She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is unlike any Marvel show we've seen before.
Yes, it's the story of a hero — Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) — discovering their powers. And yes, it features several prominent MCU cameos. But this half-hour comedy about a lawyer-turned-Hulk has just as much in common with Ally McBeal or Legally Blonde as it does with WandaVision or Ms. Marvel. It's a smaller-scale take on the MCU with an irreverent, self-referential tone, making for a refreshing change of pace from the MCU's other TV offerings.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is, first and foremost, a legal comedy
Before anything else, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a lawyer show. It's right there in the title, and it's also something Jenn reminds us of in a series of fourth-wall breaks. Of course, Jennifer knows that we won't be able to focus on "this fun lawyer show" — her words, and an accurate summary of She-Hulk — without addressing the big green elephant in the room. Because of this, much of She-Hulk's first episode is spent getting us up to speed with Jenn's origin story.
Jennifer and her cousin Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), get in a car crash, and Jennifer is exposed to Bruce's blood. This exposure turns her into a Hulk, albeit with a few differences from her cousin. When Jennifer is in Hulk form, she's still in control as Jennifer — something that Bruce took years to master. Bruce is adamant that Jennifer train to be a hero, but she would much rather keep the Hulk under wraps while she focuses on helping people as an attorney.
Of course, things can never be that simple. An incident with a super-powered influencer named Titania (Jameela Jamil) catapults She-Hulk into the public eye and lands Jennifer a position as the head of a superhuman law division at an influential law firm. From there, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law finds its rhythm with a solid "case of the week" format, where Jennifer and her staff, which includes paralegal Nikki Ramos (Ginger Gonzaga) and Augustus "Pug" Pugliese (Josh Segarra), take on high-profile cases involving Asgardian elves, two-bit magicians, and more.
One of these cases is that of Emil Blonsky, aka Abomination (Tim Roth), whose 180-turn from 2008's The Incredible Hulk is both hilarious and deeply warranted. Sorcerer Supreme Wong (Benedict Wong) makes some appearances as well, both in Emil's case and others.
She-Hulk takes these characters we know as larger-than-life heroes and villains and throws them into a wildly different context. How has Abomination changed in the years since we've seen him? How will Wong cooperate with the legal system when he can just send his problems packing to the mirror dimension? She-Hulk answers these and more with gusto, using the MCU as a playground through which it can explore the outlandish legal scenarios that arise when people with superhuman abilities are just a part of day-to-day life.
Tatiana Maslany shines as Jennifer Walters
While She-Hulk is full of cameos from characters we've seen before, you never forget whose show this really is: It's all about Jennifer Walters. Maslany is an instant MCU standout, giving a performance that is so charming and funny that you can't help but want to spend more time with her — both in and out of her Hulk form.
As the pilot establishes, Jennifer does not want to be a Hulk, nor does she want to be a superhero. However, she soon discovers that most people are only interested in who she is when she's She-Hulk. She gets her new job at law firm GLK&H because she's She-Hulk, her boss asks her to show up to work as a Hulk, and she even gets more matches on a dating app when she makes a profile as She-Hulk. Maslany nails Jennifer's frustration and her desire to go back to a more anonymous life, but in the first four episodes made available to critics for review, we also see how the She-Hulk form can be a bit of an ego boost. The duality of Jennifer/She-Hulk proves to be one of the show's more engaging character through lines, and I'm excited to see how the show and Maslany continue to explore it.
She-Hulk is just the right amount of referential
While other Marvel movies and shows may have self-deprecating jokes and quips, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law goes full meta. Just as Jennifer does in the comics, the TV version of Jennifer consistently breaks the fourth wall. She'll lean into frame to remark on how the show is connecting A and B storylines, turn to camera to address any doubts the viewer may have, and make remarks about the show getting "Twitter armor" thanks to its cameos.
Head writer and executive producer Jessica Gao employs the fourth wall breaks sparingly but effectively. They never feel cloying or overwhelming. In fact, they're one of the show's great surprises. It's nice to see a Marvel property that isn't overly reverent of its own mythology. She-Hulk is here to have fun, crack jokes, and show us aspects of the MCU — and some of its already-established characters — that we haven't seen before.
Again, I have only watched the first four episodes of She-Hulk, so there's still a chance that it will end like most other Marvel shows: with a big CGI fight that feels less like an epic battle and more like studio executives checking boxes. These four episodes do hint at some incoming Big Bad, but I have hope that Gao and director and executive producer Kat Coiro will handle it with the same wit and verve they've exhibited so far. With a stellar lead performance from Maslany, a committed ensemble cast, and a fresh perspective on the MCU, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is a blast. I'm rooting for it to stick the landing.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premiers Aug. 18 on Disney+, with new episodes weekly.