She-Hulk: Attorney At Law – Season 1 Episode 8
“Ribbit and Rip it”
She-Hulk: Attorney At Law addresses the question of balance as Jennifer is encouraged to consider how she can use all of the resources at her disposal to help people.
The appearance of Matt Murdock aka Daredevil (Charlie Cox) has been teased since this show’s early trailers, which gave rise to a lot of speculation as to when he would appear and what he would do when he did. In a way, this is unfortunate as this is a show about Jennifer Walters aka She-Hulk so having attention diverted from the main character to speculate on a guest star does Jennifer a disservice. The problem is amplified by the fact that this is a show with a female lead in a landscape where the representation of women in superhero properties is far from what it should be. Compounding the issue is that this show has featured extended appearances from Wong and Bruce Banner so it has risked being defined by its guests rather than its lead from early on.
That isn’t to say that the episodes themselves have been about the guests that appear in them. They have been present for a specific purpose and played a part in Jennifer’s ongoing development so in terms of execution the right balance has been struck in terms of making use of those characters. Matt Murdock is the same as he appears to help Jennifer consider how to use all of her resources to help people. His main purpose is to bring an experienced superhero perspective that she hadn’t previously considered.
He is introduced as her opponent in a lawsuit involving Eugene Patillo aka LeapFrog (Brandon Stanley) and her tailor Luke Jacobson (Griffin Matthews) over malfunctioning boot jets in Eugene’s suit. A lot of legal ground is covered very quickly and efficiently with an extended debate breaking out around making Luke’s client list available as context for the case. Jennifer’s argument that it could be relevant if other customers are dissatisfied but Luke wants to maintain their anonymity and his exclusivity. Matt’s argument is built on protecting the identities of those clients as many of them will be superheroes who want to keep their identity secret. He feels that outing them for the sake of a court case when the Sokovia Accords established in Captain America: Civil War are no longer a factor -when did that happen?- is unfair on those who wish to remain anonymous as is their right. Matt is, of course, speaking with an informed perspective as a costumed vigilante who keeps his identity secret.
The debate is interesting and layered with valid points made on both sides without the show presenting either side as being “right”. This encourages the audience to think about what is being said and draw their own conclusions. The fact that the judge decides to side with Matt doesn’t render Jennifer’s side of the argument invalid, it simply establishes him to be a formidable legal opponent who was more persuasive to this particular judge.
Unfortunately, the episode falters in the resolution of the case. Eugene is tricked into admitting that he didn’t follow the explicit instructions he was given by Luke on what type of fuel to use in the boot jets which means that the case is dismissed because Eugene was negligent rather than Luke delivering a faulty product. It doesn’t work as a resolution because it makes Jennifer look less than competent as she didn’t bother to investigate that aspect. If she had then she would have avoided embarrassment and not tainted her relationship with the only tailor that can make clothes suited to her physique. There was definite improvement in the handling of the lawyering aspect of the show but this clumsy resolution is a further example of the issues it has delivering it. Not enough care or attention is given to the execution of the cases which leads to unsatisfying resolutions and untapped potential.
The case is largely a means to an end designed to create an opportunity for Matt and Jennifer to interact. They talk over a drink and Matt imparts the advice that as Jennifer she can use the law to help people when society fails them and as She-Hulk she can help people when the law fails them. This is exactly Matt’s mission statement as Daredevil. When he feels that justice hasn’t prevailed he intervenes as Daredevil to punish or protect those he feels need it. He has a very specific moral code that he is comfortable with and thinks Jennifer could do exactly the same.
His motivation is somewhat exemplified by his going after Eugene when he kidnaps Luke. It’s not a strong example of the law failing anyone but it does support his point to a degree. Ideally, the situation would be the perfect example of what he’s talking about to show Jennifer how she can use her abilities to make a difference in ways her legal expertise can’t. Breaking the fourth wall could be a great way to analyse the lesson and poke fun at its dramatic convenience. Instead, Jennifer simply teams up with Matt to rescue Luke in a scenario that doesn’t support the idea of the law failing someone and further intervention being required. In order to achieve this, the case would need to be built around the outcome being the wrong one for the innocent party or an obvious criminal being cleared of what they were accused of rather than the clear idiocy of Eugene creating the problem in the first place. As it sits, the situation isn’t connected to the lesson that Jennifer learns and the case that sets it up doesn’t organically push Jennifer towards learning that lesson.
Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock has been a fan favourite since the Netflix Daredevil series. He was folded properly into the MCU with a brief appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home but this is his first significant appearance. Fans of the Netflix show will immediately notice differences in the portrayal. Jennifer makes fun of him for being brooding but there’s actually very little evidence of that in this episode. This version of Matt quips during fights and generally has a far lighter outlook than his Netflix counterpart. Some may find this personality shift jarring as both versions are played by the same actor but, to my mind, Charlie Cox has more than enough range to pull it off. She-Hulk: Attorney At Law is a comedy so it makes sense that Matt would be prone to levity in this context. There is still weight to the words he says thanks to Charlie Cox’s soft-spoken and thoughtful delivery. He comes across as the voice of experience and is very much a broad strokes example of the sort of life Jennifer could lead.
