Jen smashes your expectations...
Fourth wall breaking is not new to media and certainly not new to Marvel. Everyone by now is fully aware that Deadpool does it - heck, it's basically (and sometimes literally) his super power at this point. However, the true power of breaking the 4th wall extends beyond simply making meta references or the giggles that come from a fictional character knowing they're fictional. Having a character lambast their own creators, media format or storylines is a powerful tool for discourse in regards to the nature of storytelling or the need for change. For this reason, I've always felt Deadpool writers play it too safe with his relationship with the fourth wall, typically going only as far as a sarcastic quip against Marvel as a company but rarely fully diving into anything worthy of a discussion. I'm reminded of the most recent run of Gwenpool, "Gwenpool Strikes Back," which dedicated a serious amount of time lambasting Marvel's habit of quickly discarding characters as well as the tropey nature of storylines that characters with 100 #1 issues constantly find themselves in. This sort of commentary not only promotes a healthy mindset in the reader, one that promotes focusing on growth and critical analysis of narratives produced by the company, but it also establishes an otherwise ultra-zany character as far more calculated and aware than previously thought.
Since the first trailer, there has been ample talk about She-Hulk's use of 4th wall breaks, typically in the pattern of someone complaining about them and then someone else explaining the history of them. It's been a whole lot of "I like it better when Deadpool does it" countered with "She-Hulk did it first" and on and on and on. However, it's important to not only remember that she did actually do it before Deadpool, but also focus on the how and why of it. Without dedicating too much time to the history of it (and also saving me time in looking up a myriad of quotes so that I can eventually just get to talking about this actual episode), the Sensational She-Hulk run was an outlet that explored everything from the treatment of non-male characters to the toxic environment that often brews in fanship. Even in her infamous "nude jump roping" cold open, Jen spends the time putting Marvel marketing practices on blast and taking jabs at the pushy nature of the comics code. The entire series dripped with internal critique of Marvel and a wider critique of the medium, elevating the 4th wall breaks to a place beyond simple gimmickry.
As for the show, it was mostly gimmicks. Silly nods to fan theories. Fun little through away lines that were clearly aware of reddit threads, both positive and negative. Kitchy digs at the MCU but never anything way to critical. Until, of course, we get to Episode 9.
A LOT happened in this episode, and I've never really shied away from spoilers in previous episodes, but I think it's important to SPOILER WARNING at this point. This was a fairly heavy episode, so just in case you do actually care about big time, somewhat silly spoilers, now is the time to click away.
ALRIGHT, SPOILER TIME...
The episode opens with Jen in prison after her rage explosion in the previous episode. She agrees to a plea bargain that involves an inhibitor. Once she's out, we see that she has been fired from GLK&H and eventually has to move back in with her parents. While there, she works with Nikki to try and uncover who is behind the Intelligencia site, the HulkKing account and ultimately who ruined her life so she can sue them for damages. Nikki takes it upon herself to upload an embarassing video of Jen to Intelligencia, garnering an invite to some event the group is having. She ropes in Pug to be her proxy because groups like this aren't fans of females. Jen, unaware of Nikki and Pug's mission, heads out to Emil's compound to talk with him about what's happening to her, since he's clearly going to understand. To make a long story short, turns out the HulkKing event is being held at Blonsky's compound and Emil is doing a key note speech at the event AS Abomination. Jen discovers this and skeezeball Todd reveals himself to be HulkKing and the owner of Intelligencia. He also reveals himself to be the one behind the attempts to steal Jen's blood, which he claims his team has synthesized. He shoots up on some green goo and turns into the Incelible Hulk!
Then Bruce shows up from space and starts fighting Abomination, even though Emil was just trying to protect Jen from Todd-Hulk.
Then Titania shows up and just starts fighting basically everyone.
It's a chaotic mess of an ending. And Jen knows it. So she leaves.
No, not the compound. The show. She pops off her inhibitor, kicks her way out to the Disney+ launch page and smashes her way into ASSEMBLED.
Yep, CGI She-Hulk is now walking around the Marvel Studios lot. She works her way tot he writers room, judges them harshly for the finale and finds out it's "what Kevin wanted." So, logically, she demands to meet this Kevin. NOBODY MEETS KEVIN!
Jen meets Kevin, who turns out to be K.E.V.I.N., a robot intelligence responsible for the construction of the MCU. Jen argues with Mecha-Feige about the nature of the finale, calling out things like overused story archs and the overall formulaic approach to Marvel things. She constructs what she believes to be a better finale and makes sure to throw in a return of Matt Murdock into the mix. Kev-Bot agrees and then kicks She-Hulk back into her show, wherein we get a finale without a big fight, without a male hero showing up to save the day, and more importantly with people getting their comeuppance and taking accountability for their actions.
We end with Matt and Jen having lunch with her family. Bruce shows up and reveals the reason he was in space: to meet and fetch his son.
People are going to absolutely HATE this ending. They're gonna hate that it throws their own veiled insecurities and silly criticisms back at them. They're gonna hate that it's critical of Marvel movies and characters. They're going to hate that it suggests that Marvel isn't perfect and that things can be improved upon.
I LOVED THIS FINALE.
Like I said previously, utilizing 4th wall and "meta" to criticize the very world the character exists in is the peak of the art form. This episode does it and does it STRONG. There are quite a few lines that almost feel dangerous, knowing how controlling and strict Marvel can be. And sure, Marvel signed off on all the commentary meaning they felt it was "safe," but that doesn't change the fact that we had a major piece of Marvel media directly stating to the audience that Marvel needs to grow narratively and start telling different stories. It gives the audience the chance to feel the same way without feeling uncomfy about it. Maybe it's even Marvel's way of saying that they feel the same way, but let's not get too optimistic. At the very least, this sort of internalized criticism lets fans know that it's okay to feel critical about the thing you love. It can be tough as a fan to find yourself critical of something that you once loved without question. It leaves you feeling distant and cutoff from the people that you see as more passionate than you. In addition, with the way fan communities online have gone, it can sometimes make you feel villainized if you share a dislike of a film or show with someone who dislikes it for an incredibly bigoted or awful reason. If terrible people are sending death threats to writers and actors over something they didn't like, am I a bad person for also not liking it? Am I giving them support every time I share my dislike? It's a tough world to be in, but seeing the critiques come from inside alleviates that a bit. It's nice to be able to say "look, they feel it too and they're MAKING the things, so I can still be passionate and critical of the content."
Ultimately, Season One of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law was a win for me. It definitely had slow points and I think there was an issue with balance in the middle. While I GREATLY appreciate the finale, I think it also would have been an incredible show if it didn't try to build to some greater plot. Granted, the finale showed that the build and possibly the complications caused by it were all part of a greater commentary the showrunners wanted to make. All that said, the cast did an incredible job and the show was fun. I am really stoked for a season two, and I hope it doesn't lose its silly side.
Things I liked:
This show was a good time. Thank you so much for keeping up with us in these write-ups. We'll catch ya on the next show, whenever that may be! 💚
Cover B Podcast
Chris & Tee host this weekly comic-focused show, providing insight on new comics, entertainment news and more.