She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Marvel Studio’s superhuman legal comedy, stars Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer (Jen) Walters AKA the cousin of Bruce Banner/ Hulk. After an accident, Jen transforms into “She-Hulk” and has to balance her superpowers with her desire to be a regular lawyer.
Based on the first four episodes made available to critics, She-Hulk finds its way as a legal comedy but takes a recess to get there.
Although the setup to Jen’s journey doesn’t work as well as it could, once the “Attorney at Law” part gets tacked onto the plot the show gets a lot more fun.
A Hulk-Sized Hangover
It’s not a spoiler to say you’re going to see Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), which gives the pilot a Hulk-sized hangover, to steal a phrase from Jen.
Although Maslany and Ruffalo work well as scene partners, the setup of how she gets powers makes for a clunky start to the show. A full origin story episode for She-Hulk feels like it could have been better spent getting to know Jen before her powers.
If you’re excited to have a bunch of references to the other Avengers as Bruce and Jen train and trade quips, then the pilot is for you. After a while, it felt like I was waiting for the actual show to start.
Being Bruce’s sassy powerful cousin who loves being a lawyer is a fine starting point, but it skips over a lot of needed character development to get the audience invested in Jen’s journey. The fourth wall breaks when Jen talks directly to the audience don’t make up up this lack though they seem to try.
The problem continues throughout the series as Jen’s powers often get treated as a setup for a joke more than an actual problem she struggles with. They’re given as much exploration as her struggles as a woman are, which is to say a surface-level acknowledgment without any meaningful discussion.
The lack of real conflict makes it harder to care about the scenes where she’s opining about her personal life. A storyline about her having trouble with dating apps comes off as a particularly cheap and ultimately depressing joke.
By the end of the first four episodes, the show seems to be inching towards some more real personal conflict. Until then, enjoy some awkward family dinners.
Fortunately, her legal career struggles ring more true, laying the comedic foundation of the show and providing its saving grace.
When the jokes do take the time to dig a little deeper into the absurdity of being the cousin of a superhero and being a superpowered lawyer, they can be a riot. Surprisingly for Marvel, some are even borderline raunchy (you do NOT want to skip the mid-credits scenes for Episode 1… or the mid-credits for any of the episodes really).
Where the writing may lack Maslany’s performance adds some much-needed spark. She seems born for comedy with her cartoonish expressions and modern screwball comedy energy.
Even if the show hasn’t quite yet perfected that special sauce a comedy needs, it has the ingredients to stand out with its one-of-a-kind situational comedy created by the superhuman law division at Jen’s law firm and the talented cast making up the team.
Ginger Gonzaga as BFF Nikki Ramos makes the most of what little time she gets, and I hope she ends up getting promoted from sassy sitcom best friend to developed character. For now, she’s there to be Jen’s hilarious wing-woman and confidant.
The same goes for Josh Segarra as Augustus “Pug” Pugliese who early on gets an interesting fraud case that makes you think about the everyday implications of superhumans living in the MCU among the normies. It’s a much quieter comedic performance but still immediately endears the viewers to him.
I’ll happily take a scene with these characters in a courtroom arguing a case or dealing with a weird client over any traditional superhero scenarios. After all, who wants to be an Avenger when they don’t even have health insurance?
Although Jameela Jamil’s Titania briefly appears early in the season when she has her future rivals meet-cute with Jen, the first half is decidedly not interested in She-Hulk’s villains. Even with the hint that there might be a second foe out for blood, expect Jen to be spending more time on office politics than fighting baddies.
Whose Show Is This?
There’s a cheeky line in one of the early episodes telling viewers to remember whose show it is, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the guest appearances are one of the best parts.
Not because She-Hulk doesn’t deserve her own show, but because the premise of the show necessitates that it brings in other characters from the MCU. If we only saw Jen representing a revolving door of superhuman clients we had never met, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun.
Whatever they’re paying Benedict Wong to appear throughout Phase 4, it’s not enough. His unexpected friendship with a key witness for his lawsuit against another “magician” gives us the best chaotic duo since Sam and Bucky.
Tim Roth manages the right amount of sleaze and sympathy for the misunderstood Emil Blonsky. Even if you’ve never seen The Incredible Hulk, you’ll be charmed.
Jen thrives at work, and so does Maslany when she’s arguing a case and sharing scenes with this slew of guest stars. This is the same actress who was able to have comedic chemistry with herself on Orphan Black, so it shouldn’t be a surprise she can find it with whichever scene partner she’s paired with for the week.
There are plenty of great sitcoms that took a while to find their footing, so I’m hopeful the show continues to smooth out its wrinkles in the second half. Although Marvel has a long way to go in figuring out its comedy formula, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a decent start for Marvel fans looking for something lighter.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premieres August 18 on Disney+.