She-Hulk: A Normal Amount of Rage

I don’t think the Law Review covers this…

The MCU has been getting some great additions through the various Disney+ series. They’ve let us see more from some characters who have only been supporting in others’ movies, and introduced new ones. Now we get a look at another character’s debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as She-Hulk premiers with “A Normal Amount of Rage.”

In the comics, lawyer Jennifer Susan Walters is nearly killed by gangsters when she won’t back down from prosecuting them. Her cousin Bruce Banner was in the area, gave her a blood transfusion to save her life, and she gained similar Hulk-like powers to his, although she had better control over herself almost from the start. Assorted stories have attributed this to the trauma Bruce endured in his childhood from his abusive father, where Jennifer didn’t have this burden. She had her own title several times, served as a member of both the Avengers and Fantastic Four at times, and was the first hero to consistently break the fourth wall and talk to the readers. Nope, Deadpool didn’t start it. Her real-world origin is arguably weirder: Marvel was worried that, since the Hulk tv series was so popular in the 70’s, that if the network created a female version they wouldn’t have the rights to her, so they made one themselves.

The series takes parts of this as we open with Jennifer in her office, rehearsing a closing for an upcoming trial. She gets lots of support from her paralegal and best friend Nikki, and a large dose of bad male attitude from co-worker Dennis. Jennifer almost immediately begins being her own odd, amusing self, by talking to the viewers about the need to get her origin out of the way so they can do a “fun lawyer show.”

Much of the episode is her flashback origin, as she and Bruce were on a road trip together. We get a few updates on Bruce’s status since Endgame, and Jennifer launches into a weird obsession about part of Steve Rogers’ personal life, when they get run off the road by an unexpected visitor that appears to be tied in to Thor: Ragnarok. We see a car accident, blood contamination, and the first sign that Jen’s life has been changed. Recovering, she staggers to a nearby tavern, and gets a lot of support from random women in the bathroom, and unwanted attention from males outside, both of which I find believable. That scene ends abruptly and she finds herself in a tropical, isolated spot, and we learn a lot more about how Bruce ended up as Smart Hulk. I won’t swear to this, but in addition to several mentions and one background set piece, I think there’s yet another nod to Tony Stark in what Bruce leaves for her when she wakes up.

Bruce runs down what she can expect now that she’s a Hulk, and from the start, there’s some family rivalry at play, as well as some evidence that Jennifer’s situation is just plain different than Bruce’s. I’ve never been a huge fan of “I’m new at this and better than your years of experience” as a storytelling trope, but the logic behind it makes a certain amount of sense. There’s a lot of testing, explaining, and training. Jennifer is clearly not at all interested in becoming a superhero, and Bruce keeps explaining the duty behind having power. Sadly, Spider-Man’s famous line is never used, but then, neither of them are close with him as far as we’ve seen.

Their training montage is full of humor, differences between the two characters, and their very different outlooks on life. I will call hypocrisy on Jen for calling Bruce smug a few times, though. He certainly doesn’t hold a monopoly on that trait in the family. Finally, after a lot of discussion and an all-out fight, Jen returns to her life. At some point that they haven’t shown us yet, Jen confides her new secret in Nikki, and that brings us back to roughly where we started. If there wasn’t a likely copyright issue, that would have been a great place for the Law and Order “dah-dun” sound.

The trial seems to hinge on someone who abused corporate, not super, power, and apparently caused some deaths along the way. We don’t get to hear Jennifer’s rehearsed closing, as just when she starts, the wall behind her gets shattered and the MCU version of supervillain Titania storms in. Nikki urges Jen to change and stop this before someone gets hurt, and Jen reluctantly loses her secret identity. I really do feel the powers that be in the MCU have an issue with secret identities, and are actively trying to kill the concept except for Spider-Man. Whatever Titania wanted, it clearly wasn’t She-Hulk, and that fight ends quickly, after which Jennifer more or less tries to pretend that didn’t happen and the episode ends. There’s an end scene that’s just pure humor.

What I Liked: The humor throughout the episode was great, and Tatiana Maslany did a great job as Jennifer/She-Hulk. It was great to see Bruce again, and I liked the many nods to past events in the MCU. I’m very intrigued by what caused the car accident, and hope they get back to that. She-Hulk’s takes to the audience were done really well in the comics, and I’m glad they’re keeping that going for the show. The end scene was funny. I wonder if they’ll do one for each of the nine episodes the show is set for.

What I Didn’t: As I said above, I don’t love the “I’m new and better than someone who has been doing this for years” bit, but they cover it ok. In her comic book origin, Jennifer is doing something noble that leads to her accident, while here it seems to just be wrong place, wrong time. I’m hoping we find out more about that. I get wanting a normal life, but I don’t consider it the best sign that both Bruce and Nikki have to nudge her into using her powers to protect people.

It was a fun place to start, and I’m certainly onboard for the rest of the run. Daredevil is confirmed for at least one appearance, and I’m hopeful about a few other guests. I guess we’ll have to see. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5.