‘She-Hulk’ Pulled Off a Shocking Season Finale
The following post contains SPOILERS for She-Hulk Season 1.
In my review of the She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premiere, I wrote that the show’s occasional fourth-wall breaks were fun but used “so sparingly (at least in the first few episodes), that it’s easy to forget about it between its infrequent appearances. So far, it feels less like a bold stylistic choice than a storytelling crutch used to work around awkward story beats.” I added that if She-Hulk was going to work, that meta element “definitely needs to be better integrated into the show.”
On the show’s season finale, I finally got what I asked for.
During the episode’s obligatory big action climax, a whole bunch of awkward story beats collided together: Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany) confronted the internet trolls behind the website Intelligencia, caught Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) violating his parole, witnessed the return of her cousin Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and got stuck in the middle of a rumble between all of those factions, plus Titania (Jameela Jamil). But rather than simply get into a big Hulk rumble, Jen smashed the fourth wall, and literally left her show by way of the Disney+ main menu. Then she jumped into the Assembled documentary series that chronicles the makings of various Marvel Cinematic Universe projects.
From there, she wandered the Disney lot and Marvel Studios offices, and confronted the writers of her own show about their shoddy plotting and questionable story structure. And then she tracked down the guy in charge, “Kevin” — which the viewer presumed must be Marvel’s Kevin Feige, but was in fact “KEVIN,” a highly advanced artificial intelligence that is supposedly the computer algorithm behind the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.;
A cynic might claim this was She-Hulk once again using its character’s ability to break the fourth wall as a crutch, and on some level, it was. But the show really landed the meta humor of She-Hulk rebelling against her corporate masters. Casting an actual A.I. in the role of Kevin Feige was a clever nod to the criticism that the company’s movies feel too homogenized and robotic, and the entire sequence featured tons of solid digs at the company’s expense, from the way “KEVIN” still had a little baseball cap like Kevin Feige wears to public appearances, to Jen echoing fans’ complaints about Marvel’s formulaic and repetitive endings. You can complain about She-Hulk’s finale for a variety of reasons, but you cannot complain that it was formulaic or repetitive.
After rewriting her story more to her like, She-Hulk returns to it and resolves her issues with Blonsky and the Intelligencia. Banner is written out of the sequence entirely — but he does return for one more scene, and one more big She-Hulk surprise, before the closing credits. During a Walters family meal, Bruce returns from Sakaar, the planet where Hulk had spent several years prior to and during the events of Thor: Ragnarok. Back from a visit, he introduces a new character: Skaar, his son.
Although the specifics will have to be left to a future movie or series, this She-Hulk subplot comes straight out of Marvel Comics, where Hulk got sent into space and then spent a period marooned on the planet Sakaar. He eventually hooked up with a Sakaarian woman, who later gave birth to a son. (Technically, she gave birth to twin sons; we’ll see if both eventually join the MCU.)
Skaar’s unique alien physiology accounted for the fact that he looked like a teenager even though he was only a few months old. After Hulk returned to Earth, Skaar eventually joined him there. In the late 2000s, he starred in his own solo comic Skaar: Son of Hulk. Since then, he’s made sporadic appearances in other Hulk comics.
The more the MCU adapted this era of Incredible Hulk comics, the more likely it became that Skaar would show up eventually. But it’s genuinely surprising they decided to go this route; introducing him and bringing both him and Bruce back to Earth, before making a Planet Hulk TV show or movie set on Sakaar. (As “KEVIN”’s behavior in this episode suggests, Marvel could still do it anyway.)
As for She-Hulk herself, the show seems all-but certain to return for a second season on Disney+. Its formula of comedic legal thrillers seems endlessly renewable. Plus, Season 1 didn’t conclude with a tease where Jen joins the Avengers or goes off into space to find her cousin; storylines that would probably need to be continued in movies rather than television shows. Instead, She-Hulk basically just solidified its status quo; Jen is now a superhero lawyer who helps people in and out of court. That’s the sort of concept you could produce 100 more episodes of. Given the pleasant surprises in this season finale, that does not sound like a terrible prospect to me.
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