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She-Hulk: Attorney at Law dives into the less than magical app dating scene

She-Hulk Episode 4 Featured

“Is This Not Real Magic?” finds She-Hulk pulling off a rare feat: being television.

Whether good (Loki) or mediocre (Moon Knight), something Disney+ Marvel shows have struggled with is feeling like episodic television. They’ve often felt more like a movie told serially (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, you know of what I speak), a limited series (Ms. MarvelHawkeye), or an anthology (What If…?). Fine approaches to TV—well, maybe not the movie told in __ parts—but they aren’t really what it meant to be a television show until very recently.

She-Hulk, Attorney at Law feels like an episodic television show. While not at all a unique approach to television making even ten years ago, it feels refreshing now. It’s a series with Peak TV marketing and importance using the kind of storytelling the best pre-streaming era shows did. Depending on your feelings about the medium of TV, this may or may not be a good thing. For this critic, however, it is a definite positive. All hail television that feels like television.

She-Hulk Is This Not Real Magic? Rhys Coiro Patty Guggenheim
Rhys Coiro and Patty Guggenheim make quite the pair. (Chuck Zlotnick, Marvel Studios)

This isn’t to say that She-Hulk is schlock or without sophistication. “Television” doesn’t have to mean bad entertainment. It is not all syndicated sitcoms where characters rarely change so reruns could air in any order without fear of “losing” the audience. It has an internal continuity, ongoing plot threads, and a clear arc in mind. It’s just doing it in a way that’s more Parks and Recreation, less Stranger Things.

In “Is This Not Real Magic?” Jen (Tatiana Maslany), aka She-Hulk, faces two challenges. The challenges—stage magic and online dating—are linked by promising good times and typically ending up disappointing. The first is her newest case, courtesy of the recurring Wong (Benedict Wong). In Los Angeles, Donny Blaze (Rhys Coiro) has been using the bit of “real magic” he learned at Kamar-Taj before flunking out to enliven his fairly pathetic stage show. And no, Donny’s not this guy. That guy’s JOHNNY Blaze.

All hail television that feels like television.

It becomes Wong’s problem when Donny sends Madisynn (Patty Guggenheim)—spelled with “two n’s and one y, but it’s not where you’d think”—to a fiery dimension where she then makes a deal with a goat demon named Jake to end up in Wong’s living room. Drunk, largely unaffected by her experience, and holding a still beating heart, Madisynn is the sort of visitor who blithely tells you how the episode of The Sopranos you’re watching ends. Wong must address this terrible misuse of magic to protect the multiverse, of course. Still, it never stops feeling like it’s also a little bit about his binging of the classic David Chase series being interrupted.

Jen files a cease and desist but with a day drinking Madisynn the only witness, the case gets off to a rocky start. While waiting for his day in court, though, Donny keeps tapping into magics he’s ill-equipped to manage. Feeling especially judged, he pushes himself farther than before and ends up filling his theatre with hordes of rapidly growing flying demons. In the heat of the moment, he agrees to comply with the order and gives up on the protracted legal battle. It feels a bit like blackmail on Jen’s party—“agree, or I let this demon eat you”—but a win’s a win, I suppose.

She-Hulk Episode 4 Tatiana Maslany Michel Curiel
Tatiana Maslany and Michel Curiel really hit it off…for now. (Marvel Studios)

Somehow, wrestling with demons proves a much less difficult task than finding people worth dating on the app matcher—presumably a portmanteau of Match and Tinder that primarily uses the Tinder iconography. First setting up her profile as regular flesh-toned and human-sized Jen, our hero makes such rookie mistakes as using her corporate headshot for her main photo. Even after Nikki (Ginger Gonzaga) sets her straight and instructs her on how to play the numbers game, things go poorly.

When her matches dry up, she decides to try her luck as She-Hulk. Initially, this goes poorly too. One suitor brags about his deadlift abilities, and another seemingly either wants Jen to crush him or wants to dissect her. But then Arthur (Michel Curiel), the pediatric oncologist who’d rather listen to Jen than talk about himself, arrives. The date goes so well that not even a brief break to fight those demons—and get gooey with their entrails—derails things. In the morning, however, Arthur meets un-Hulked out Jen and immediately heads for the hills. 

She-Hulk and Wong vs. the demons was definitely stronger than any of the previous action sequences.

Imagine making up to Tatiana Maslany and not wanting to pursue that relationship. I know part of the deal with She-Hulk is always she’s Jen’s hotter, more confident alter ego, but it isn’t like Maslany isn’t gorgeous even when she isn’t 7 feet tall and emerald-hued.

To cap things off, Titania re-enters Jen’s life via lawsuit. While her legal team has been getting her out of jail for that whole destroying the courthouse thing in the first episode, they’ve also been trademarking the name She-Hulk. So now Jen must head to court to fight for the legal right to use a name she doesn’t even like. Superhero life ain’t easy.

She-Hulk Is This Not Real Magic? Benedict Wong Patty Guggenheim Tatiana Maslany
Benedict Wong, Patty Guggenheim, and Tatiana Maslany strategize legally. (Marvel Studios)

Closing Arguments

– Madisynn is a stock character that can go very badly, but Guggenheim finds the right register for her. She’s affable, silly fun, and not deeply annoying, as a result.

– I love that Madisynn’s name is spelled exactly as you’d expect from her description despite her claims to the contrary. I also like that it does befuddle Donny’s lawyer, who shrugs and crosses out the first spelling of her name he tried on his legal pad.

– Donny’s team, manager Cornelius P. Willows (Leon Lamar) and attorney Hank Sanderson (Mike Benitez) are quite funny. Lamar, in particular, really uses his screen time well.

– Wethersfield, CT’s own Mark-Linn Baker is back! And ready to dig holes for reasons you don’t need to worry about.

– The balancing act of having Wong speaking most of his dialogue in doom-drenched proclamations and also getting fro-yo and talking his favorite drinks with Madisynn almost certainly will annoy the same people who spent last week scarred by She-Hulk twerking. Those people are wrong.

– She-Hulk and Wong vs. the demons was definitely stronger than any of the previous action sequences. And given the show’s focus, I’m perfectly ok with the level of action choreography in it. If She-Hulk can keep it at “Is This Not Real Magic” levels, it’ll be just fine. 

She-Hulk Is This Not Real Magic? Tatiana Maslany
Tatiana Maslany has a buddy for you to meet. (Marvel Studios)

The Court Records

– “As the great Billy Shakes once said…”

– “Hetero life is grim.”

– “Are you just like hypemanning him?” “Maybe.”

– “And that’s how I got a lifetime ban from Winnipeg, Canada.”

– “Oh my God, even the lawyer’s a magician.”

– “Wongers, can we get fro-yo?” “No.” “We can talk about The Sopranos.” “Fine.”

– “I feel like your dad.”

– “Whatever. Hot doctor’s a cliché anyway.”

– “I don’t know if they do bottomless gin and tonic, but we will find it.”

– “Kind of a bummer way to end this episode.”

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Tim Stevens

Tim Stevens is a freelance writer and therapist from the Nutmeg State, hailing from the home of the World’s Smallest Natural Waterfall. In addition to The Spool, you can read his stuff in CC Magazine, Marvel.com, ComicsVerse, and The New Paris Press. His work has been quoted in Psychology Today, The Atlantic, and MSN Ireland. And yes, he is listing all this to try and impress you.

  1. Dan says:

    As someone who spent a few (soul-destroying) years on the apps, the idea of normal Tatiana Maslany getting NO matches, even with her lame photo, was absurd to me. (But I know it was necessary for the story they wanted to tell — great episode.)

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