Is it just me, or did this episode feel like it had maybe like one too many cups of coffee? Everything goes by very fast in “The People vs. Emil Blonsky,” which squeezes in two trials and a visiting superhero, and lets Jen Walters get in a couple of wins before whatever’s coming next.
Despite Jen’s insistence that this isn’t going to be one of those shows where there’s a cameo every week … well, she does sort of come around to the fact that maybe it kind of is. Bruce. Blonsky. And now Wong, the Sorcerer Supreme, who Blonsky says forced him to leave his prison cell. Jen is rightly suspicious. Nikki takes it all in stride, and posts a thirst trap of herself with a bunch of books in order to get Wong’s attention. Imagine if the Sorcerer Supreme got a little ping every time someone posted a thirst trap with books. Dude’s phone would never stop blowing up.
But I digress. There’s such a drastic change to how Jen enters the prison now: She just marches in, right through the weird red lasers, right past the guards. She’s at work, and she knows how to do her job. She doesn’t have to be She-Hulk to be confident and effective. Moving through the world as a woman is not moving through the world as, say, Bruce Banner, and this show never forgets that. But this scene neatly illustrates that Jen doesn’t have to appear as her alter ego in order to be in command.
And she also doesn’t need to do anything in order to have the vultures descend. This short and speedy montage of media response to She-Hulk, social media response, internet comments … it’s too much to take in at once, which is the point, but it’s also extremely well done: everyone is paying attention to She-Hulk. The commenters are being terrible, as certain commenters (not ours, of course) have been since the inception of this series, and indeed the internet itself. The online reaction to Jen in-series is the online reaction to She-Hulk in the real world, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those comments are word-for-word what the creators have heard. It’s a lot.
Jen wants to ignore it, believing that someday she can go back to being an anonymous lawyer. (Sweetie. Have you seen the world?) Nikki wants her to take control of her narrative and respond. They’re both idealistic reactions, in their own way. Responding is no guarantee of control, and ignoring is no guarantee it won’t affect you anyway. There is no good choice.
Though this episode is called “The People vs. Emil Blonsky,” there are two trials packed in. The other one concerns horrible dirtbag bro Dennis, alas, who it seems is going to keep being the show’s official Shitty Man (my notes: “OH NO NOT DENNIS”). Dennis lost a bunch of money to a shapeshifting Asgardian who pretended to be Megan Thee Stallion, and yes, Dennis is conceited enough to believe that he would attract the attention of the real Megan Thee Stallion.
Poor Pug is stuck with Dennis’s case, and I have to admit here that I can’t help but be just slightly wary of Pug on account of his being played by Josh Segarra. Segarra played Adrian Chase on Arrow and was eventually revealed to be the villain Prometheus, and he was extremely and effectively creepy, and I keep waiting for the other creepy shoe to drop. Maybe it won’t! Maybe he’s just a nice dude with a winning strategy in the courtroom! But I remain skeptical.
Given the zippy, overcaffeinated pace of this episode, it’s especially nice to see Wong (Benedict Wong), who is always a steady and delightful presence. He confirms that he broke Abomination out of prison because he needed a worthy opponent in order to become Sorcerer Supreme. He also insists that Blonsky not be punished—except maybe they could send him to another dimension? Jen just needs him as a witness.
All the bits with the Asgardian shapeshifter are like cotton candy on top of a sundae: somewhat delightful, maybe unnecessary? And too rarely as funny as they need to be, given how much time this plot takes up. (Perhaps there is an important reason for introducing entitled Asgardian diplomats to the MCU?) But to give credit where it’s deserved, every actor who has a moment playing the shapeshifter does an excellent job, from shapeshifter-Dennis discovering the magic of Red Bull to shapeshifter-Pug being, well, being like Dennis.
