'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law' is a smash — SMASHING THE PATRIARCHY, THAT IS!!! : Pop Culture Happy Hour In the Disney Plus series She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, Tatiana Maslany plays Jennifer Walters, an ambitious, eager lawyer. She's also the Hulk's cousin, and accidentally acquires some of his powers after an accident. So now she has to juggle her career as a lawyer with the fact that she sometimes turns into a super-strong green giant.

'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law' is a smash — SMASHING THE PATRIARCHY, THAT IS!!!

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STEPHEN THOMPSON, HOST:

In the new TV series "She-Hulk: Attorney At Law," the Hulk's cousin accidentally acquires some of his Hulk powers. So now she has to juggle her career as a lawyer with the fact that she sometimes turns into a super-strong green giant. I'm Stephen Thompson. Today, we are talking about "She-Hulk: Attorney At Law" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

THOMPSON: Joining us today is New York Times food reporter and author of the bestselling cookbook "Indian-ish," Priya Krishna. Hey, Priya.

PRIYA KRISHNA: Hey, it's great to be here.

THOMPSON: It's great to have you. Also with us is iHeartRadio producer and host Joelle Monique. Hey, Joelle.

JOELLE MONIQUE: Hi, Stephen.

THOMPSON: It's great to have you both. So "She-Hulk: Attorney At Law" is yet another spinoff within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This one stars Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters, a skilled young attorney whose promising career is at least temporarily derailed when she gets some of her blood mixed up with that of the Hulk by accident. It can happen to any of us. The Hulk, aka Bruce Banner, aka Mark Ruffalo, is her cousin, and he ends up mentoring her on her journey to becoming She-Hulk. It's a classic hero's journey as she resists the call and has to juggle her career, her superpowers and her newfound fame. But it's also a lighthearted legal comedy, complete with fourth-wall-breaking asides to the camera. And the villains, at least so far, are silly buffoons, like the superpowered influencer Titania, played by Jameela Jamil. But we're only six episodes into the show's nine-episode debut season, and darker forces appear to be looming. The cast also includes Renee Elise Goldsberry as a rival lawyer, Ginger Gonzaga as She-Hulk's best friend and colleague Nikki, and Josh Segarra as their lovable co-worker who's nicknamed Pug. The show was created by Jessica Gao and airs on Disney+.

Joelle Monique, I'm going to start with you. What did you think of "She-Hulk: Attorney At Law"?

MONIQUE: Oh, my gosh. Those first four episodes are truly magical to me. They're a lot of fun. I'm obsessed with Pug. I think he's so great. If you've seen him on "The Other Two," he is...

THOMPSON: Oh, my God.

MONIQUE: ...Wonderful there as well.

KRISHNA: Yes. So good.

THOMPSON: Basically the same character.

MONIQUE: Yes, 100%. Like, here's a lovable guy. You might think he's kind of doofy (ph), but he's so emotionally intellectual that you just can't help but kind of be endeared to him immediately. And I love Tatiana Maslany. I love her as this character. It's so laid-back from what she usually plays and fun, and the idea of She-Hulk the character is so intriguing. Like, she is a super hulked-out woman, and the comic books tend to play out on this idea of what do you have to endure, you know, through the lens of feminism as a buff hot babe? And, like, she's a fashionista, and there's so much to love about it. Unfortunately, on the technical aspects, there's, like, some questions I have about the show, specifically the idea that this is a weekly show that seems like it was made to be streamed all in one sitting. But I love these characters, and I love the precedent it sets for law in the Marvel Universe. And I think it's going to have larger implications, which makes it an exciting watch.

THOMPSON: OK. How about you, Priya?

KRISHNA: I want to like this show so badly. I am a Marvel-head. I've watched and rewatched all the shows and all of the movies, but I'm still sort of chasing that, like, "WandaVision," "Ms. Marvel" high, and I'm not getting it with "She-Hulk." I don't know. I found - even the very first episode when, like, Hulk's blood gets on her, I was just like, wow, is it really - this is the first time Hulk has spilled blood, and it's gotten on someone? Like, how has this not happened before when he's, like, in the car with people? I found that part a little, like...

