers: Endgame or Hawkeye watching “Rogers: the Musical.” Fans have gotten plenty of context for things in the past, but what about the very recent past? There have been so many world-altering events that never get mentioned. Did anyone else experience the time Mr. Knight and Khonshu turned back time in the sky, or that kaiju fight from the end of the series? Those are examples just from Moon Knight. Nobody has brought up the Gargantos attack, any of the Statue of Liberty stuff, Hawkeye shooting goons in 30 Rock on Christmas, the Taskmaster chase, the attack on New Asgard, the Shang-Chi bus fight, and anything from Eternals…outside of acknowledging that Kingo exists. These things all happened in public, so the idea of a character who gets to react to them or a show that would not feel weird if it acknowledged them is a lot of fun.
It’s clear that Phase 4 was jumbled by the pandemic. Lots of movies changed spots, so plenty of the direct references wouldn’t play, but a show like She-Hulk wraps a lot of that up at the end. It’s the last D+ project of 2022, so She-Hulk gets to be sort of a greatest hits of the phase. But even beyond that, She-Hulk’s world-building is really impressive because of how much the creatives trusted the audience. A Light Elf shows up – audiences have never seen or heard of them before, but the writers know if they look and act a specific way, audiences will infer that this is a Thor-related thing. Mr. Immortal just popped in for an episode. In the comics, he has the power to live forever and was the leader of the Great Lake Avengers at one point. This version of the character was certainly a different take on the hero, but it fits into the universe well. It’s great that they can do characters like this without explanation; it just makes the world feel so much bigger.
Jennifer Walters is an Interesting and Likable Character
There has been a lot of discourse pertaining to whether Jennifer Walters is an interesting character or not. Many seem to believe that Jen is not an interesting character because she has no flaws – she never does anything wrong and dismisses Bruce, her kind, older cousin. However, this is a wild misreading of the entire series. Jen’s biggest flaw is that she’s sort of arrogant – just like Tony Stark, Thor, Peter Quill, or Stephen Strange before her. Jen believes she’s will be better at being a Hulk than she actually is and dismisses people offering her help…that is, until she doesn’t. Though it does remain to be seen if Jen will learn her lesson by the end of episode 9, perhaps the other lawyer superhero will have something to say about the whole work/life balance thing.
Another great element about Jen’s character is that she really feels like an adult. The idea of having to go on bad dates or attend a chaotic wedding is really relatable. That’s why the conversation that Jen has with Bruce in the beginning of Episode 1 feels apt. Jen talking about how Steve Rogers never got to have sex is both a fun conversation that all nerds have had at some point, but also an acknowledgment that the MCU’s second lead character never got to just slow down and date – at least, not so far as audiences have seen. She-Hulk exploring that is refreshing, especially since Tony Stark being a little playboy was one of the things that drew people to the MCU. Just like Tony, Jen has a sense of humor and feels human.
And similar to how they’ve explored relatable adult relationships with Tony Stark, Thor, Peter Quill, and Stephen Strange, Jen and all of her supporting characters are great. The group dynamic between Jen, Nikki, and Pug is a lot of fun, and so are the little Nikki and Pug side adventures. What they’ve done with Mallory Book – a character who plays an important role in the Dan Slott comic run from 2004 – is also commendable. Additional standouts are Jen’s family, Wong and Madisynn, and Lulu, played by Patti Harrison.
With She-Hulk coming to an end, give it a look with a pair of fresh eyes and appreciate it for what it is: a sitcom that’s grown the MCU in a creative way.
The 9th and final episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law releases on Disney+ Thursday, October 13th.