TAGGED AS: Marvel Television, Superheroes, television, TV
After teasing the appearance of Daredevil of Hell’s Kitchen in pre-release trailers, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law finally debuted Matt Murdoch (Charlie Cox) in its penultimate episode. A somewhat odd choice in an story featuring a number of introductions — from Matt’s updated suit to Leap-Frog (Brandon Stanley), to the seemingly missing “big bad” of the series. It also introduced a connection we did not expect, but should have assumed from the jump. So, let’s take at the eighth episode of the series and what it means for Jen (Tatiana Maslany), She-Hulk, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.
(Photo by Zade Rosenthal/©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Let’s start with a big universe update. Matt saunters into the courtroom and drops a bombshell: the Sokovia Accords are no longer in effect.
First put into place during the events of Captain America: Civil War, the accords were meant to create oversight of the growing superhero community. In the US, this meant a hero like Daredevil or Iron Man had to register their secret identity with the government. For a public hero like Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), a disclosure like that was no big deal, but for a Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), it could be ruinous. In the context of the film, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was more concerned about the government forcing heroes into military service, but the outing of secret identities also posed a threat the often-bullheaded Stark could not see.
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Thus, it is interesting She-Hulk would offer this update to the state of play in the context of Jen seeking superhero costume designer Luke Jacobson’s (Griffin Matthews) client list — an invasion of privacy not unlike the implicit threat of the Accords.
Matt’s revelation profoundly changes things going forward. New costumed heroes like Moon Knight (Oscar Isaac) and Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani) will never have to face the tough decision to be public with their identities. Any other masked vigilantes introduced in Phases Five and Six will also be afforded their freedom. But an MCU fan still has to wonder just how recently the Accords ceased to be the law of the land.
(Photo by ©Marvel Studios)
Looking back at Ms. Marvel, it seemed as though the US Department of Damage Control was in charge of Accords compliance with their interest in Kamala and her powers. Sure, most of that interest centered on Agent Deever (Alysia Reiner) going rogue, but it began as a seemingly routine inquiry into the emergence of a new super-powered person. If the Accords were rescinded before AvengersCon, why was the DODC scanning social media for new potential heroes?
Of course, this is where the MCU’s murky timeline makes things more obscure. While it would seem each Phase Four movie and series after Black Widow keeps pushing the timeline forward, this is not always the case. WandaVision begins weeks after Avengers: Endgame. The Falcon and the Winter Solider some months after that. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals also occur in those nebulous “months” after Endgame. It is not until Hawkeye that we get a more solid date: that series takes place during the 2024 holiday season. Also complicating matters, She-Hulk appears to occur across that great span of time with the first episodes set in close proximity to Shang-Chi — Bruce’s (Mark Ruffalo) injured arm and Blonsky’s (Tim Roth) prison break feature in both the series and the film. But just how much time has transpired since Jen began working at GLK/H? And were the Accords revoked relatively recently to the Jacobson case? Also, what motivated the UN to set them aside?
(Photo by Marvel Comics)
Adopting an MCU take on the comic book character’s original yellow-and-dark-red costume, Daredevil made his proper debut in the universe. The appearance continued the more comical trend for the character established in Spider-Man: No Way Home with Matt just barely concealing his abilities while wearing his civilian clothes. That sensibility now extends to Daredevil with his brooding and tendency to fight goons (or henchmen) in hallways lovingly lampooned. The result is a lighter take on the character, which was probably unavoidable as Netflix and Marvel Television wanted a much grittier, darker, and serious street-level hero with its Marvel’s Daredevil series. Although that take is very popular, Daredevil is malleable with writers like Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Mark Waid, and Charles Soule all choosing varying degrees of light and dark in the comics. He can absolutely be a lighter-tone hero. But it remains to be seen if this chummier, charming Matt will return to a darker tone in the eventual Daredevil: Born Again series on Disney+.