THOMPSON: I think 'cause she's a relative, it's supposed to be part of...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

MONIQUE: You have to go all the way back to the '08 Hulk to understand some of the implications of what's happening here, which makes it also a challenge.

KRISHNA: I just find it to be - like, I know that this is, like, the MCU trying to be, like, this is, like, a real feminist show that really explores in a more nuanced way what it's like to be a Hulk but a woman. I find a lot of it a little heavy-handed, a bit cheesy. It doesn't have the nuance that I would have loved. I'm not sold on the legal drama aspect of it. Like, obviously there are so many lovely, charming moments. Pug is absolutely one of my favorite characters - the Avongers T-shirt. But overall, I have to say I'm a little disappointed by the show.

THOMPSON: OK. It's interesting. This - I think my chief complaint about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that it is so deeply complex, and I have absolutely no ability to retain any of it. So the more exposition is required and kind of the higher the stakes are, the more I tend to drown it out. And so, for me, coming into this show and realizing that it was kind of a knockabout comedy - that really helped for me. I'm glad that there's a Marvel show where the stakes don't feel terribly high. And there's kind of this undercurrent that there's this kind of a bigger storyline. And as soon as they kind of introduce that there might be a bigger storyline, I was like, oh, come on.

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: Just have her go to weddings and dufe (ph) around. Like, that...

MONIQUE: I think this is going to be such a huge issue for Marvel because it's almost - like, I was like, how does this connect into the larger sphere? I need to know, like, where are the other Avengers, you know? Are they going to be upset that she's claiming to be an Avenger when she's not? Like, there's - like, a lot of those aspects, I'm like, I want to get back to this bigger world. But I do think there's going to be a lot of, like, casual Marvel fans who are like, oh, this is a nice break from, like, the research I need to do before I get into.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MONIQUE: And I think that's going to be a sticking point...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

MONIQUE: ...For Marvel going forward is, how do we adhere to these long-term fans who have retained all this knowledge and, you know, still be able to touch base with folks who are just interested in this character or this type of series?

THOMPSON: Yeah. I mean, there is some integration into the Marvel Universe. There are certainly cameos on this show and certainly guest spots on this show.

MONIQUE: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: We meet and re-meet several well-known members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But I found my least favorite episode of the show was the pilot...

KRISHNA: Same.

THOMPSON: ...Which I just - I found really, like - first of all, oof, that CGI is not great. And all the stuff with the classic kind of hero's journey - she's resisting the call, she - training montages. It's very Mark Ruffalo-centric. To me, it's just, like - it's just revving at the starting blocks instead of just, like, telling me the story.

MONIQUE: Well, this was originally supposed to be Episode 8, I believe. Yeah.

THOMPSON: The original plan was that we would have all this Mark Ruffalo stuff late in the season?

MONIQUE: And I don't know where the starting point was.

THOMPSON: Yeah, I might have liked that more.

MONIQUE: I don't know if we would've gotten more of that case with Titania and gotten a little more information on who she is, which is something I'm really missing from the series.

KRISHNA: Same. Who is that character?

THOMPSON: Maybe I'm taking my pro-"The Good Place"...

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: ...Perspective into it, because I see Jameela Jamil, I'm like, great. It's Jameela Jamil. And the fact that that character is underdeveloped isn't bothering me yet. And I kind of like that she's not a big threat. Lower the stakes. I like it when the stakes are a little lower.

KRISHNA: Stephen, I totally see what you're saying. Like, I am all for lower stakes Marvel content where the villains aren't like, I want to destroy the universe. But just - I need a little bit more. I need a little bit more than she has some superpowers and is, like, presenting herself as an influencer. I love the idea that, like, people who are remotely superpowered would then, like, try to become influencers. But I - the execution is not there for me in that character, not yet, at least.

