Thursday, October 13, 2022

REVIEW: 'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law' - Jen Fights to Take Control of Her Story Once and For All in 'Whose Show Is This?

Disney+'s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law - Episode 1.09 "Whose Show Is This?"

Jen finds herself in trouble with the law and struggles to pick up the pieces of her life.

"Whose Show Is This?" was written by Jessica Gao and directed by Kat Coiro

The Hulk smashes buildings but She-Hulk smashes the fourth wall. That's the sentiment Jen shares when she is trying to convince the Marvel overlord to explore a different conclusion for the season. She's dictating the terms of what she sees as relevant. She doesn't want this to be like every other Marvel property out there. The show has certainly pursued that ambition. It wants to be a legal comedy. Of course, it's been reluctant to embrace both of those ideas. The actual journey was Jen finding confidence both as a lawyer and a hero. It was never fully committed to the most consequential victories and showdowns happening in courtrooms. Nor was it ever confident and consistent with its comedic tone. The overall story was still incredibly ambitious. It hoped to play into the conventions the viewer knows about after a decade of seeing films and shows set in this universe. The world is changing. It's expanding to include even more superheroes. They come with diverse perspectives too. It's no longer solely focused on brooding men with father issues. That story has already been done. It's time to pursue something new. Jen is frustrated when her story seems to be building to yet another epic confrontation where a bunch of stories collide in one chaotic setting. It makes no sense. Bruce hasn't been consequential to the story since he helped train Jen in the aftermath of getting powers. However, he's destined to come crashing back down to Earth. It can't solely be to fight the Abomination again. Instead, it has to tease how he fathered a son during his time on Sakaar. That's the future for his character. Jen doesn't think that's necessary to feature here at all. Bruce is part of her family but he's still off on his own journey. His life can be explored in a movie. Right now, the focus needs to be on Jen. She was finally finding her place in the world. And then, it was all cruelly taken away from her. She has no control. That was always an illusion though. She believed Emil Blonsky had genuinely reformed his ways. He was committed to no longer transforming into the Abomination. And yet, he props up that visual in the hopes of inspiring people. He has no problem speaking at an Intelligencia event. The men idolize him because he's fighting against a system that wants to repress his abilities. He's deemed worthy. Jen isn't. She didn't get her powers fair and square. She never wanted them in the first place. Her life changed. She had to cope with that. She was never given the peace of doing so. She had to endure that journey in the public spotlight. People projected their feelings onto her. It was a lot to handle. It's rich, emotional drama. That's not what Marvel properties aspire to do at the conclusion of their stories.

Jen fights to regain control of her narrative. All it takes is busting out of the seams of her show and into the world creating it. She has the awareness that she is living within a false reality with stories dictated by a group of writers. Those skills are apparent. She breaks barriers to fight for equality. She aspires for something different. This finale certainly offers that. But it's also a case of the show having fun poking at how serious the entire Marvel entity can be. It's mostly just a convenient way to cover up shoddy plotting along the way. The season had fascinating ideas about Jen demanding control over her narrative and it never being granted to her due to the world's blatant sexism. But it is undercut by the need to be so meta all the time. Jen has to call out the storytelling patterns. She needs to make it abundantly clear that she doesn't approve of any of this. That's hard to understand at times. The lead character is saying the show she is starring in isn't actually that good. That's a curious creative decision. Again, it's in service of creating Jen as a new character altogether. She has different skills that don't immediately line up with everything else in this universe. It's about more than her being a lawyer and a superhero. And yet, that too sets up the expectation that this could happen all the time. It's all about what Jen wants. That's justified in some instances. It's appreciated how she gets to be a sexual being lusting over Matt Murdock. He doesn't need to be Daredevil in order to have value in this world. Nor does he need to be reduced to conversations about bringing grandchildren home one day. It's a lighthearted tone that should absolutely carry on when he returns with his own show on Disney+. Jen brought that out of an existing character. He was made better for it. The serious nature of these stories can be overwhelming. Jen pronounces that people need to be held accountable for their actions. She accepts punishment for destroying the gala. She also wants to punish the people who angered her in the first place. She was attacked and made to feel disgusting because she has a fulfilling yet complicated life. Todd was HulkKing. He orchestrated this scheme against her. That doesn't really matter. He can't hurt Jen in any meaningful way. She simply shows the maturity of holding him accountable in court. That's more satisfying than punching him when he is already under arrest. That's as dramatic as this confrontation needs to be. Of course, the show lost control of itself as it propped up the importance of some big reveal. That's not what this needed to be. It's not what Jen requires. It's what the Marvel overlords dictated because everything needs to be connected. Those reveals still have to happen. That prevented Jen from exploring what this journey meant for her. Emil also doesn't have to suffer any true punishment because Wong breaks him out again. The cycle repeats even though Jen opened the curtain to see beyond what was driving these creative choices this entire time. It doesn't exactly justify the amount of time spent on characters whose utility in the narrative was ultimately pointless. All of this could be fixed with smaller stakes. This property doesn't have to carry the burden of the entire MCU until the next film or show is released. It can prosper in its own little corner of the world without needing to be consequential elsewhere. It might actually be more enjoyable that way.