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‘She-Hulk’ premiere light, fun but can it keep it up?

Arts & Entertainment

One of the things that Marvel Studios has proven very skilled at is crafting opening episodes of their Disney+ offerings that hook you and draw you in. The characters and the situations introduced are compelling and get you excited to continue into the meat of the story. Unfortunately, far too many Disney+ Marvel shows spend way too much time mucking around until there are only one or two episodes left. Then they pack in all the action and plot developments.

Marvel’s latest series, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” starts off fine. It’s light, funny, enjoyable stuff that introduces likable characters into a compelling situation. But the specter of past Marvel disappointments hangs over the show. Yeah, it starts out pretty good. But can it keep it up?

“She-Hulk” is the story of Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany), a 30-something lawyer struggling to be visible in a world full of men who don’t take her seriously. An accident on a drive with her cousin, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), leaves her with a case of Hulk-ism, a very inconvenient condition for an ambitious attorney to have.

The bulk of the episode is Bruce trying to teach Jennifer how to control her emotions, thereby controlling her transformations. They do yoga, toss huge boulders and beat the crap out of each other. You know, normal super-powered cousins stuff.

Watching Jennifer and Bruce together gives the show most of its juice. They have good chemistry and seem to genuinely enjoy working together. Bruce’s wisdom and experience contrast Jennifer’s impatience and frustration. All she wants is to go back to her regular life while he knows what kind of complications being a Hulk can bring with it. It’s pretty good stuff.

The show leans into the comedic elements of the story. It honestly feels a bit like a Marvel-ized episode of “Ally McBeal” or a show like that. As the series unspools, I imagine things will get more dire and dramatic, so it’s probably a good idea to not expect the light, fun tone of the opener for the whole series.

This brings us to the sticking point for me. If “She-Hulk” follows the majority of the other Marvel Disney+ shows, the episodes will start to be more about killing time until the big finish, bogging down in boring episodes where very little happens. This can work if showrunner Jessica Gao and her team of writers have created a compelling character arc for Jennifer.

But if the show becomes about slowly setting up the final conflict while Jennifer goes on side quests to stretch the story out so it fits its nine-episode run, the show’s going to bog down and become a lot less fun to watch. Funny banter between characters will only take the show so far.

Still, “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” has a lot to offer. Maslany is engaging in the lead role and she worked really well with Ruffalo. If he continues to play a part in the series, that stuff will be worth watching. Jameela Jamil, who was fantastic in “The Good Place,” should make for a fun antagonist and Tim Roth is returning to the MCU in the role of Emil Blonsky/Abomination. After the fun start, I’m willing to see where this goes. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn into a boring ride.

Episode 1 of “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” is currently available to stream on Disney+, with new episodes dropping each Thursday for the next nine weeks.”

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