It’s worth noting that this will be a large chunk of the audience’s first exposure to Matt Murdock. As an introduction, this works really well as it outlines who the character is, what he can do and establishes him in the context of this show as well as the MCU. Aside from using the Netflix Daredevil theme as an easter egg, he is functionally an entirely new character introduced to this show for a specific purpose. It amounts to a fresh take on a character who enjoys a variety of interpretations in the comics. Whether this take will be as successful for fans remains to be seen but it’s commendable that his introduction wasn’t beholden to what came before and the time was taken to properly establish him without the assumption of prior knowledge while not overloading the audience with exposition as to his origins. He’s an experienced hero with a defined skillset, well-cultivated motivation and his appearance mostly makes sense in context.
His points about balance are intriguing and give Jennifer plenty to think about. She is working to define her own purpose following becoming She-Hulk and has yet to settle on what works for her. Matt talks about having to play the game and do cases for rich clients when bills need to be paid which explains his travelling to L.A. to represent Luke. He mentions his practice in Hell’s Kitchen and the work he does to help people there but acknowledges the economic realities of the world he lives in. Jennifer doesn’t feel fulfilled because all of her cases are for rich clients so she isn’t getting to do the sort of legal work she wants to do. It has never actually been established what sort of legal work she wants to do but it’s clear that her current employment status isn’t ideal for her. Matt’s advice is for her to consider everything she can do in order to find that balance and it appears to resonate with her.
When they team up, Matt is able to display his skills, experience and enhanced senses as a contrast to Jennifer’s inexperience and brute strength. It’s a good showcase of Matt’s capabilities and a welcome reminder of the fight choreography employed in the Netflix show for those familiar with it. There’s even a tease of the celebrated corridor fight before Jennifer bursts in and takes care of all of their opponents instantly. Part of the joke is how unbalanced the power levels are though this does suggest a potential problem with finding actual threats for Jennifer to deal with rather than engaging groups of henchmen or goons -an important distinction- that she can make very short work of. For the purposes of this episode, it makes sense for LeapFrog to be a less than challenging adversary.
Another aspect of the Jennifer/Matt connection is a strong attraction between them that becomes evident early on and builds to what Jennifer describes as a “very satisfying conclusion”. The two actors have excellent chemistry and it builds naturally over the course of the episode. The gag of Matt in costume carrying his boots on a walk of shame is pitch-perfect as well. Their dynamic was strong and has a lot of potential to develop if they have the opportunity to react in the future.
The ending of the episode relates to the ongoing plot with an attempt to publicly discredit her by calling her a slut in front of a large audience complete with video evidence of her intimate encounter with Josh. She reacts angrily by breaking the screen and doing damage to the building before coming across as a significant threat that scares people. This ties back to what was said in the first episode about women having to constantly manage their rage in order to be seen as credible. In this instance she lets her rage get the best of her and the shift in perception is immediately apparent. Mallory tries to advise her to not react but it’s too late at that point. At first glance, Jennifer’s personal information and intimate footage being broadcast to an audience doesn’t seem to be all that destructive as it’s an obvious invasion of privacy and consenting adults having sex shouldn’t qualify as news. The point being made is that a double standard applies where women is concerned so this could be enough to ruin Jennifer’s life, especially with her angry reaction. She publicly showed herself to be comparable to her cousin and people used to be afraid of her cousin so it could well be reputational damage that she can’t come back from. It remains unclear what the endgame plan for whoever is behind this is but this cliffhanger was striking and effective.
An engaging episode that uses a fan-favourite guest appearance as a way for Jennifer to learn an important lesson and features a striking cliffhanger ending. Matt Murdock’s appearance is long anticipated and worth the wait with a lighter yet equally engaging take on the character. His perspective on helping people both as a lawyer and a costumed hero is invaluable and gives Jennifer a lot to consider as she is in a similar position. Charlie Cox and Tatiana Maslani have excellent chemistry and the episode makes great use of it. There are improvements in the handling of the case of the week but the resolution was clumsy and the case itself doesn’t actually feed into the lesson that Jennifer learns. The ending was striking and effective in ways that feed organically into the ongoing issues and themes the show explores.
- Matt Murdock’s introduction and overall characterisation
- the Jennifer/Matt dynamic
- Matt imparting informed advice for Jennifer to consider
- the Jennifer/Matt team-up and making good use of their unbalanced power levels
- a compelling and layered legal debate with merits to both sides of the argument
- the striking and effective cliffhanger
- the clumsy resolution to the case of the week
- the case not connecting naturally to the lesson Jennifer learns
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