She-Hulk: Attorney At Law Season 1: A Normal Amount of Rage Review

Do We Like Her When She’s Angry?

She-Hulk

She-Hulk is one of my favorite Marvel characters. While her more famous cousin gets more attention, Jennifer Walters is who I’ve always been able to relate to. While they’re both big, green, and great in a fight, She-Hulk is driven by emotions of powerlessness and a desire to be more than you are which hit a lot closer to home for me than the ego and trauma and anger that drive Bruce Banner.

The first episode of She-Hulk: Attorney At Law doesn’t get off to the strongest start of any of Marvel’s shows set in the MCU. The first episode, A Normal Amount of Rage, gets a lot of the back story and set-up out of the way but in doing so feels like it will set a very different tone from what the rest of this show is going to be. That’s okay on its own, though Marvel might have considered releasing two episodes on day one so that fans could get a better idea right from the start of what to expect on a week-to-week basis.

 

Minor Changes

 

She-Hulk

Marvel has slightly shifted the origin of She-Hulk here, but in a way that makes a ton of sense. Jennifer Walters is still the cousin of Bruce Banner, and she still gets her powers from his blood. Here it comes in the form of being exposed to that blood during a car accident instead of him giving her a blood transfusion, but that makes a lot more sense, really. Why would Bruce Banner, knowing everything he knows about his blood, ever give anyone a transfusion? Even if it was life or death and there was no other way, I think there’s a pretty good chance he’d choose to let someone die, frankly. Creating another Hulk is too great a risk. The writers of She-Hulk have come up with an excellent reason for him to be able to get hurt and bleed without turning to The Hulk, at least temporarily, which ties back into his ongoing story from Avengers: Endgame and honors his journey.

So, Jennifer turns into a Hulk. She’s big, green, and still changes due to anger. Unlike Bruce, though, she’s not an uncontrollable rage monster. Anger may cause the transformation, but once she changes, she’s still the one in control. It isn’t even that hard for her to get things under control, and the episode later suggests she quickly learns to change at will.

 

Building A Better Hulk

 

She-Hulk

There’s still a lot that goes into using these powers, though. And Bruce spirits her away to a lab down in Mexico to train and get used to her new abilities. He has a whole book made up based on his abilities but quickly throws large portions of it away. Jennifer’s journey is very different from his, and while I’m sure we’ll see Mark Ruffalo show up more throughout the run of the series, this isn’t his story. Why is Jennifer so much more capable of staying herself even when turning into a gamma-created monster? She doesn’t have the lifetime of trauma that turned Bruce Banner into a mess internally even before he was exposed to gamma. A lifetime of controlling her anger, an experience Jennifer points out is shared by many women, has trained her to handle this better than Bruce will ever be able to.

I do wonder if even the creators of She-Hulk thought that the training session went on a bit too long because they break it up with a fight that doesn’t really make any sense, even if punching first and talking later should perhaps be expected when you get a pair of Hulks together. Neither of the fight scenes in A Normal Amount of Rage really works for me, though. The first is unnecessary, and the second happens so abruptly that we barely get an introduction to Jameela Jamil’s Titania, who seems like she’s going to be an important character during this first season.

The connection between Bruce and Jennifer as a family is strong, both in the way they can support each other and the way they can hurt each other. Bruce isn’t really fit to be Jennifer’s Yoda, their struggles are too different, even if there will be common elements, but he tries his best and does manage to pass on at least a little bit of wisdom. We get a ton of character development for Bruce during their training sessions which is nice to see since his mostly appearing in crossovers through the years has left him without moments to really get into his own trauma. Mark Ruffalo is excellent in these scenes, even if the show passes on an obvious chance to really connect things to his only solo film by not mentioning someone that fans have been dying to hear more about for years.

 

A Different Jennifer Walters?

 

She-Hulk

This isn’t a show called The Hulk, though. She-Hulk keeps the focus on Jennifer Walters, and Tatiana Maslany is up to the task. She has an easy confidence in the role and still manages to come across strongly even when hidden behind CGI, which borderline falls into the uncanny valley, though that may just be getting used to a Hulk who is far more human than even the Smart Hulk we’ve seen in recent years.

I’m not sure however I like where the show has gone with this version of Jennifer Walters. The juxtaposition between She-Hulk and Jennifer Walters has always made the character relatable for me, even if they’re still the same person. Jennifer is normally portrayed as starting out a quiet, mousey woman who feels trapped in her life. She yearns to break free and live larger, an opportunity which becoming She-Hulk provides. Unlike Bruce, who treats being The Hulk as a curse, Jennifer typically embraces it, actually preferring to live her whole life this way. It gives her a sense of power and confidence she was previously lacking and pushes her out of her comfort zone.

I’m sure some of that will be explored still in She-Hulk: Attorney At Law. The previews for the show lean heavily on Jennifer getting outside her comfort zone, and I look forward to seeing some of that play out. Maslany’s Jennifer Walters, though, starts out a lot closer to the end of that journey than the beginning. She’s smart, funny, beautiful, successful, and seemingly has a great life. That’s why she’s so eager to get away from her cousin and get back to it. Time will tell if making the journey between the two sides of Jennifer Walters so much shorter was a mistake, perhaps we’ll find in future episodes that there are more areas of her life where she’s struggling with confidence that her transformation can get her past. For now, though, I do wonder how much of the character I’ve related to so much through the years is going to be in Maslany’s portrayal. Perhaps this all comes down to her spending most of this first episode around her cousin and her best friend, people she would presumably be comfortable with, but if that’s the case, it’s another example of an introductory episode that struggles to introduce things.

 

Conclusion

 

Despite a first episode that doesn’t fully land its punches, I’ve come away from it feeling positive about the show’s future. Tatiana Maslany is a great Jennifer Walters and a great She-Hulk. With all of the introduction out of the way, I’m confident future episodes can dig into being the legal comedy it actually plans to be going forward. The series of drawings over the credits and an after-credit scene that Marvel fans should know by now to wait for had me absolutely rolling and gave me even more confidence that the creators of this show know what they’re doing. Stay tuned to see what comes next.


Final Verdict: 3/5

Andrew Thornton
Andrew has been writing about video games for nearly twenty years, contributing to publications such as DarkStation, Games Are Fun, and the E-mpire Ltd. network. He enjoys most genres but is always pulled back to classic RPG's, with his favorite games ever including Suikoden II, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Phantasy Star IV. Don't worry though, he thinks new games are cool too, with more recent favorites like Hades, Rocket League, and Splatoon 2 stealing hundreds of hours of his life. When he isn't playing games he's often watching classic movies, catching a basketball game, or reading the first twenty pages of a book before getting busy and forgetting about it.

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