She-Hulk: Attorney At Law – Season 1 Episode 7

Sep 29, 2022 | Posted by in TV

“The Retreat”

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law focuses on Jennifer’s identity arc as she explores the mental distinction between her two forms.

Comparing Jennifer to Bruce is reductive, particularly when this show is about her not being in his shadow and forging her own path but the comparison is unavoidable since she now unquestionably identifies as She-Hulk so she will forever be associated with Bruce. Added to that is her origin being connected to him and the similarities in the mechanics of their transformation. Jennifer is different from Bruce in that she started out being in full control of her Hulk form meaning she didn’t have the issue of being unpredictably destructive and inspiring fear because of what she’s capable of.


Growing closer

This means that resolving her own sense of identity is a different challenge. Bruce spent his early years trying to keep the Hulk locked inside for the benefit of others but Jennifer never had to deal with an unpredictable destructive force living inside her. Instead, she has had to deal with being a public figure as She-Hulk and how people perceive her in her two forms. She has taken strides toward owning her identity in various ways such as taking personal and legal ownership of being She-Hulk but there is still ways to go in terms of being comfortable within herself.

Her arc is a relatable one as many people struggle with self-identification in various ways. It’s a broad subject but most people will have experienced uncertainty over who they are and what their purpose in life might be. She-Hulk: Attorney at Law draws attention to this in a very obvious way through Jennifer literally having two forms she has to reconcile. This episode focuses on how she views herself and builds towards Jennifer taking a step forward in being comfortable with who she is.

The catalyst for this introspective exploration is Jennifer going out with Josh -the guy she met at the wedding in the previous episode– and being ghosted after they sleep together. Naturally, the lack of contact following allowing herself to get close to someone throws her through a loop and gives her cause to further question her self-worth. The montage of their dates shows what appears to be a positive connection. Both seem happy, both seem to be having fun and there’s an obvious attraction there. Their dates build to the point of Jennifer sleeping with him. She is shown to resist it before allowing it as the montage concludes and then her existential crisis kicks in after that point. Being ghosted by Josh coincides with a potential breach of parole from Blonsky prompting him to go to his retreat to check on him. It turns out to be a genuine accident but she finds herself stuck there after her car is the unfortunate casualty of a low-stakes fight that happens.


An unhealthy obsession

What starts as an inconvenience turns out to be the perfect opportunity for Jennifer to disconnect from her life and work on herself. Notably, she finds herself unable to get any signal so she is completely isolated from her life. It’s an obvious yet meaningful development as smartphones are so central to life that they can become an addiction. Jennifer may not be addicted to her phone all of the time but she is obsessing over the lack of response from Josh to the point that she parades around the entire compound desperate for a bar of signal. Her behaviour resembles addiction right up to the euphoria she experiences when finding coverage and the disappointment that follows when no text has been received.

Conveniently, the only signal is found in the midst of a group therapy session where a collection of colourful characters are exploring their own identity issues. Nothing about those characters is especially interesting or entertaining but it does create an entry point for Jennifer to analyse herself. Blonsky acts as a therapist who encourages her to dig deep and be honest about how she sees herself. Attempts at comedy threaten to derail compelling character work but fortunately, it never reaches that point as there is enough attention on what Jennifer is going through.

It largely amounts to her vocalising what the show has been presenting up until this point so there’s a consistency in approach to her arc and general characterisation. She compares She-Hulk to being the friend that gets more attention because they’re more attractive and athletic while referring to the envy associated with being connected to that person. Jennifer is in a situation where she can turn into a person that people find more attractive and interesting so she is in competition with herself and questioning who she is now that people approach her differently depending on her outward appearance. She talks about the attention she gets from her colleagues, boss and men when in the She-Hulk form and the emptiness that comes with it. There’s a falseness to the attention She-Hulk receives because Jennifer wonders if others would see any value in her if she weren’t She-Hulk. Previous episodes have touched on her professional anxiety as she was hired for her job because she is She-Hulk. She has also experienced men having no interest in her when she isn’t in the She-Hulk form so being able to change is having a massive impact on her self-esteem. Jennifer’s vulnerability during her admission of how she sees herself is well written and brilliantly acted by Tatiana Maslany.


We’re here to help each other

Josh appeared to be different because he was interested in Jennifer and never asked about She-Hulk so she thought she had found someone who liked the substance of who she is rather than the superficial details that others appear to hold in higher regard. Trusting Josh and then having him ghost her after the fact is something she finds very difficult to deal with because she feels it’s an affront to her sense of self and it leaves a scar. The group are resoundingly supportive of her to the point that they pledge to kill Josh which is an example of attempted comedy risking derailing engaging characterisation but it is quickly dismissed in favour of thoughtful coping techniques. She is reminded that she has no control over what other people think or do and that the rejection hurts because it supports her negative self-image. Josh rejecting her causes her to double down on feeling as if she’s less than worthwhile. She needed to hear that people value her for who she is and having that flatly stated helps her recognise that she has a lot to offer. She starts the group therapy session in the She-Hulk form which is identified as a protective shield.