Blonsky’s parole trial feels a little anticlimactic, which is fine since it’s not really the point of this episode. Many people testify about what a great guy Blonsky has become. Tim Roth gives a deliciously cliched and insincere “I’m a changed man” speech, and Wong arrives just in time to explain that he did in fact insist that Abomination come with him, and that Blonsky did in fact insist on being returned to his cell. Blonsky himself decides to demonstrate that he can now remain in complete control whilst becoming Abomination, and while I am no Abomination fan, I did appreciate the image of the giant green guy with pointy ears neatly rearranging his prison Crocs.
What is Blonsky’s long game, here? Jen’s right that if he could become Abomination at any moment, he could’ve broken out whenever he felt so inclined. His entire trial sort of sidelines Jen, who gets flustered and annoyed the longer Wong takes to show up. Blonsky wins parole, of course, which is great for Jen, but why did he want to wait and get out of prison the proper way (fitted with an inhibitor, no less)? What’s the plan? Why did Holliway take this case? There might be layers here. There might not be.
For all the trial drama in this episode, She-Hulk still feels more like its own thing, its own take on a Marvel series, in the more personal moments—like Nikki sliding Pug what looks like the bottom half of her own drink. There’s an ease among these new colleagues that suggests that some time has passed, and that suggestion balances out some of the more hectic pacing.
When Jen finally decides to give an interview (after Blonsky’s encouragement, interestingly), it goes—unsurprisingly—poorly. No one is interested in Jen Walters, attorney at law; they’re interested in the latest spectacle. The exchange with the reporter is watery and bland because that’s the point: trying to take control of your public narrative still requires the cooperation of other people. Control, whether you’re a Hulk or not, is in so many ways an illusion.
Strength, on the other hand, is something Jen always has. The way the last scene is framed is familiar and effective; I thought of it as “mugger cam,” when you’re entirely aware a character is being snuck up on, and (if you’re me) immediately uncomfortable about it. The reminder that Jen has had decades as a woman in the world and only weeks or months as She-Hulk is great; it takes her a second to remember that she can fight back without fear. And even with humor, once she’s in Hulk form. “Did you guys rob an Asgardian construction worker?” (Yes? Sort of?)
The purpose of this scene is in the last line—the boss, whoever that is, is going to be mad that these dudes didn’t get any of Jen’s fresh Hulk blood—but it’s cleverly integrated into a moment for Jen to enjoy her own strength. (Though I’m not sure how that dude she threw into the air didn’t get crunched when he came back down.) She has a couple of wins this week, both as a lawyer and as She-Hulk, and she’s been reminded of what she can accomplish as both.
So obviously something must be about to go terribly wrong.
- There’s the briefest appearance from Mallory Book (Renée Elise Goldsberry), who endures one crack from Dirtbag Dennis and walks out. I liked her immediately.
- “I don’t understand how a guy with zero commute time is late.” This is a valid line of inquiry.
- In certain corners, Blonsky’s reference to his seven soulmate penpals was taken to be a nod to the Thunderbolts movie that Marvel has announced. Sure, it still could be. And the gaggle of Midsommar-esque women waiting for him to get parole could be a misdirect. But it’s one thousand times more fun to imagine that Blonsky’s spiritual makeover is, to some degree, truthful, and that while he’s probably still a nasty villain on the inside, he does wish to go meditate with his soulmates. Come on! The dude’s never gotten to develop much of a character. Let him have this!
- Can someone who understands architecture explain this ridiculous prison to me? Why does it look like an angular space lair?
- I might’ve laughed harder at Wong’s “I must depart” than anything else in this episode. Presumably he was late due to the events of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but it was just the events of Shang-Chi last week, and Eternals has also already happened (given the brief on-Jen’s-laptop reference, last week, to the man sticking out of the Earth’s crust). Things are hectic on this planet.
- Jen Walters would kill for Megan Thee Stallion. Good to know. (Sorry, but the best part of this scene is Holliway’s absolute unruffledness. Dude’s seen stranger.)