The following contains She-Hulk spoilers.
She-Hulk Episode 7
Part of the appeal of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is that it so wholeheartedly embraces its sitcom format. So, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that this week’s installment opens with a kind of adorable dating montage where we get to see Jen get all giddy about finally going out with that nice guy Josh she met at her friend’s wedding last week. But, because this is also a Marvel show with supervillains in it, maybe we should have known that there was more going on here than just a cute date.
Because of course, Josh isn’t just some guy Jen met at some wedding, he’s a stealth operative playing a long con to get close enough to her to steal her blood for some unnamed Big Bad called HulkKing. (Who, I think we can all agree, will inevitably turn out to have ties to that gross Intelligencia website and probably be a generally Bad Dude.) Dating is a literal nightmare seems to be an unspoken theme of this show, and I would personally give a lot for Jen to just meet some nice boring paralegal to have uneventful dinners with for a few episodes.
Perhaps it’s because we’ve had a couple of episodes with no major MCU guest stars or maybe it’s due to the fact that he simply appears as himself rather than the Abomination, but the return of Emil Blonsky this week actually manages to feel like an organic part of the show’s larger story. Now the head of a new meditation retreat that appears to exist to give superpowered individuals and vague supervillain wannabes a chance to work out some of their larger emotional and existential issues—with a surprising amount of chickens—he and his crew of D-list weirdos are actually fairly entertaining TV.
To be fair, I’m not sure how I feel about having Jen work out such deep emotional stuff with a group of strange men she doesn’t know—particularly one who physically attacked her like three weeks ago—versus, say, giving Nikki or Pug or even Mallory a call to go get messy over drinks about it. But, the weirdo combination of attendees at Blonsky’s workshop is actually strangely charming, full of the sort of off-brand characters this show was essentially made to highlight: Man-Bull, El Águila, Porcupine, and Saracen, who may or may not actually even be a vampire.
Like last week’s introduction of Mr. Immortal, these characters work because they’re not particularly capable of carrying stories on their own, but they are interesting enough that you won’t mind seeing them again at some point when they inevitably show up at GLK&H’s office for whatever reason. (And, in this particular instance they actually do provide some necessary perspective on Jen’s journey, if only because they share at least some aspects of her dual nature.)
I don’t know that I fully believe that Jen would feel the need to take advice from these dudes let alone unburden her soul to them in the way that she does, but their group therapy sequence is genuinely funny, so I’m willing to forgive a lot. (Porcupine immediately being ready to kill Josh as soon as Jen stops talking? We stan.) That Jen’s arc this season is clearly about finding a way to reconcile the two halves of herself now that she’s a superhero makes sense, and it’s certainly something that recent episodes have kept circling back to in various ways. How she ultimately comes to accept the She-Hulk side of herself will probably be the work of a lifetime, but the show does actually deserve kudos for not having it be the sort of problem that’s easily solved in an episode or two.
Like much of She-Hulk, “The Retreat” also has some interesting things to say about dating as a woman in your 30s: The unspoken etiquette of texting, the awkward question of how to behave after spending a night with someone new, the fact that ghosting is legitimately something grown men seem to feel fine with doing nowadays. Unfortunately, this episode also comes with the sort of gross twist that I’m not sure this series is equipped to really deal with.
The episode ends with a flashback to the night Josh and Jen spent together, revealing that his interest in her came with underhanded motives attached. He sneaks out while she sleeps, but not before cloning the contents of her phone and texting “HulkKing” a series of emojis that imply he was definitely successful in acquiring some of Jen’s blood.
The fact that Josh turns out to be a dirtbag probably won’t surprise a lot of viewers—I suspect many people (read: women) probably had him pegged as too good to be true during last week’s wedding episode—but the twist that he is an operative sent to seduce Jen by some nefarious third party is a next-level gut-punch. The fact that he’s also taking non-consensual photos of her sleeping naked is just the icing on the cake of creepiness.
Look, a lot of She-Hulk’s dating anecdotes are charming and on-the-nose: We live in an era of endless swiping through a series of lame and worse options who are often as interested in boosting their own social profiles as they are genuinely meeting someone to share their life with. But the final scene of this episode takes an uncomfortable turn from uncomfortable and sadly disappointing to outright disturbing. Am I meant to laugh at this sequence, which is nightmare fuel for so many women today? That arrives just in time to undercut the (surprisingly earned!) moment of Jen’s newfound self-actualization.
A lot of the conversation around this episode will most likely center on the identity of the mysterious HulkKing, if and how they connect to Intelligencia, and what precisely they want with Jen’s blood. (Though it seems most likely they simply want to make some more Hulks for some nefarious and likely dangerous reason.) But I think it’s a mistake to skip over what a violation those last few moments truly are, beyond the theft of literal bodily fluids which can at least be theoretically handwaved away as a superhero cliffhanger to a superhero story. But the idea of being photographed while vulnerable in that way (and inevitably having those images shared with strangers) is an all-too-real threat to many women who don’t have superpowers and I can only hope She-Hulk finds some way to truly deal with that going forward.
Daredevil Watch: Nothing this week, but since it certainly seems as though Jen is going to have to face off with a squad of newly hulked-out bad guys in the series’ next episode, the odds are better than average that Matt Murdock will finally put in an appearance.