MONIQUE: Even the wedding episode. Like, Titania comes back in Episode, like, six. It's a wedding episode. They claim it's going to be a bottle episode. It's - to my understanding, it's not a bottle episode because you keep bouncing back to the office. And now we're dealing with a legal case about a man who lives forever but pretends to die in order to get out of being married to, like, at this point, I think it's nine different people. And that's kind of fun, I guess. But I really wanted a bottle episode with the damn wedding.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MONIQUE: I love a wedding episode of television. I need the drama of the dress. We - she wears the most ridiculous - the bride, who is an old friend of Jennifer's, she wears the most ridiculous wedding dress. And no one comments on - there is no discussion of, like, any of the fun things that happen at a wedding. Like, I just sort of very quickly glazed over, like, it's a cash bar instead of an open bar.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MONIQUE: It's - which, again, to wrap it back to the beginning, I just think that there's something about the structure of these episodes and how they're timed out that doesn't work in a weekly, let me slowly consume and contemplate what's happening in these shows. I wonder if on a rewatch - streaming, kind of just bingeing and getting this very casual, fun, funky feel - if I'll feel differently about the series.

THOMPSON: Yeah. I mean, I think you do get the process with any of these shows where you're waiting over time to kind of get to know the characters better. And it takes a little while for a show to get in the pocket and kind of establish the relationships between the different characters. And I felt a certain - first of all, I just like the raw materials. I do like the casting. I like Tatiana Maslany. I'm happy to see her in a little bit of a lighter role where she's able to kind of showcase her comedic chops. I think (laughter) I agree so completely that Josh Segarra is such a delight. And if that's just what that guy is like...

MONIQUE: The actor?

THOMPSON: Yeah...

MONIQUE: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: ...Because he's basically playing the same character in this that he plays in the other two. And he's so - if that's just what he's like, then I just want him to be my friend.

KRISHNA: Yes.

MONIQUE: Yes.

THOMPSON: You know, I think Ginger Gonzaga is doing nice work as the best friend. It's very clear that we don't know her whole story, that we're kind of waiting for another shoe to drop in terms of what her character's all about. I like the people who are making this show.

MONIQUE: Yes.

THOMPSON: I like the people who are on this show. And that combined with the fact that they're not trying to save the universe and not spewing 10-minute gobs of exposition at me, I dug it.

MONIQUE: Well, OK, we can talk about some of the highlights too, OK. So...

THOMPSON: Yeah.

MONIQUE: ...We get such beautiful moments, like, she's pretending to be drunk to figure out if Captain America has had sex or not.

KRISHNA: Yeah. Great scene.

MONIQUE: That's, like, classic Jessica Gao, like, style comedy. For listeners who don't know, she wrote "Pickle Rick" episode of "Rick And Morty." I love the girl who's always like, Wongers.

THOMPSON: Madisynn.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SHE-HULK: ATTORNEY AT LAW")

PATTY GUGGENHEIM: (As Madisynn King) Wongers (laughter). Hi. Oh, did you get a ticket for texting? Just say you were texting 911. They can't prosecute.

TATIANA MASLANY: (As Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk) That isn't what this is, and that's not true.

KRISHNA: Yes. Love her.

MONIQUE: I think what would really sell this show for me, or something that I would love to see more of in Season 2, is these like, one-off, like, really strong personality characters in every episode. If you're going to do, like, episodic and have a case of the week, like, make it a super-memorable case, like with the Light Elf from Asgard. Like, she was delightful and funny. And it was great to sort of see another aspect of Asgardians in a way that, again, wouldn't lose, like, a casual viewer but is really fun for people who are, like, deep into the lore. I think, on the comedy angle, it's been a lot of fun to watch. I really enjoy sort of - I liked the idea of a superhero costumer sort of in the way of, like, "The Incredibles," where they're super bitchy...

