Thursday, August 18, 2022

REVIEW: 'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law' - Jennifer Walters Gains New Powers After an Accident in 'A Normal Amount of Rage'

Disney+'s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law - Episode 1.01 "A Normal Amount of Rage"

Jen Walters' world is turned upside down after a freak accident leaves her with superpowers.

"A Normal Amount of Rage" was written by Jessica Gao and directed by Kat Coiro

Jennifer Walters desperately wants this show to be about her legal career. One comment from her best friend, Nikki Ramos, simply requires her to offer an explanation to the audience. She breaks the fourth wall to state that she is a Hulk just like Bruce Banner. He's actually her cousin. A few months ago, they were in an accident together. Some of his blood made its way into her system. As such, she was exposed to the gamma radiation that resulted in his transformation. Her life changes immediately. Bruce wants her to accept that. He knows what this process is like. That means it should be easier and more freeing for her. He has a binder of what to expect through this process. He has the resources and freedom for Jen to learn and grow. And yet, her experience as a Hulk isn't the same as his. In fact, her body may be better at processing the gamma radiation than his is. Because of her genetic structure, her blood carries the cure for Bruce's disabled arm after using the Infinity Stones. He's grateful for that. It's necessary to then teach Jen about the importance of this power while also ensuring no one else can access this massive discovery. They can't risk this power falling into the wrong hands. So much of this is familiar superhero territory. Jen doesn't want to be a superhero. She simply wants to return to her life in Los Angeles. She was already flourishing in her legal career. She has her own office now. Bruce argues that threats will start appearing simply because they wield these powers. That's the inevitable consequence of this path. The accident that caused all of this was a result of an alien spacecraft appearing. No further explanation is given as to why it was there or if it was even targeting Bruce. That is all assumed at this point. It hasn't created any ongoing consequences. Bruce has the time to train his cousin. They clash over the paths they wish to pursue. Bruce is an Avenger. He still fondly remembers his time in the lab with Tony Stark. This paradise in Mexico was only possible because of that friendship. Bruce misses him. He enjoys having someone else going through this experience. This isn't the life he wanted for Jen. It can't be denied now. That's what she is trying to do. However, that denial doesn't serve as internal conflict between Jen and She-Hulk. They don't exist as two separate identities. It took Bruce over fifteen years to reckon with the Hulk always fighting for control over their shared body. He occupies space as Smart Hulk now. It combines the best of both worlds. Meanwhile, Jen steps out of the lab fully in control. She doesn't have the same trouble. The training is entirely about gaining control over when she transforms. That progress is made. Jen is aware of the strength she now has. She has to be mindful of her body even more because a transformation could be necessary at any moment. She doesn't believe that should derail her life. She doesn't want to be a superhero.

And then, the concluding moments show Jen acting as a superhero to save a courtroom full of people. She was preparing to deliver her closing arguments in the case. It's disrupted when a woman crashes through the wall. Her presence is also a complete mystery. It serves as confirmation of Bruce's underlying theory. In order to keep her loved ones safe, Jen has to be in control of her powers. She has to use them wisely and to make a difference in the world. Of course, she argues she already does precisely that through her work. This duality offers her a different way to be of service. And yet, it's not something she can keep hidden. When she returns home, only Nikki and her family know the truth. A moment still requires her to do more. It's relatively easy for her to do so. She also believes it's sensible to continue with the case. A huge, transformational thing has just happened. People have to respond to that. Nikki has done that already. In fact, she helps Jen before she ruins everything she is wearing. That consideration is made which truly highlights the importance of this friendship. Nikki inspires Jen to be a hero. Bruce tried doing that. Instead, they only got into an epic fight in the jungle. That sequence is a little self-serving. It showcases how the storytelling can still provide the moments of immense action common throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It simply comes at the expense at the things inherently unique to this program. The narrative wants to buck these conventions. It wants to explore a superhero story about someone who doesn't want to be a superhero. That's a fascinating dichotomy. It's still always pushing Jen to do more. She has to use this power wisely. It's who she simply has to be. That's the world trying to control the narrative around her. That pressure is placed on her without any consideration of who she wants to be. That's nothing new to her. As a woman, she knows what it's like to walk around constantly angry at people. She has to endure it all just to get through the day. That mindfulness is powerful. It allows her to master Bruce's teachings rather quickly. She also calls him out for denying the possibility of a life outside of being the Hulk. He has come to grips with how to balance the two sides of his personality. He can use that to explore even more. Instead, he mourns the past and rebuilds what has always worked for him. Meanwhile, his cousin comes along to shake things up. She has her theories about his fellow Avengers. She thinks about Captain America in a completely different way. That's actually the most hilarious part of this premiere. That allows her personality to shine through instead of going through the motions of explaining this origin story. So much has to happen quickly in order to prevent it from being the same story that took years of development for Bruce. It can't be a constant comparison between Jen and Bruce though. These stories have to be different even though they rely on each other as family with the same incredible powers. Hopefully, that includes more focus on what actually excites Jen: the law and its complexities in this ever-expanding universe.