Director: Anu Valia, Kat Coiro
Writer: Jessica Gao
Cast: Tatiana Maslany, Mark Ruffalo, Tim Roth, Benedict Wang, Jameela Jamil
If there's one thing that She-Hulk: Attorney at Law's has going in its favour is that its leads are super comfortable in their (green) skin from scene one. That alone makes the season premiere worth the price of admission. The DisneyPlus Hotstar show follows Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), trying to navigate her life as a reluctant superhero and a lawyer. I've seen the first four episodes of the show, but I'll focus on the first one for this review.
Walters's cousin is Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), the mild-mannered version of our favourite green giant, The Hulk. As the first episode kicks off, Jen breaks the fourth-wall within the first few minutes to explain the origins of her Hulk powers. It's by far one of the best debut episodes for a DisneyPlus show – ranking above, if not at par with Ms. Marvel's. The chemistry that She-Hulk and her cousin share, along with some solid writing from Jessica Gao and team are largely responsible for that.
As Bruce discovers that Jen now has the same powers as him, his reactions range from being an overbearing elder, a failing sensei, a raging mansplainer, a jealous contender and finally, a loving, supportive cousin. That's a wide range of interactions, emotions and accelerated character development to go through in a span of 10-15 minutes. The fact that they do it in their green CGI form, and that it feels organic and natural, is to the show's credit. If you were worried about She-Hulk's CGI avatar, don't be. I mean, yes, it is a bit wonky in places, but not bad enough to divert you from what's going on in the show. Tatiana Maslany's fluid performance as both Jen and She-Hulk more than make up for any technical or story-telling shortcomings in the first episode. She-Hulk's Episode 1 is a fun outing within the MCU that's just doing its own thing and having a ball with it.
The leads deliver, the CGI delivers, the writing is solid, and there are enough callbacks to the main MCU. The 'Hulk Island' serves as a beautiful locale for MCU's very own Karate Kid: Hulk. It also helps that the show is relatively faithful to its comic book roots, while toggling between its Fleabag and Better Call Saul tonal inspirations in the first episode. Episode 1 perfectly balances its feminism with super-hero antics, and should keep the 'M-She-U' mansplaining audience placated.
When I spoke to head writer and show creator Jessica Gao recently, she mentioned how the show's 'story of the week' serialized format – different from anything we've seen in the MCU so far – enabled them to do more, and include as many cameos as they could organically. Having seen the first four episodes, however, it can be safely said that the format is in fact, a hit and miss. It essentially means that She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, cannot be binged together. It also implies that there will be weak episodes that rely solely on cameos that feel shoe-horned.
Once you get through episode 1, the next three really skimp on the action. Whether that is a function of writing and a full season-arc that relegates all the action towards the end, or just plain lack of budgets – it's hard to tell. If you were expecting an Abomination vs. She-Hulk, or an Abomination, Wong and She-Hulk showdown, you would be advised to keep your expectations low for the first half of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law's 9-episode run.