There are a few things we can be sure of, though. Daredevil is still an obscure hero at the time of the episode. Jen and all the Los Angeles-based characters have never heard of him. For the moment, let’s assume he rarely operates outside of Hell’s Kitchen and his few notable public appearances failed to make national headlines. If the MCU Matt is anything like his Netflix counterpart, obscurity is something he probably enjoys. Granted, Foggy (Elden Henson in the Netflix series) probably chafes at Nelson and Murdoch (or is it Nelson, Murdoch, and Page?) also being an obscure, pro-bono firm.
(Photo by Patrick Harbron/Netflix)
As always, there is the question of just how much of the older show actually occurred in the MCU. Originally meant to be completely connected, the grittier Netflix shows were eventually walled off from the films with Cox’s No Way Home cameo being the first acknowledgement that some portion of the Netflix series were still canon. When we spoke with Vincent D’Onofrio about his MCU debut in Hawkeye, he mentioned keeping all the events of Marvel’s Daredevil in mind and assuming them to still be true. And for some of the jokes to land in this week’s She-Hulk — namely the ones about his brooding, abilities, and hallway fights – then a few key moments of Daredevil must have occurred. It will be interesting to see if Deadpool 3 approaches the older X-Men films in a similar way or lampshades them completely.
But for all that pondering, we have to admit Daredevil works in Jen’s world. Maybe it’s the instant chemistry between Maslany and Cox. Maybe it’s the wonderful tension between a grim vigilante and a poppier sitcom star. Or maybe it’s just the delight in seeing him again, being a good lawyer and keeping good humor throughout an otherwise annoying case. In any event, seeing the two go home together is particularly satisfying (for Jen and the audience) in a way that has never occurred in the comics. Nevertheless, the potential spark between them becomes obvious once the characters are played by actual people.
Also, we’re disinclined to call Matt’s departure from Jen’s place a walk of shame, even if it was filmed as such. Both are famously love-’em-and-leave-’em types, so there’s nothing to be shameful about. Unless, of course, it never happens again. That would be a true shame.
One last thought about the Man Without Fear: We can’t help but wonder if the episode would be more successful had Disney and Marvel withheld Matt’s appearance until it streamed. Everyone — including us — predicted he would appear, but that would just be rumor and supposition if not for the appearance of his mustard-and-ketchup costume in one of the final pre-release trailers. With Kingpin’s Hawkeye appearance, there was something thrilling about not knowing for sure until the last possible moment. But, perhaps, there was worry about repeating the same sort of reveal with another Netflix character. And as people are already guessing Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) will make an appearance in next year’s Echo— which will also feature D’Onofrio and Cox — Marvel may have another opportunity to see if it is better to withhold a former Netflix star’s upcoming return or feature it in the marketing. Provided the rumor about Ritter is true, of course.
(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)
Coming back to Jen and the overall arc of the show, it is interesting to see her finally warm up to the idea of superheroing just as the pseudonymous HulkKing forces everyone to remember that Hulks can rampage. The plan, as laid out in the final moments of the episode, is truly diabolical, a sadistic combination of doxing, revenge porn, and outing. And all of it calculated to incite Jen’s exact response. Like her, all we’re left with is questions. Who is HulkKing? Is this still part of the plan to obtain her blood? Also, why did she specifically mention the possibility of a Red Hulk when addressing us about the extra minutes added to the episode?
Also, considering the close-up on Holliway’s (Steve Coulter) reaction to Jen’s Hulk-out, we have to wonder if a possible season 2 will take its cues from the Soule She-Hulk run. But perhaps that is a bit premature and something to consider next week after the finale.
For the moment, though, we have to applaud the way the episode mixed the high of a superhero team-up (complete with a more intimate connection) and this absolutely devastating low. It also frames the entire notion of superheroes itself as a potential season-long antagonist. Jen never wanted to be one, and now that she is becoming comfortable with the possibility (in the broadest sense), a man appears to claim she didn’t deserve it. The echoes to real life are obvious, of course, but in terms of the Jen we’ve come to know across the last few months, it means she will have to face this interior conflict at long last. Does she want this after all? And can she fit it into her stated goals as an attorney? Perhaps that was the real reason why the “Attorney at Law” subtitle was added to the show and, just maybe, why it might disappear should the series return after next week.
80% She-Hulk: Attorney at Law: Season 1 (2022) new episodes debut on Thursdays on Disney+.