As good as this was, there are issues with how this step forward in Jennifer’s arc was depicted. The group therapy session led by Blonsky was set up as a comedic situation that fortunately ended up being more thoughtful than comedic and it makes sense that Jennifer might be more comfortable opening up to strangers than those she’s close to but it also highlights the lack of a consistent supporting cast in this show. She shares a scene with Nikki early in the episode where her concerns about Josh are dismissed as being part of some sort of dating game that everyone plays. Nikki has been a consistent presence in the show and their scenes together are always engaging because of how natural the chemistry between Tatiana Maslany and Ginger Gonzaga is but there is no actual depth to this friendship. They are supposedly best friends but the show has yet to feature a meaningful conversation between them.


Being vulnerable

The potential is there for issues like this to be explored through their friendship and for Nikki to become something more than someone who is wisecracking and socially aware. It’s bizarre that the show would default to exploring Jennifer’s identity issues by having her speak in a group therapy session rather than confide in her best friend. It would also be an opportunity to deepen Nikki as a character by having her relate her own anxieties and possibly create a dynamic where she feels like Jennifer is that more attractive and athletic friend that gets all of the attention. There’s a slight implication that Jennifer feels that way about her friendship with Nikki so having the tables turn and their relationship shift as a result could be interesting. The show is failing to utilise the resources at its disposal and deepen what should be its core relationships beyond the superficial.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is at its best as a show when it focuses on Jennifer and her identity struggles. There was no legal plot in this episode and it didn’t suffer by not including one. This highlights a general problem with the show’s core concept as very little of its legal plotting is especially compelling. Comedy is, of course, subjective but to my mind, it doesn’t do that very well either. One thing it does very well much of the time is Jennifer’s characterisation and that’s why a lot of this episode works. There is a clear progression in Jennifer as the season progresses but the failure to deliver that while also succeeding at being the “fun lawyer show” it sold itself to be can’t be ignored.

The confused identity of the show itself makes it jarring when it furthers the ongoing villain mystery. It is revealed that Josh was stringing her along so that he could get an opportunity to steal her blood. The reveal doesn’t change anything Jennifer said about her feelings for him or about herself but explaining it as being part of a plot against her takes away from the uncertainty around why he chose to ghost her. Before revealing that to the audience it was all about Jennifer’s reaction to what happened to her and the unanswered questions that resulted from it. That’s still true because Jennifer doesn’t know but it loses something by having it connect to this underwhelming villain mystery. Connected to that is Jennifer’s group therapy session including one of her attackers with no mention of the attempt to get a sample of her blood so there seems to be a lack of interest in fully integrating this plot. Like Jennifer, the show itself appears to have an identity crisis that may be unresolvable.


The Earth’s absolute last line of defence


A good episode that offers an engaging exploration of Jennifer’s ongoing identity crisis and facilitates a step forward for her. Jennifer’s struggles with self-identification is a relatable one and the group therapy session she engages in allows her to vocalise her identity-based anxieties. She goes over how she feels and receives support that offers validation for all she has to offer outside of being She-Hulk. Using her relationship with Josh as the catalyst for this introspection works really well and is detailed efficiently through the montage of their dates. There are issues with the presentation of Jennifer’s arc such as risking derailing it with attempts at comedy and failing to capitalise on the core relationship that is her friendship with Nikki. This show is at its best when it focuses on Jennifer and her identity struggles but the lack of a legal plot in this episode only highlights the general problem of it failing to be an engaging legal comedy. It’s also jarring whenever it furthers the ongoing villain mystery as it feels out of place and is only made worse by Jennifer being confronted by one of her attackers with no reference to him being part of the plot that the show lacks interest in fully integrating. Like Jennifer, the show itself appears to have an identity crisis that may be unresolvable.

  • 7/10
    The Retreat - 7/10


Kneel Before…

  • Jennifer being disconnected from her life and that presenting an opportunity for introspecting
  • the efficient montage of her dates with Josh
  • her vulnerability when opening up during the group therapy session
  • the points made about how she sees the difference between the Jennifer and She-Hulk forms
  • the step forward she takes in recognising that people will see value in her


Rise Against…

  • the out of place attempts at comedy risking derailing the engaging characterisation
  • failing to capitalise on Jennifer’s friendship with Nikki
  • the furthering of the villain mystery highlighting the identity issues the show itself has


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User Review
6/10 (4 votes)

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