I have to admit that I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Hulk character. That doesn’t mean I hate it, it’s just down the list of my favorite superheroes. You can imagine my indifference then when Marvel announced that they were making a show based around She-Hulk. That all changed as I watched the first episode of She-Hulk, introducing us to the lawyer world of Jennifer Walters (played by Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black fame) and the origin story of how she became She-Hulk. I wasn’t familiar with Tatiana’s work before, but she has quickly become a favorite of mine with her great delivery through the complex emotions of a Hulk. It also seems like she will be breaking the fourth wall quite a bit, which I’m almost always in favor of. She has the perfect personality to pull something like that off consistently.
We learn that Jen is Bruce Banner’s (Mark Ruffalo) cousin as the two talk about Captain America on a car ride. The car ride turns dangerous when they run into a spaceship and veer off the road. This causes Bruce’s blood to mix with Jen’s, making her a Hulk. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between Bruce and Jen. They have that cousin dynamic down well and take light-hearted jabs at each other constantly. We spend a good portion of the first episode with Bruce and Jen on the beach. Bruce teaches Jen how to cope with being a superhero, including moments at the bar that Bruce built with Tony Stark (that subsequently has to be rebuilt after a big fight scene). The banter between the two is some of the most entertaining stuff on the show. They go from hating each other one moment to sharing a moment eating Cheetos with a chopstick (to not get the dust on your hands!)
One of my favorite parts of the episode was when Bruce puts Jen in a chamber to try and get her to transform into a Hulk. He has a wall of sawblades closing in on her as she freaks out and eventually turns into a Hulk causing “over a million dollars of damage,” according to Bruce. She then finds out that she can control when she changes. The most interesting thing about Jen as a character is that she doesn’t want to be a superhero, she wants to be a lawyer. For years we’ve seen this Hulk character that is always in conflict with his emotions. Hulk doesn’t have any control over what he does, it’s like somebody else takes over when he gets angry. Jen is the complete opposite. She’s a character that isn’t overwhelmed or burdened by her new powers but also doesn’t feel that she has to use them. Nowhere is this more evident than in the final scene when she has to be coaxed into turning into She-Hulk to save the courtroom from a super-powered social media influencer named Titania.
This episode does explore how women frequently have to control their emotions more than men. The only time Jen struggles to control her powers is when she’s dealing with a group of men making advances toward her while leaving a bar. Jen later replies that anger and fear are “the baseline of any woman existing.” She elaborates on that later by saying that she has to keep her feelings down for fear of being made fun of or murdered, saying, “I’m an expert at controlling my anger because I do it infinitely more than you!” after Bruce tells her that she can’t be emotional. It sets the basis that this is a strong female character that will tell it like it is.
The CGI in this series isn’t the best, and it certainly becomes noticeable in scenes where there is a close-up of Hulk or She-Hulk. I noticed that the animations don’t always match up quite perfectly with the words that are coming out of their mouths, and it can be slightly distracting. That’s not to say it’s terrible, it’s just not quite where you’d expect it to be for a Marvel show. I also found it odd that her hair magically changes from shorter, curlier hair to long straight hair whenever she transforms into a Hulk. It’s minor nitpicking, but it’s worth noting.
This episode left us with a lot of questions. What was that spacecraft that appeared in the middle of the road? What is the significance of Jen’s blood being able to synthesize gamma radiation, and how will that be explored? How is the lawyer concept going to fit into the show? There’s plenty of intrigue going into the rest of the season.