All rise, because She-Hulk: Attorney at Law transforms into the promised lawyer show in episode 2, now on Disney Plus. Ambitious lawyer Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany) just Hulked out in a courtroom, and her life will never be the same. For starters, she finds herself facing the man who nearly killed her cousin: one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s earliest villains, Emil Blonsky, aka the Abomination (Tim Roth).
Episodes 1 and 2 are streaming on Disney Plus. Here’s our recap of She-Hulk episode 1, and this is our dive into the second installment, delving into the plot, themes, Easter eggs and post-credit material. Lots of spoilers to follow!
Episode 3 follows on Sept. 1 with more to come every Thursday (here’s the full schedule of episode release dates for She-Hulk).
A news reporter interviews some dude who eyewitnesses the whole deal, and he breathlessly calls out the arrival of new hero “Chick Hulk.” No wait, “She-Hulk.” Needless to say, this isn’t a name Jen appreciates, but it might be a case of implied endorsement. (See? We’re already learning legal stuff.)
The She-Hulk name presents a problem for anyone writing about the series. That’s not actually her name, and she hates it. It’s been applied to Jen without her consent. Which makes it awkward to use that name when writing about the show. But it’s also the title of the show. See the dilemma?
The workplace-comedy aspect of the show develops with Jen being fired and subsequently hired to head up a team specializing in superpowered cases. The catch is that she’s clearly told she’s been hired because of her own superheroics. Jen knows she’s eminently qualified to run any law firm in the land, but now she’s concerned people will think she got hired only because of what she looks like. This is another of the show’s thought-provoking feminist themes, about casual microaggressions, the pressure on women in the workplace, and the way women must navigate unfair perceptions.
The Trial of the Abomination
Jen’s first case: seeking parole for Emile Blonsky. You may recognize respected British actor Tim Roth (Oscar-nominated star of Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Lie to Me and Tin Star), but how well do you remember Blonsky? The character is something of a Marvel deep cut, having appeared in what was technically the second Marvel Cinematic Universe film, The Incredible Hulk, in 2008. Ed Norton played the Hulk in that film, before he was replaced by Mark Ruffalo, and the movie has largely been swept under the rug. But now that we’ve reached a show that squarely focuses on Hulk(s), Blonsky is just too good a guest star to leave languishing in MCU history (or in the Department of Damage Control’s superpowered super max prison, to be precise).
A Russian-born, British-raised Royal Marine commando, Blonsky was recruited by the US military to try to defeat the Hulk, with a little help from an old World War II subprogram for Bio-Tech Force Enhancement — super soldier serum. But it wasn’t enough. A furious Blonsky injected himself with Bruce Banner’s blood and underwent a Hulk-like transformation to become the vicious green giant dubbed the Abomination.
So now he’s been in jail for a decade. But with the help of his seven pen-friends, soulmates and future wives, he’s a changed man. And though Jen may not be interested in his repentant haikus, Blonsky has had years to process the life-altering changes that she’s still struggling with. He may be one of the people on the planet who can most closely relate to her struggles.
The whole series of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was at one point intended to focus on Blonsky’s trial across multiple episodes, show runner Jessica Gao revealed to Variety, but “one thing that we all realized very slowly was none of us are that adept at writing, you know, rousing trial scenes.” Bit of an odd thing for the writer of a lawyer show to admit in public, but hey ho.
Even with his role reduced, Roth brings a touch of class to the series. His speech about thinking he’d be the hero is easily the best acting in the show.
This is a prison, ma’am
Let’s talk about that Silence of the Lambs gag. The scene harks back to the nerve-wracking prison sequence in 1991 serial killer chiller Silence of the Lambs (based on a 1988 novel). That sequence became a pop culture phenomenon thanks to indelibly suspenseful direction and searing performances by Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. It’s been parodied endlessly for three decades, and mostly just with people saying the famous lines for a cheap jolt of recognition from the audience. Hannibal Lector’s menu and sniffling sound is the lowest common denominator of pop culture references.
What I’m saying is, if you’re going to do a Silence of the Lambs gag in 2022, it better be a really good Silence of the Lambs gag. Maybe one that plays with your familiarity and expectations and that says something about the original source material or your relationship with it. That’s the kind of thing Rick and Morty excels at, as a show that’s built on pop culture references but that never settles for the cheap gag.
She-Hulk absolutely settles for the cheap gag.
You can probably tell that this attempt at a joke has really stuck with me. It’s not just the joke itself; this scene sums up the nagging feeling that She-Hulk’s humor is never quite as good as it can be. Take Jen’s family, for example: They’re nice, but are they funny? Compare them to Kamala Khan’s family in Ms. Marvel. The Khans were a bunch of clearly well-thought-out, well-defined characters, so when they got together, drama and humor naturally flowed.
Jen’s original story was incited by a Sakaaran class A courier spaceship showing blatant disregard for the rules of the road and causing her to crash her car. We still don’t know who sent the message, but apparently it’s important enough for Bruce to blast off into space without telling Jen where he’s going.
So let’s get this straight: His cousin goes through the same life-changing transformation that devastated Bruce’s life, and after last week’s training montage he just leaves her to it? Something pretty important should be happening on Sakaar, that’s all I’m saying. Something on the level of learning he’s a dad, for example. Comics fans are abuzz with the possibility that this means an appearance by Skaar, the Hulk’s half-Sakaarian son from the 2007 World War Hulk comics series and others. But if we’ve learned anything from the frenzied predictions of Mephisto showing up in WandaVision, it’s not to go speculating wildly about which comics characters are absolutely definitely 100% going to be in a show.
Episode 2 post-credits scene
This week’s post-credits scene shows some more benefits of Hulk powers: being able to pull your weight around the house. Is this scene funny? Who knows.
She-Hulk random thoughts
- When Jen is browsing a list of new job possibilities, a related article the website suggests has the headline “Man fights with metal claws in bar brawl” This is likely a reference to mutant hero Wolverine, who hasn’t been introduced in the MCU yet. It feels like we’re building to the introduction of mutant superteam the X-Men, with teases in WandaVision, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Ms. Marvel.
- Below that lies the headline “Why is there a giant statue of a man sticking out of the ocean” — this is presumably about Celestial Tiamut, who was slain by the Eternals before his emergence could destroy the Earth. His body is still in the Indian Ocean.
- The superhero lawyers take Blonsky’s case pro bono “for the publicity.” But why? Unless they also mount a PR offensive to rehabilitate Blonsky’s image, the public is likely to see them as trying to free a dangerous monster.
- Blonsky’s presence here confirms that The Incredible Hulk is MCU canon (at least in part).
- The series also explains why (and how) the Abomination was in last year’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, where we saw him cage-fighting with Wong.
- I don’t know why, but I feel like the Avengers don’t provide maternity leave.
- Blonsky casually reveals that he wrote to Bruce Banner. If the pair forgave each other, that’s surely a bit major to happen off-screen.
CNET’s Sean Keane contributed to this report.