This article contains She-Hulk finale spoilers
The green gloves were off in the She-Hulk finale, and after nine episodes of toxic masculinity, twerking with Megan Thee Stallion, and a lot of waiting for Charlie Cox’s Daredevil to arrive, it all culminated in this. October 13’s “Whose Show Is This?” delivered some of the wildest scenes to grace the MCU, but when we weren’t busy breaking the already broken fourth wall, we were canonizing forgotten Hulks.
It’s easy to forget that there have been a lot of actors who’ve played the mean, green, fighting machine. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone, there’s been Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk, who replaced Edward Norton’s brief stint from 2008’s The Incredible Hulk movie. Eric Bana starred in 2003’s Hulk before the MCU, but going back even further, we had the legends of Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno – who became synonymous with the Hulk name between 1978 and 1990.
How all of this connects to the She-Hulk is through the finale’s opening. Although it all ended up being a dream while Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) was locked up in the DODC prison, the sequence riffed on 1978’s The Incredible Hulk TV series. For those who don’t know, the CBS show starred Bixby as Dr. David Banner (more on him later) and Ferrigno as his Hulk alter ego. This was before the days Disney was throwing money at VFX, meaning it wasn’t as simple as sticking Maslany in a mo-cap suit to save on hiring two actors.
The She-Hulk opening retraces the events of the season so far, such as Jen dealing with trolls online, her disastrous date with Todd, and even a nod to the origin of her powers when she flips a car down a hill. It’ll be interesting to know whether Maslany wearing a muscle suit and green face paint is also a middle finger to those who’ve continued to call out She-Hulk’s CGI. As a coup de grâce, there’s a shot of Jen and Bruce (Ruffalo) reenacting the pose Bixby’s Banner and Jack Colvin’s Jack McGee pulled, as well as the classic “Don’t make me angry” line from The Incredible Hulk titles.
Instead of giving us the usual She-Hulk titles, the show refers to itself as the comic book-accurate The Savage She-Hulk. In reality, the events of Jen breaking out into the “real world” to confront the writers actually took place in The Sensational She-Hulk #12 from 1989. There’s actually a nod to this in She-Hulk’s credits, as artwork of K.E.V.I.N. shows the AI reading a copy of The Savage She-Hulk. If Jen knows about The Incredible Hulk, it suggests it exists in this world. It’s similar to how Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Lego Death Star canonized Star Wars or Titania (Jameela Jamil) calling Jen “Shrek” earlier in the season. James Mangold’s Logan did a great job of this when Hugh Jackman’s clawed Canadian said the comics were just the fictionalised events of what the X-Men actually got up to.
While we’re not expecting Lou Ferrigno to suddenly pop up as some aged Hulk, let’s remember we probably never thought we’d get a movie that brought Holland, Garfield, and Maguire together. The Multiverse has also given us opportunities to redeem the Inhumans, bring back Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier, and make good on John Krasinski’s fan casting as Mister Fantastic, so never say never. Namely, fans loved Jen’s opening dream sequence so much, some are calling for a whole episode in the ‘70s style. WandaVision proved it can be done, and with the She-Hulk finale throwing everything out the window with that K.E.V.I.N. reveal, anything is possible.
We could at least see more nods to the birth of the Hulk on the small screen. Like how She-Hulk poked fun at its own toxic fandom that couldn’t wrap its head around a female hulk, season two should address the bizarre reason that Bixby’s Banner was called David Banner. Apparently, the network didn’t think a show based on the comics would sell well, so tried to distance itself from the source material. Even weirder though, network bosses reportedly through Bruce was too much of a “gay” name, so instead, called him David Banner.
Considering Bixby and Ferrigno played the characters for 80 episodes and five TV movies, it seems only right that She-Hulk honored their legacy. She-Hulk already made a jibe about Norton being recast with Ruffalo when Bruce spoke about his fight with Abomination being “so long ago” and Bruce being “a completely different person now,” so long live the Hulk throwbacks. Whether She-Hulk’s homage to The Incredible Hulk was just to lean into the wackiness of the finale or something more, we’ve got to admit that the opening sequence was a (Hulk) smash hit with fans.