The Most MCU Thing Ever, ‘She-Hulk’ Shook Up the Marvel Cinematic Universe
“This is terrible!” In the season finale of “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) yells at the camera after several loose plot threads from the season—the anti-She-Hulk website Intelligencia, run by the toxic bro Todd Phelps (Jon Bass), the zen superhero retreat run by the Abomination (Tim Roth), the superhero influencer Titania (Jameela Jamil), and the return of Jennifer’s cousin Bruce
“None of these plots are logical!” Jennifer tells the people who are watching. “Is this what you want?” Suddenly, the screen cuts from her face to the Marvel Studios landing page on Disney+. Jennifer, who has now turned into She-Hulk, bursts out of the “She-Hulk” thumbnail and into a “Marvel Assembled” making-of-doc thumbnail.
From there, she walks through the whole Disney lot in Burbank to the “She-Hulk” writers’ room and demands to know why the end of her show is so wrong. One frustrated author says, “There are certain things that should happen in a superhero story.”
She-Hulk slams her hands on the table, startling the writers. “Why do not we just do things our own way?” This has always been “She-Hulk’s” style. The first straight-up comedy from Marvel Studios for Disney+ has proudly refused to follow the usual patterns of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
There has been no central Big Bad, no overarching story that gets a little bit better with each episode, and no bigger stakes than what happens with Jennifer’s unsatisfying work and love life. Instead, “She-Hulk” has been a throwback to the relationship comedies on broadcast networks in the late 1990s. Each episode moves at its own pace as Jennifer deals with whatever problem has come up that week.
Yes, Todd, the Abomination, and Titania have all been in more than one MCU movie, but only in a satirical way. In the case of the Abomination, he is a parody of earlier, more dangerous MCU villains. Some people like this sloppy approach because it is different from what the MCU usually does, but others do not like it because it does not sound good.
In the season finale, Jennifer fights her way out of the “She-Hulk” writers’ room to talk to Kevin, who is in charge. This shows that the whole show has been a satire of the MCU as a whole. Instead, it is an A.I. robot named K.E.V.I.N. (which stands for Knowledge Enhanced Visual Interconnectivity Nexus) that has “the most advanced entertainment algorithm in the world” and “makes almost perfect products.”
That is about as harsh a criticism as anyone has made of the MCU as a soulless factory for superhero content. Then Jennifer takes it even further by pointing out flaws in the typical MCU ending that K.E.V.I.N., who wears a baseball cap brim as Feige does, had planned for “She-Hulk.”
Jennifer says, “People often say that all Marvel movies end the same way,” which makes K.E.V.I.N. nervously ask, “Wait, who says that?” Jennifer keeps going, saying that there is an “unwritten rule that you have to throw a lot of plot and flash” into the climax. She says this is just a distraction from her main emotional story of learning to be OK with herself.
Again, this is a common complaint about the MCU: She-Hulk and her human forms. In fact, this episode reminds me of a specific “She-Hulk” issue from Marvel Comics from 1993, in which She-Hulk storms the offices of Marvel Comics to demand better writers after being told that her regular writer, John Byrne, “tripped over a dangling sub-plot and broke his neck.”
(The episode even has a QR code that leads to that issue; this is part of a project that started with “Moon Knight” earlier this year.)
Part of the MCU’s massive popularity is that it is never taken itself too seriously. This is what makes all of this so tasty. At their best, Marvel movies and TV shows can slyly poke fun at how big they are without making us feel less connected to the characters.
“She-Hulk” has taken that knowingness and “Hulked it up,” smashing through the fourth wall and into the Marvel Studios offices. By doing this, the show has only added to what makes She-Hulk and the MCU work so well: Jennifer can be her own superhero because she is in charge of her own story.