A Series For People Who Are Done With the MCU (But Fans Too)
Warning: This article contains MAJOR spoilers for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has wrapped up its nine-episode run on Disney+. While there is no word if this will be a miniseries or if it will continue on in season two, the series certainly sent audiences on a trip they could not have predicted. The series follows Jennifer Walters (played by Tatiana Maslany) as a young lawyer who accidentally gets her cousin Bruce Banner’s Hulk blood in her system resulting in her transforming into her own Hulk, one the media dubbed and Jennifer later adopts She-Hulk.
Over the course of the nine episodes, Marvel Studios crafted a story unlike anything else within the MCU. It was the most different in terms of tone and structure, acting more as a half-hour sitcom, while also being the most interconnected of the Disney+ superhero TV shows, featuring a wide array of characters from across the franchise. This was likely a breath of fresh air for many viewers, both those that do love the MCU and those who have become burned out of by the franchise and pleasantly surprised to see something new.
The final episode of the She-Hulk season, “Whose Show Is This?” sees She-Hulk break the fourth wall in the most extreme case, and ends up arriving in the offices of Marvel Studios to confront the writers of the series as well as the creative brain behind it all: a giant machine named K.E.V.I.N (a reference to Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige who has shaped the MCU since the beginning).
In the season finale, and throughout the series, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law lays out many issues that some have had with the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the years. The writers have fun playing on the criticisms by acknowledging them and weaving them into the thematic thread of the series. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law gives fans all the big moments they want while also confronting some criticisms leveled at the MCU and showing that they can be better and here is how.
The Fourth Wall Break Keeps With the Theme of She-Hulk
The first episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law opens with Jennifer Walters speaking directly into the camera, and while it is revealed she is speaking to her co-workers it is an early sign of a fourth wall break. Marvel fans will know that long before Deadpool was breaking the fourth wall, She-Hulk was Marvel’s go-to meta character.
In the first episode, Jennifer assures the audience that this show is about her, and that it is a lawyer show. But the joke early on is no matter how much she insists on that, the superhero world of the MCU keeps beating down her door with appearances by Hulk, Daredevil, Abomination, and Wong as well as the introduction of new characters like Mr. Immortal, Leap-Frog, and more. The joke is that no matter how much Jen assures the audience, Marvel keeps interfering.
The payoff at the end sees Jennifer Walters finally asserting herself over her story. She ends the series not with a superhero battle like other MCU series, but instead with a closing argument as a lawyer from the legal TV show she keeps assuring the audience it is. Throughout the series, everyone tells her who she is and how she can behave, and that is made literal by the inclusion of Marvel itself being a controlling factor. Here She-Hulk asserts herself over her own story, writing it in a way that is emotionally satisfying for her character. Jennifer Walters’s Hulk persona is not smashing buildings, but as she said “smashing the fourth wall.”
She-Hulk Stares Down the Flawed MCU
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is without a doubt the biggest and most successful multimedia franchise currently. They have plenty of fans, but also plenty of critics who as the series has grown more omnipresent have been more vocal about their issues with the MCU. They are often accused of being too formulaic, of shady relationships with the military, of being blurry CGI messes and Mickey Mouse shills, more interested in setting up the next story than their own, and all ending with a big action climax either with a sky beam or a big brawl. Jen Walters literally outlines it in the episode by saying:
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for its big spectacle and high-stakes plotlines, but it’s often said Marvel movies all end the same way. Perhaps this is a result of following some unwritten rule that you have to throw a bunch of plot and flash and a whole blood thing that seems super suspiciously close to super soldier serum at the audience in the climax
This is a criticism that has especially held for many of the Disney+ MCU series like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Moon Knight which rush toward their climax and feel at odds with the stories they are telling. Many of the series also had a bad habit of saving the reveal of the real villain until the end like Kingpin in Hawkeye or He Who Remains at the end of Loki. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law acknowledges this, and corrects it by showing a different ending one that is more emotionally satisfying for Jen Walter’s character arc.
Marvel is Willing to Laugh at Itself
The episode features many jokes at Marvel’s expense, even taking the criticism of Marvel Studios being corporate filmmaking that some say is made via executive committees by literally being crafted by an A.I. named after the president of Marvel Studios. They reference the fact that their work is enjoyable overall by saying it is ‘near perfect,’ with some being better than others, and leaving it up to the internet to apparently decide which is which.
They even have a good joke at Marvel’s expense, that the franchise has been lacking in terms of strong female superheroes and sexual chemistry. This willingness to accept its criticism hopefully shows that Marvel Studios is so big they are more willing to take creative risks and chances. Let’s also hope it means Marvel Studios is not just making a quick joke about their VFX practices and poor working conditions and are actually willing to accept the criticism and be better to those that bring these stories to life.
She-Hulk is a Series Both Critical and Adoring of the MCU
In recent years, being a fan of something has shifted. In many ways there are now two extreme camps: one side consists of people who are so defensive of any critique of something they love, while the other viewers are so hyper-critical of everything a franchise does one wonders why they still want to partake in something they apparently don’t like anymore. This has been shown in the massive online culture wars over franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, and even Marvel.
Being a fan does not mean blindly loving something no matter what, but it also does not mean criticizing everything and asserting one’s own feelings as authority over it. A critique does not mean one hates the product, as praise does not mean blind loyalty. There can be a balance, and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law finds that perfectly. It acknowledges aspects of the MCU storytelling that should be challenged, but also realizes the fun possibilities within this universe.
The creative team behind She-Hulk: Attorney at Law are people with a clear love for the MCU that fans can feel in the inclusion of characters like Daredevil, but are also people who have hopes and aspirations for the franchise to move forward and expand in more creative ways rather than stagnate. Every fan should want their franchise willing to engage in that, to love the material but also know where it needs to change. She-Hulk: Attorney At Law can be enjoyed by someone who is completely caught up on the MCU, or someone who jumped off years ago, or even someone who has never seen an entry. It is a series for everyone.