Let’s Talk about She-Hulk Episode 1-1
What is a normal amount of rage? That’s the underlying question as we talk about She-Hulk episode 1; the new Marvel superheroine series on Disney+.
How would an accomplished professional feel if they sometimes swelled a foot in size and turned green while doing so? Well, this is the story about a person who doesn’t want to be a hero but isn’t given a choice.
Meet Jennifer Walters
We saw the quip in the trailer, and the opening scenes play out as a reminder that She-Hulk is an office comedy set in the legal world. Meet Jennifer Walters, an accomplished attorney in a male-dominated society that dismisses women as lesser litigators.
Right on cue, here’s co-worker Dennis trying to poach closing arguments from her. Thankfully, Walters’ BFF, Nikki Ramon, shuts him down. For her part, Walters has prepared a defense for her client, who isn’t named yet. With Ramon’s ardent support, Walters feels confident…and then she drops a bombshell.
The character breaks the fourth wall to reveal that she’s She-Hulk. She worries that you won’t pay attention to this “fun lawyer show” without this context. So, we flash back to a road trip she took “a few months ago” with her cousin, Bruce.
Yes, this storyline mirrors the comics, at least in the broad strokes. Banner doesn’t donate his Hulk blood in a transfusion here. Instead, Walters goes into a prolonged explanation of how Steve Rogers died a virgin. Banner knows better but doesn’t interrupt her.
What DOES interrupt them both is the sudden appearance of a Sakaaran spacecraft. You know the ones. They’re from Thor: Ragnarok and also…Planet Hulk. Seems important.
Anyway, the car wrecks, as Walters has angered the spirit of Steve Rogers. She finds herself bleeding but somehow comes to consciousness first. Yes, THE DUDE WHO HULKS OUT ALL THE TIME cannot wake up first for…reasons. Conveniently, his seatbelt has trapped him.
Walters rescues her cousin, but some of his blood meshes with her blood, leading to slight She-Hulk tendencies. This seems like a good time to acknowledge that most superhero origin stories are stupid. At least Joe Chill doesn’t cause Jessica’s mother to spill her pearls.
Anyway, Walters runs off into the forest and then a nightclub. There, some helpful but catty people help her while pointing out that she’s barefoot and in desperate need of makeup.
Afterward, three dudes hit on Walters in ominous fashion. They quickly regret it when she She-Hulks out and makes them darn near wet themselves. Then, something…happens? The screen grows dark from her passing out, I guess. Bruce catches (captures?) her and takes her to his creepy basement science lab.
Yeah, we’re blurring the lines here between origin story and murder podcast. Usually, when a dude kidnaps his female cousin and takes her to Mexico, the authorities get involved. We know that Bruce Banner’s a good guy, even though he apparently takes solo overnight vacations with his female cousin. So, it’s all okay, I guess.
Anyway, once Walters moves past the whole “you’re committing felonies against me” phase of the conversation, they start to bond and figure out her deal.
Look, you cannot just become a Hulk. There’s training involved. Well, that’s the conceit here as this comedy really wants to mess around with Hulk physics for a while.
Speaking of which, early in the episode Bruce Banner showed the device that allowed him to stay human. After the wreck, he’s back to being “Smart Hulk.”
Banner sheepishly acknowledges the bravado of the name, saying that nobody ever gets to pick their superhero name. It ties back to Ms. Marvel and plays into the upcoming She-Hulk name.
What follows is a training montage by a different name. Banner tests his cousin to learn what triggers her change, presuming it’s “anger and fear.”
Throughout the episode, Walters chronicles the challenges of a sexist society that’s indoctrinated to expect more of women yet fails to protect them. These scenes reflect that premise.
We Don’t Need Another Hero
The show leans hard into the differences between the cousins. Bruce is more spiritual as a rule, as he’s dealt with this for a decade. Walters remains in denial, but she also controls her powers more. She can apparently switch into Hulk form on demand, something Banner cannot.
Also, they’re similarly powerful. The physics of Hulk’s size seem to give him slightly more strength. She’s night and day more graceful, though. This pilot episode also catches us up on Hulk’s struggles after The Blip. Tony Stark apparently built this mega-expensive lab.
Since they’re at a Mexican beach, they’ve also built an island bar and lounge. It’s gorgeous, but it’s also touching. Tony and Bruce have even carved their initials into the bar counter. I adore this bit of backstory. It’s nice to think that the remaining Avengers bonded.
Of course, I do wonder why Tony wasn’t spending all his time with his infant daughter at the time, but we’re probably not supposed to think about that. Conversely, Jessica and Bruce have experienced some frustration in their relationship. He’s trying to help, but she didn’t ask for it and doesn’t want it.
So, they fight some, and they accidentally destroy his bar. Fortunately, they rebuild it. Then, they kindly carve their initials into the new one. But Tony Stark’s still dead. You ruined everything, She-Hulk!
Anyway, the cousins eventually make peace, which brings us back to Walters. She’s the Deputy District Attorney ready to perform closing arguments.
That’s when the story takes a turn, one I feel deserves some explaining. What we’re watching as the season premiere was actually the eighth episode. Marvel altered the plan, which matters because…
A character we haven’t watched in this episode, Titania, suddenly appears. We have no idea who she is or what her motivation is. Titania is simply a ridiculously dressed, superpowered woman who busts through a wall Kool-Aid Man style. It makes ZERO sense.
Still, Jessica Walters saves the day by defending the courtroom from Titania’s attack. It’s fun but weird. Overall, I’d say “fun but weird” is my impression of the entire episode. I’d give this show a B, as it’s fun in the Hawkeye style.
Unfortunately, this episode never moved me quite the way that Ms. Marvel did. My wife, who is more the target audience here, gave it an A-. That final out-of-nowhere confrontation between Titania and She-Hulk didn’t bother her. I’m still super-annoyed about it. At least there’s an explanation, though.
This first episode of She-Hulk showed a ton of promise, but I hope that future ones show a bit more cohesion.