Well, that was wild!
One of the more daring aspects of the She-Hulk Disney+ show was that it attempted to harness the freewheeling fourth wall breaks of John Byrne’s 80’s run of the comics which became the preferred run of the character ever since.
Up until now, the device has been used primarily for Jennifer Walters’ continually harassed superpowered laywer to poke timely jabs at superhero conventions and plot points, but as we round the bend into her season finale, the show does something entirely unexpected that’s never occured in the MCU before – it pulls a full Mel Brooks.
What do I mean by this? Well, for those of you who have seen his classic, racially charged, comedy western, Blazing Saddles will remember that during the climax, the massive brawl between the good guys and the bad guys gets so big, it literally spills out of the movie and onto the Warner Brothers back lot, crashing through other productions as it goes. Well, Episode 9 of She-Hulk pulls a similar trick so audacious, even Deadpool would be hard pressed to top it.
After losing her big, green shit at the internet troll site known as the Intelligencia publicly releasing a sex tape of her, Jennifer wakes in Damage Crontrol’s supermax for super people after being arrested for her violent freak out. Released under the condition that she where an inhibitor that will stop her becoming hulky ever again, Jen loses her job, her swanky apartment and – worst of all – has to move back in with her parents while the mysterious HulkKing seemingly gets away scot free.
While at her lowest ebb, Jen decides that a visit to Emil Blonsky’s retreat in order to get a fresh perspective on things, but while she takes a moment, friends Ginger and Pug manage to infiltrate the Intelligencia and discover that the creepy Todd is, in fact, the HulkKing (called it).
As coincidence will have it, the place the Intelligencia have chosen to meet actually turns out to be on Blonsky’s compound and he’s been giving paid self-help talks while illegally in the guise of the Abomination and as Jen stumbles in on this meeting, all hell breaks lose.
Not only are Abomination, Ginger and Pug present, but Todd injects himself with Hulk blood and Hulks out himself and just when you think things can’t get any more chaotic, first Titania and then Bruce Banner himself bursts in and the fight is on!
Only… it isn’t. Jen, rebeling against such a formulaic example of superhero loose-end tying, calls time out and exits the show via the MCU menu screen on the Disney+ streaming page and gains entry to the She-Hulk writers room via a window for the Assembled Making Of Documentaries – it seems the only way to finish this decisively is to go to the source…
To say that this is Marvel’s most out-there risk when it comes to storytelling would be something of an understatement and it’ll no doubt divide viewers as to whether its a move of utter genius, or whether it’s a step too far. However, considering that there’s precious little that doesn’t divide the internet these days, I don’t really much care and therefore declare the finale a lunatic work of meta genius.
Simply put, She-Hulk has been a refreshing jab in the ribs to a franchise (and too a greater extent, superhero movies) whose fanbase often takes things a bit too seriously and in response to that, the writers enjoy themselves immensely by taking pot shots at the MCU itself by having the standard final act fight getting stopped completely just as it descends into an predictable orgy of fan service. This is Marvel calling itself out for over a decade of content that, detractors claim, is over familiar and cookie cutter and the fact that the whole studio is essentially run by an algorithm named K.E.V.I.N. (as in Fiege, of course – love the cap design) may be one of the most purely comic book things ever put on screen.
Of course, none of this is deranged, meta, in-joking purely for meta, in-joking’s sake and the show uses this Gremlins 2 style upheaval in reality to show a woman literally taking control of her own life by making bold choices and going against the expected grain.
Yes, many will hate it, if only because we’re “cheated” of a Hulk and Abomination rematch (a fight we’ve already seen back in 2008), but it also flicks a confident, green, middle finger up at anything approaching convention and some will ignore the big message in favour of complaining that She-Hulk supposedly ruins the established “reality” of the MCU. But ask yourself this, would people be as upset if it was Deadpool doing exactly the same thing – and if not, why not?
Still, epic fourth wall breaking aside, if you can’t see all this as all a bit of fun (at the MCU’s expense, remember), then you’re missing out on a prime comedic performance by Tatiana Maslany as her green-alter ego strips the entire franchise down to the bone. Watch her face light up when K.E.V.I.N. hints she might be getting a solo movie (spoiler: he’s winding her up), or her reaction when the algorithm suggests that it’s ouput is “perfect” (“Well, some are better than others.” Eventually conceads the A.I. after Jen visibly scoffs).
However, despite all the feather ruffling, and smashing of familiar, franchise sterotypes there’s still room for some of those sizable teases the MCU are famous for which sees the first appearance of Hulk’s son, Skaar (looking noticably ropey but any movement towards a World War Hulk movie is a plus), a welcome encore from Matt Murdock’s Daredevil and yet one more reappearance from Wong as he offers post credit assistance to an incarcerated Emil Blonsky.
Those expecting a straight forward bout of superheroics will no doubt write the finale off as lame, stupid or pointless, but the show was never supposed to be a simple “hero” show, Jesus, Jennifer basically looked us right in the eye and told us as much literally every fucking episode and to not try anything new with a character known for her loose grasp of keeping things on the page would simply have been a waste.
However, if none of this persuades you to hail this as a bold and daring practical joke on people who dislike change, then at least embrace Jennifer’s dream sequence at the beginning of the episode that sees her place herself in an amazingly accurate re-enactment of the opening credits of the 1970’s Incredible Hulk TV show – possibly one of the most adorable things the MCU has ever done.
Like it? Hate it? Marvel pretty much doesn’t care at this point as it has reached the level that it’s simply too big to just stop now – but if I have to be critical, I would still take the social satire of She-Hulk over the sugar-rush cartoonishness of Thor: Love And Thunder. However, as Phase 4 finally comes to a close with the undoubtedly somber Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it may be time for the MCU to sober up a little as the Multiverse Saga finally gains some admittedly needed traction.
So was She-Hulk silly, daffy and out of control? Certainly – and I need more.