KRISHNA: Yeah.

MONIQUE: ...And, like, uptight and fun.

KRISHNA: Yeah. Yeah.

MONIQUE: Do we want to talk - the internet kind of got upset about the dress. Wait, Priya, do you - did you see any of the controversy on the dress that this designer makes for the She-Hulk?

KRISHNA: No. Can you tell me about this internet controversy?

MONIQUE: (Laughter) People really, really, really do not like the blue-and-white polka-dot dress because Jen Bartel, who's an incredible artist, has done a lot of costuming for She-Hulk that brought her into, like, this new era. I'm talking about, like, the sporty, like, suits...

KRISHNA: Right.

MONIQUE: ...And, you know, pencil skirts, and, like, just very, like, highly stylized. And so I thought when she was getting these designers, they would be like, oh, those are clothes we want, and they look really good, and they're super fashionable or whatever. And people are like, she got a blue-and-white polka-dot dress? And I thought it was OK. But it was not like, oh, my God...

KRISHNA: (Laughter).

MONIQUE: ...Let me run to the store and buy the dress. I'm just curious, you know, if you - how you felt about the fashion, if you felt it was appropriate for the character (laughter).

KRISHNA: I also - I found the, like, Edna Mode-style costumer to be really delightful. The little, like, "Daredevil" sneak at the end was really fun. But, again, I will just go back to, like, I love the idea and concept. Execution - it isn't all there for me. Like - and I feel so bad saying this because I love all of the actors in the show. I'm a big, big fan of Tatiana Maslany. I was so happy about the casting. I love that Wong is like the Nick Fury of this phase of the MCU. I love seeing him pop up so often. I feel like, he - that actor is getting to, like, exercise his comedic chops, and he is just...

MONIQUE: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...So fantastic. Like, I think about a show like "WandaVision," where, like, the anticipation week to week was just so thrilling. And I don't feel that way about this. And I know I'm not supposed to. This is not supposed to be "WandaVision." This is supposed to be lighter-hearted. This is supposed to be maybe more accessible for people who don't love the MCU. I felt somewhat similarly to this that I did with "Thor: Love And Thunder," which is that, like, I love the idea. I loved a lot of the joke setups, in theory. Execution wasn't great.

THOMPSON: All right, last question - will you keep watching?

KRISHNA: Yes, I will keep watching because I - 'cause this is like what the Marvel Universe does. If you don't keep watching, you miss some element...

MONIQUE: Yeah.

KRISHNA: ...And this sets - like, everything sets up the next thing. There was a point in which I was like, do I need to watch the kid short "I Am Groot," because is there some...

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

KRISHNA: ...Secret post-credit scene that sets up the next "Guardians Of The Galaxy" movie?

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

KRISHNA: So yes, I will, of course keep watching because this is what we do, us Marvel fans. We...

MONIQUE: Yeah (laughter).

THOMPSON: I was gonna say, Marvel has defeated you completely (laughter).

KRISHNA: We keep watching no matter what. And, like, it's not like I actively dislike this show. I - you know, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has now become vast enough that there's something for everyone. And I think this is just not for me.

THOMPSON: All right. Joelle, are you going to keep watching?

MONIQUE: Yes, Stephen. Well, "Black Panther" is next, OK.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

MONIQUE: I will have to be buried under the ground not to continue watching this at this point (laughter).

THOMPSON: We want to know what you think about "She-Hulk." Find us at facebook.com/pchh and on Twitter @pchh. That brings us to the end of our show. Priya Krishna, Joelle Monique, thanks so much to both of you for being here.

KRISHNA: Thanks, Stephen.

MONIQUE: Thank you, Stephen.

THOMPSON: And of course, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. This episode was produced by Hafsa Fathima and edited by Jessica Reedy. Hello Come In provides our theme music. I'm Stephen Thompson, and we will see you all tomorrow.

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