Spoiler alert: This story covers the highlights of the Season 1 finale of “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” currently airing on Disney+.
“This is a mess!” Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) complains directly to the camera in the season finale of “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” after the season’s many scheming plots – an anti-She-Hulk station intelligenia led by toxic brother Todd Phelps (John Bass), led by Abominin (Tim Roth). Zen’s superhero retreat, superhero influencer Titania (Jamila Jamil), the return of Jennifer’s relative Bruce Banner as the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) — all of a sudden collide in the same episode’s action sequence.
“None of these stories make sense!” Jennifer tells the audience. “Is this working for you?”
Suddenly, the screen cuts from her face to the Marvel Studios landing page on Disney+, and Jennifer (now transformed into She-Hulk) emerges from the “She-Hulk” thumbnail and into the “Marvel Assembled” documentary. . From there, she goes to the “She-Hulk” writers’ room on the Disney lot in Burbank and demands an understanding of why her show ended so badly.
“There are certain things that must be done in a heroic story,” says one frustrated writer.
She-Hulk threw her hands on the table and shocked the writers: “Why don’t we do things our own way?”
This has been a “She-Hulk” style since the beginning. Marvel Studios’ first outright comedy for the Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe gleefully refuses to accept the accepted tropes: there’s no central Big Bad, no overarching narrative that escalates with each episode, and nothing more than Jennifer’s disaffected professional and fate. Love life. Instead, “She-Hulk” became a throwback to the late ’90s relationship comedies of the broadcast networks, with each episode unfolding at its own pace as Jennifer tackled whatever happened that week. Yes, Toad, the Abomination, and Titania all appear more than once, but in a loose way, they’re each satirical versions of earlier, more serious MCU antagonists — in the Abomination’s case, himself.
For some, this outrageous approach was a welcome break from the MCU’s usual fare. For others, it’s a disagreement. In the season finale, “She-Hulk” Jennifer came from the “She-Hulk” writers’ room and struggled to talk to Kevin, who was in charge, making it clear that this was all part of the MCU’s larger joke.
Instead of Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, it’s an AI robot named Kevin (or Cognitively Enhanced Visual Communication Nexus) who owns the “world’s most advanced entertainment algorithm.”
That’s as much of a soulless factory paid for by the company’s critics as an MCU rebuke for high-stakes content. And then Jennifer pokes holes in the regular MCU finale and grills Kevin for “She-Hulk,” sporting the peak of a baseball cap like Feige always wears.
“It’s often said that Marvel movies all end the same way,” Jennifer said to Kevin nervously, “Wait, who says that?” she said.
Jennifer insists, “There’s an unwritten rule that you have to throw in a bunch of plot twists and flashbacks” during the climax, which she says distracts from her main emotional story of learning to be okay with She-Hulk and the human versions. Her own – again, a common complaint about the MCU.
In fact, this episode inspired a separate “She-Hulk” version from Marvel Comics from 1993. Sneaky subplot and broke his neck. (Even a QR code linking to that issue is included in the episode, part of an initiative started earlier this year with “Moon Knight.”)
What makes this all the sweeter is the MCU. Part of its most successful appeal is that it never feels overwhelming. At their best, Marvel movies and shows bask in their own grandeur without destroying our emotional connection to their characters. “She-Hulk” took that knowledge and ended up breaking the fourth wall and breaking into the Marvel Studios offices. In doing so, the show only reinforced what makes She-Hulk and the MCU work so well: By taking control of her own story, Jennifer can be her own superhero.