While She-Hulk herself isn't telepathic, the writers of Disney Plus' She-Hulk: Attorney at Law have a pretty good idea of what you thought when you first laid eyes on the show's statuesque heroine, rendered in uncanny VFX. As a result of the comments, it has learned a lot. The "uncanny valley" is evident throughout She-Hulk, and it feels like a direct result of the subpar conditions in which the film's visual effects were created. The show as a whole, however, is an unexpected take on Marvel's TV character studies, and it has the feel of the beginning of something new while also being very familiar.
After several seasons of hero origin shows like Daredevil and Moon Knight, which slowly showed how their main characters became heroes, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law changes things by throwing you right into Jennifer Walters' (Tatiana Maslany) life. Like her comic book counterpart, She-Jen Hulk's is a brilliant but timid lawyer whose life is turned upside down by a freak accident that gives her superpowers similar to those of her cousin Bruce Banner, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jen, usually a shy, easy-to-frustrate woman played by Tatiana Maslany, wakes up super strong, more than a foot taller, and a striking shade of green. In the comics, this happens in a slightly different way. But there are enough references to the source material to show that She-Hulk is well aware of how ridiculous it is, and the show wants you to join in on the jokes about itself. Jennifer breaks the fourth wall almost as soon as she's introduced to say that She-Hulk isn't a superhero show and that her life doesn't have to change even though she has Hulk powers because she's always in complete control.
This, of course, couldn't be further from the truth, and She-first Hulk's few episodes are mostly a funny look at what happens when an average person in the MCU suddenly becomes an "enhanced individual." But She-Hulk doesn't just show Jennifer as another brooding hero who needs to figure out who she is before taking a codename and putting on a costume. Instead, it uses her reluctance to become a known superhero as a key part of who she is. Jennifer prefers to fight with her paralegal Nikki Ramos (Ginger Gonzaga) in court, where they can use their legal skills to change people's lives in ways that the Avengers never could. Even more importantly, though, Jen doesn't want to be a superhero, even though that's what everyone else and her TV show expects from her.
During the first season of She-Hulk, Jen has more trouble dealing with people's ideas about who and what she is than with any of the famous heroes or villains she works with. Almost no one in Jennifer's life trusts her to make good choices, whether it's her sexist coworkers or her well-meaning cousin. But that's not quite the case when she's in her She-Hulk form. This double standard irritates Jen, but She-Hulk starts to pick up when she uses it to her advantage.
She-Hulk is Jen's Ally McBeal-inspired "lawyer show." Still, it's also one of Marvel's more pointed attempts to tie together different parts of its "multiverse" to show that many of these characters from various movies and shows kinda, sorta know each other. As the current Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, it makes sense that Wong (Benedict Wong) would call on She-Hulk for delicate matters that require knowledge of mortal laws. His presence in Attorney at Law gives the show a strong sense of being current.
Like Wong, Tim Roth's Abomination is back to remind people of the last big Marvel movie he was in and to help She-Hulk get into the details of the universe it's set in the way that only an aggressively nerdy and rather horny legal comedy could. Even though the guest stars on She-Hulk change from week to week, the show finds different ways to make the MCU feel like a place where people live, even though many of them were just brought back to life by a wish. Even though many of her cases and clients are silly, Jen does what she does to be a force for justice in the world, and She-Hulk says that people like her are exactly what the public needs in times of crisis.
When She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is firmly in comedy mode and playing up the influence of John Byrne and Dan Slott's comics or hammering home an important idea about the importance of rehabilitation over incarceration, the show feels pretty good. But when She-Hulk tries to switch gears, the show sometimes gets stuck, as if it suddenly remembered how much it was trying to do and got scared.
In some of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law's more complicated scenes, Jen is seen in her huge, strangely shaped Hulk form, which looks a lot more like Maslany than it does Ruffalo in Smart Hulk. These scenes give off the same frantic feeling of panic. There's no denying how much work went into making a She-Hulk model that looks more like the real thing than not. But it's also hard to ignore how off-shots of the character in motion are, primarily when the show focuses on her luxurious but often distracting hair, which reminds me of how Inhumans acted with Medusa.
Since She-Hulk can pull off the visuals for characters like Smart Hulk and Abomination, who aren't as new to the MCU, much more consistently, it seems likely that Marvel will improve its take on She-Hulk as she appears in more projects. Even if that's true, it's still strange to see She-Hulk fall repeatedly into the uncanny valley on her TV show since Marvel had to have known the risks of building a whole show around a CGI character whose voice had to be added in post-production. Surprisingly, the audio mixing on She-Hulk and Smart Hulk stands out because the characters tend to look more cartoonish than Marvel probably wants.
She-flaws Hulk's don't stop it from being watchable on their own, and when they all work together, the show gets by on its irreverent sense of humor and ability to poke fun at itself. Jen might need a new strategy if and when she moves to Marvel's movies, but She-Hulk: Attorney at Law's take on the bruiser works pretty well for TV, and it's almost sure to be remembered as one of Phase 4's more creative entries.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law starts on August 18 and stars Jameela Jamil.