The following review contains She-Hulk spoilers.
She-Hulk Episode 9
Throughout its first season She-Hulk: Attorney at Law has taken some big swings, creatively and narratively speaking. Its fourth-wall-breaking narration, procedural format, and lighter, more comedic feel have certainly set it apart from virtually every other entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. So we probably shouldn’t be surprised that its season finale is truly unlike anything we’ve ever seen this franchise attempt before.
Your mileage may vary on whether you think “Whose Show Is This?” is a good ending to the She-Hulk’s first season or if it satisfactorily wraps up the outstanding elements of Jennifer Walters’ story that we’ve seen so far. But it’s certainly a memorable episode that takes big, ambitious swings, and in a franchise known for the safety and predictability of its formulas, that’s a pretty big deal. Did every joke land? Did the larger tongue-in-cheek commentary about the Marvel machine work? Not always. But at least this episode takes some big risks, for both good and ill.
As “Whose Show Is This?” begins, Jen’s at her lowest point yet. Arrested and placed in Emil Blonsky’s old holding cell after the events of last week’s episode, she’s released on the condition that she wears an ankle monitor and agrees never to transform into She-Hulk again. Without access to her alter ego, she’s fired from GLK&H, loses her apartment, and is forced to move back into her parents’ house, despite the fact that her mom has turned her old room into her workout den. Desperate to get away from the mess of her life (and the fact that she and Nikki are making little progress on discovering the identities of those behind Intelligencia), Jen heads back to Blonsky’s retreat in the hopes of a fresh perspective on her new situation. Unfortunately what she discovers is that Blonsky’s missing and Intelligencia is actually hosting a gathering in the retreat’s event space. (With Abomination as a guest speaker, though to Blonsky’s credit, he at least doesn’t seem up to speed on the more repulsive aspects of Intelligencia’s general mission statement.)
In the world of Marvel comics, Intelligencia is a legion of supervillains. On She-Hulk it’s a sad group of internet trolls who call women “females” unironically and insist that obviously they only hate the Mighty Thor because her story sucks. The sequence in which Nikki sends Pug to infiltrate the group and pretend to be a sexist bro who hates women is hilarious, not just because Josh Segarra’s facial expressions are gold but because these are precisely the kind of gross conversations so many of us have seen play out in various spaces online and real-life. It’s all a hilarious meta-commentary on misogyny and the state of superhero fandom today, and my only complaint is that there’s no way that the people who most need to see this message are actually watching She-Hulk.
The episode’s ending is wildly chaotic, as Jen, Abomination, Titania, and even Bruce all end up crashing the Intelligencia meeting and facing off at various points. Deadbeat Todd—who turns out to be HulkKing because of course he is—injects himself with Hulk serum and a massive fight between all parties looks set to break out. But instead of the battle royale we’re all expecting, Jen basically interrupts her own story to tell us all that none of this makes sense, and is an overstuffed, ridiculous way to bring the season to a close. And then she decides to do something about it. Which, as it turns out, essentially involves not just breaking the fourth wall, but Hulk smashing it.
Don’t get me wrong this is all kind of amazing to watch unfold, especially for anyone who has invested years in the world of the MCU and its various ancillary and executive figures. (Which is, at this point, most of us.) As She-Hulk literally punches her way through the Disney+ menu to crawl into an Avengers: Assembled writers’ room, complain about her series’ ending, and set off on a Wizard of Oz-like quest to find the “Kevin” that controls all things Marvel, the show takes the entire concept of “meta” to insane new heights.
Because Kevin isn’t a person, he’s K.E.V.I.N. (a.k.a. Knowledge Enhanced Visual Interconnectivity Nexus), the supercomputer that uses entertainment algorithms to craft the stories we see play out onscreen. For Marvel fans, K.E.V.I.N. is nothing short of hilarious, sporting a nameplate that looks exactly like the real Kevin Feige’s omnipresent baseball cap, generally being wildly coy about the future of the franchise (when are we getting the X-Men??), and lampshading some of the larger complaints about the MCU as a whole (daddy issues, lack of romance, repetitive endings, etc.).
But the question is—does this super-meta detour work as an ending for She-Hulk, the show we’ve spent nine weeks watching? I’m not sure. I mean, it ultimately brings back Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock, dresses him in pastels, and allows him to do a scene in the sunshine for once, and for that, I’m truly willing to forgive a lot. (Even if I still have no idea what the purpose of Titania was as a character.) But this episode doesn’t really make a ton of sense as an ending to the story of this series’ first season, given that it essentially just expositions its way through its own climax.
The show doesn’t really explore much of the emotional fallout from the events at last week’s awards gala, in which the public was all too willing to turn on Jen and label her a monster because she allowed herself to get (justifiably!) angry. And while it’s great to see Todd punished for his crimes, his personal connection to Jen sort of dilutes some of the story’s larger point about online groups like Intelligencia and the very real harm they do to women.
Jen herself says that her stakes are about her life falling apart just as she was learning to balance both sides of her identities, and I’m not entirely sure this episode ever fully comes back around to that theme. Don’t get me wrong, She-Hulk’s line about coming for those who harass or harm innocent people as both a lawyer and a superhero is great, and a fine mission statement for what kind of character she’ll be going forward. But this episode doesn’t do the best job of tying its two halves—Jen’s journey and its larger meta-observations about storytelling in this franchise—into something that feels cohesive.
The finale ultimately ends with the focus in the right place, on Jen and her story, and that matters, especially given that the original ending would likely have made her, at best, a bit player in her own show. And avoiding that feels like progress that’s worth celebrating.