Fight Court: Jen Gets Fired, She-Hulk Gets Hired
Do the Avengers offer maternity leave?
Episode 2 of Marvel’s ‘She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’ deals with the public response to Jen’s courtroom hulk-out which ended episode one. “The Retreat” dials in on both the media reaction to She-Hulk’s debut (and her subsequent naming as She-Hulk, which Jen hates) and the repercussions to her professional life. While the bar patrons at Legal Ease and the public cheer for She-Hulk, Jen is annoyed that she’s let the big green cat out of the bag so soon. Nikki reminds her that she didn’t have much of a choice, and besides, being a superhero is cool! Jen could be an Avenger! Jen is less enthused, and is more concerned with what (if any) benefits come with being an Avenger, like health insurance or a pension. And as we’ve learned from Sam Wilson in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, there’s not much in the way of compensation for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The professional fallout comes swift, with chauvinist co-worker Dennis accusing Jen of Hulk nepotism (and also referring to an attractive woman as “it”). Even worse, Jen’s boss fires her. Apparently, saving the jury from “super-influencer” Titania can cause legal bias and unraveled the case. What’s more, her clearly intimidated boss makes Jen revert to non-Hulk form to deliver the news. Jen then tries to get a new job, but no one wants to take on the liability of employing a superhero lawyer. Jen remarks that she’s being punished for doing the right thing, and she’s not wrong.
Jen doesn’t fare much better at family dinner, where her firing is the main topic, her aunt wants to fix her hair, and her mother is giving out her phone number to superhero wannabes. Jen does get some support from her father Morris (Perfect Strangers star Mark Linn-Baker!), who encourages her. Later, Jen gets a job offer from Holden Holliway (Steve Coulter) a partner at GLK&H, to run a new division at the firm. Jen leaps at the chance, ready to start fresh.
But it’s not that simple: Holliway wants Jen to run the superhuman law division, with She-Hulk as its public face. That means that Jen must be in She-Hulk form in court and for the press. What started as a great opportunity is now exposed as tokenism. Jen resents being a diversity hire, especially since she is more than qualified to do the job. And everyone who isn’t straight, white and male can relate.
Nikki encourages her to look at the bright side, i.e. more money and a swanky new office. They also meet Augustus “Pug” Pugliese (Josh Segarra) who welcomes them to the office with a gift basket and a map to the best bathrooms for pooping. But while the job clearly has its benefits, Jen’s first case gives her pause, as Holliway wants her to represent Emil Blonksy (Tim Roth) in a parole hearing.
If you don’t remember Blonsky, you’re not alone. He was the antagonist in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, opposite former Hulk Ed Norton. But Blonsky has evolved from a one-note bad guy to a new age guru who writes apology haikus to his victims. Jennifer gets to see his side of things when she visits him in prison, and considers taking the case despite Blonsky’s previous attempts to kill her cousin. After talking it over with Bruce (who bears no ill will towards Blonsky) she takes the case. Unfortunately for Jen, she also discovers that Blonsky has been escaping prison to compete in cage matches in Macau (which we saw in Shang-Chi, and which explains Wong’s presence in future episodes).
She-Hulk has a lot going on, but it never loses its feminist throughline, actively addressing the sexism inherent in Jen’s profession and how that affects her in both forms. While the show remains fun and quippy, it’s always aware of the larger themes at play.
(featured image: Marvel)
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