Anyone familiar with writer Dan Slott’s celebrated run on the She-Hulk comic book series already knew that Marvel’s live-action She-Hulk: Attorney at Law series had plenty of potential, but for everyone else, the introduction of Bruce Banner’s superhero cousin likely seemed a strange — and perhaps, unnecessary — addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And yet, it doesn’t take long for the new Disney+ series to make it clear that actress Tatiana Maslany’s green-skinned alter ego, Jennifer Walters, is a character the MCU sorely needed.
Created by Rick and Morty and Silicon Valley writer Jessica Gao, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law casts Maslany as Walters, an ambitious lawyer whose professional aspirations are seemingly derailed when an accidental blood transfusion with her cousin, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), gives her powers similar to those of Hulk. Unlike Banner, however, she’s able to control both her transformations and her psyche as She-Hulk. As she attempts to get her life back on track, she soon finds herself dealing with supersized problems she didn’t ask for — including a new job at a legal firm specializing in cases involving superpowers.
Gao serves as head writer on the series, with Kat Coiro (Girls5Eva) directing most of the first season’s nine episodes. The pair make an impressive creative duo, as She-Hulk flows through its first four, busy episodes at a fun, but never frantic pace. The series packs a lot into each chapter of Jennifer’s story, with plenty of call-outs to the greater MCU, cameos from established characters in Marvel’s live-action universe, fourth-wall-breaking asides, and story arcs that explore the effects of her newfound fame (and form), her love life and career, and wider themes like gender roles and bias.
It’s a lot — but She-Hulk juggles all of it with ease, and with plenty of humor and heart, too.
While there’s clearly a lot of creative talent behind the camera, She-Hulk also has one of Hollywood’s most impressive, criminally underappreciated actresses leading the series, who makes everything it tries to deliver a lot easier to manage. Emmy-winning Orphan Black star Maslany is perfectly cast as Walters, whose professional aspirations have — like so many other women — often forced her to put on a public face and be the person others want her to be. Walters soon finds herself struggling to reconcile the attention her She-Hulk garners with the sense of personal accomplishment she’d been chasing before she accidentally inherited superpowers.
Maslany has a gift for effortlessly shifting between different characters and personalities, which was on display throughout her celebrated run playing multiple roles across five seasons of Orphan Black. In She-Hulk, her pivots are more subtle when it comes to the different ways that Walters interacts with her family, friends, colleagues, and clients, and also more pronounced when her character transforms — both literally and personality-wise — into She-Hulk. The series would have been in trouble if it couldn’t maintain a connection between Walters’ natural state and her hulking, green-skinned persona, but Maslany’s performance is the glue that holds every version of the character together.
Her performance also keeps the screen time her digitally created counterpart fills in the series more grounded.
Although there were heaps of criticism lobbed at She-Hulk early on for the digital effects used to blend Maslany’s face and performance with She-Hulk’s larger-than-life form, the first four episodes of the series rarely veer into the Uncanny Valley with her character (or any of the other CG characters who make appearances in the show). Whether that’s the result of some late-stage tweaking of the visual effects or a result of seeing the character in context (as opposed to clips from the trailer) is hard to discern at this point, but Maslany’s performance fills every bit of the She-Hulk character and prevents her presence in scenes with non-supersized characters from being too jarring.
With its mix of self-aware humor, balanced storytelling, and a brilliant performance from its lead actress, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law manages to avoid nearly all of the pitfalls the series could’ve fallen into on its way to the screen. Maslany, the show’s creative team, and the supporting cast keep the human heart of She-Hulk relatable in a universe filled with fantastic, superhuman elements, and deliver a series that’s distinct within the MCU and a character who’s absolutely delightful to watch.
New episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premiere weekly on the Disney+ streaming service.
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