Starting a New Job Is Rough Even for Superheroes in She-Hulk’s “Superhuman Law”

Partway into this week’s episode of She-Hulk, you’re going to have to ask yourself a perhaps surprising question: Self, how much do I care about the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk?

It’s not a surprise that Emil Blonsky/Abomination shows up—as he also did in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings—but I guess I simply did not expect that I’d need to recall the plot of a mediocre 14-year-old film that stars a whole different Hulk. What we get here is Blonsky’s version of events, which one ought to take with a small grain of salt. Or perhaps with a haiku.

Screenshot: Disney+

“Superhuman Law” begins with news stories about Jen’s courtroom hulk-out—news stories that are also about “super influencer” Titania, who blames the whole incident on “an extreme case of low blood sugar.” Titania is still a mystery, but she’s served a purpose: She forced Jen to out herself, and the repercussions are considerable.

A member of the jury, interviewed by the news, inspires the name She-Hulk (this scene is very awkward, but then, so is the name She-Hulk). People want Hulk Jen, and the look on Tatiana Maslany’s face—tired, resigned, but not totally opposed—as she hulks up and walks into a bar of people chanting her superhero name? It’s perfect. It’s the tone this show wants to master in one facial expression: Being a superhero is a lot, actually, and it’s a very weird shift in one’s life.

She-Hulk is at its best when it’s about exactly that: being a normal person who is shoved into the world of superpowers. Hawkeye gave us the superfan version of this, with Kate Bishop’s adoration of Hawkeye. Many Marvel tales have shown characters coming into their powers, but they’ve rarely had time to consider the mundane details, like having to buy a whole new wardrobe for your differently shaped self, or being looked at in a whole new way by people who’ve seen your old, ordinary self every day at work.

Screenshot: Disney+

Or being fired. Jen’s sacking comes after she’s asked Nikki a few pointed questions about the real lives of superheroes: “Do the Avengers offer health care? Maternity leave? A pension? Are they even paid?” She doesn’t want to be a superhero. She wants to be a lawyer (and to pay off six figures of student loan debt). She’s practical in a way that’s at odds with the mythic, oversized world of heroes and vigilantes, which she considers the realm of “billionaires and narcissists and adult orphans, for some reason.”

This superhero is definitely not an orphan, and her family is definitely… normal. For a somewhat clichéd version of normal. Yes, plenty of people have parents who exist along stereotypical and old-fashioned ideas of gender norms, but for every woman in the family dinner scene to care only about Jen’s hair and waistline felt like something from decades past. Jen’s poor mom (Tess Malis Kincaid) is a cardboard cutout of a character. Her dad (Mark Linn-Baker) gets a tiny bit more shading: He’s the one to recognize her stress and pull her out of the awkward family dinner to give her a moment to breathe, and he also has her doing superpowered chores in the mid-credits scene.

When opposing lawyer Mr. Holliway  (Steve Coulter) from the law firm GLK/H turns up at what’s clearly Jen’s regular bar and offers her a job, she doesn’t bother to ask for details (except to ensure she can bring Nikki along with her, which is a nice touch). So it’s a rough surprise when she arrives for her first day at work and finds that the boss expects her to work as She-Hulk—and to take on Emil Blonsky’s parole case, no less. Her attempts at claiming a conflict of interest are brushed off; Blonsky signed a conflict waiver, and Holliway truly does not care about the small matter of Blonsky having tried to kill Bruce. So off Jen goes to the super-secure and very intense prison, where the guards do not appreciate her Silence of the Lambs joke.

The Blonsky scene is a lot of “previously, on The Incredible Hulk,” but from poor put-upon Abomination’s point of view. He was only doing his job, you see. The rampage was because of the super-soldier serum. He thought he was going to be the hero! But now he’s in prison, making seven soulmates via the prison pen-pal program and writing haikus to his victims. (Let us hear the Abomination’s haikus, you cowards!)

Screenshot: Disney+

To be fair, this is what happened. Kind of. It leaves out Blonsky’s participation in his own Abomination-ification, though, and it’s not entirely believable, because Tim Roth is a master at sounding sincere yet not at all trustworthy. Here, he tones down his usual high-strung vibes, the more to convince his potential new lawyer that he’s changed. But she’s not fully convinced. The show doesn’t take the time to really show us her skepticism but puts it all in one line, when Jen suggests he actually speak from the heart rather than trying to say what he thinks a jury wants to hear.

“Superhuman Law” is barely 20 minutes of actual episode, and feels like it ends just as it gets going. Jen calls Bruce, ostensibly to talk to him about whether she should take the Blonsky case, but Bruce knows his cousin: She’s really calling to tell him she’s decided to take it. (In a nod to wacky MCU continuity, Bruce says of Edward Norton Hulk’s Abomination fight, “That fight was so many years ago, I’m a completely different person. Literally.”) Their relationship is warm and feels lived-in in a way that the rest of the show can’t quite keep up with, which is a testament to Ruffalo and Maslany’s skills. The rest of the cast is fine, but they’re on a different level; they’re doing scruffy indie film work in a Marvel show, and it’s a joy to watch them banter.

We might not get much more bantering, though, as Bruce is headed out of town. Way out of town. (Nerdist has a nice rundown on what Bruce’s Sakaarian journey might mean for the future of the MCU.) And Jen’s new client is quite busy, too: As soon as Jen takes Blonsky’s case, she learns that he broke out of prison and is participating in an underground fighting ring that will, of course, look familiar to anyone who wondered what the Abomination was doing in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Screenshot: Disney+

Marvel obviously has plans for Roth’s character, and he seems game enough. But there’s a certain irony to She-Hulk spending quite a bit of time maneuvering its male superheroes into position at the expense of Jen’s story, even as it’s self-aware about the “It’s different for a woman” aspect of Jen’s superhero experience. You can feel the gears grinding a little bit, and the tension between what the show seems to want to explore with her character and what it has to do with the plot around her isn’t always the good kind of narrative tension.

Still, as ever, Maslany is a delight, and has an incredible knack for making the more heavy-handed dialogue seem breezy and true. Sometimes, as with her aside about how uncomfortable she is having to work as She-Hulk, her asides would work better as regular dialogue; as asides they can feel like “Do you see the point here, viewers?” We do! Trust us! Trust us just a little bit more!

That said, there’s a lot of extremely relatable anxiety in Jen saying “I’ll spend the rest of the year worrying about what I just said.” Been there, felt that.


  • Love the way the title changes to She-Hulk: Attorney for Hire after she gets fired. But the sequence of rejections in interviews—I get why they did it like this, as a series of emails does not have the same punch, but no one calls in a candidate they are not going to hire just to tell her that to her face! That’s just cruel!
  • There are occasional more nuanced moments in the way the show continues to address how being a Hulk is different for Jen. When she’s talking to her dad about how she feels like she’s being punished for doing the right thing, he points out, “You didn’t destroy a city.” Small mistakes feel and are treated like bigger ones when you’re not the typical (read: male) hero. We’ve seen this more than once in the MCU (which did Wanda extremely dirty!) but it’s rarely so plainly acknowledged.
  • Mr. Holliway’s delivery of “I truly do not care who your paralegal is” is a precision strike of character. This man has no time for anything less important than a publicity-garnering case.

Screenshot: Disney+

  • The best moment in this episode is new colleague Pug (Arrow’s Josh Segarra) delivering a gift basket that includes “a map to the best bathroom for pooping.” The second best moment is the sincerity with which Jen says thank you. This is prize intel and she is right to be grateful.

Molly Templeton lives and writes in Oregon, and spends as much time as possible in the woods. Sometimes she talks about books on Twitter.


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