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‘She-Hulk’ Nails Its Deranged, Meta as Hell Finale

One small step for "She-Hulk," one giant leap for Marvel — if they choose to take it.

A tall, green-skinned woman with wavy black hair wearing a sequined silver gala dress steps out of a fancy car at a red carpet event; still from "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law"

“She-Hulk: Attorney at Law”

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

A couple months ago, I said that “She-Hulk: Attorney At Law” needed to commit. Disney and Marvel’s latest superhero series claimed to be different, and it certainly was; poking fun at tropes of the genre, engaging directly with the audience, and refusing to hint at a series arc.

But it seemed like “She-Hulk” was holding back, that the early episodes were the proverbial Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany) refusing to engage with her true power. In later episodes, especially the finale, “She-Hulk” hulks out on meta comedy and commitment to the bit — with maximum payoff.

Episode 9, “Whose Show Is This Anyway?” catches up with Jen after she hulks out at a gala. She’s lost her job, moved back in with her parents, and remains the target of online (male) harassers at the website Intelligencia. When she seeks refuge at Emil Blonsky’s (Tim Roth) meditation retreat, she stumbles upon an underground Intelligencia meeting, its founder, and nearly every other major character who has been part of this series as they prepare for a full-on superpowered showdown.

It’s a textbook bloated Marvel climax, and “She-Hulk” knows it. This is the kind of ending that bogged down the otherwise innovative and sharp “WandaVision,” the traditional and therefore unsurprising “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and every Marvel movie to date. It’s reliable, but as Marvel flexes its creative power with shows like “She-Hulk” or movies like “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” falling back on a known commodity is a lazier move every time — and brings down the overall quality of the show or film at hand.

Three people in business professional attire meet with a fourth, wearing prison garb and standing inside a large glass cell; still from "She-Hulk: Attorney At Law"

(L-R): Josh Segarra as Pug, Ginger Gonzaga as Nikki Ramos, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Mallory Book, and Tatiana Maslany as She-Hulk/Jennifer Walters in “She-Hulk: Attorney At Law.”

Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios

So She-Hulk storms out of her own finale, into Disney+ itself, and onto the Disney lot through “Marvel Studios: Assembled” (cheeky or not, the synergy is staggering). She bursts into the “She-Hulk” writers room, where she demands to meet with “Kevin” — which turns out to be K.E.V.I.N. (Knowledge Enhanced Visual Interconnectivity Nexus), an AI designed to churn out blockbuster movies. He agrees to talk, but only to Jen, because She-Hulk is expensive and the VFX team has moved on (Ludwig Goransson’s “Black Panther” score blips in and out of the scene).

The bit goes on just a shade too long, a critique I had of early episodes — but now that “She-Hulk” has settled into a rhythm, that feels more like part of the show’s language and style than a struggle to find its comedic voice. It helps that K.E.V.I.N. is bigger, bolder, and more deranged than anything “She-Hulk” has done so far. The scene jokes about budget and CGI capability, but at the end of the day Marvel isn’t opting for a streamlined, meta finale because the checks won’t clear; it’s because Kevin (the other one) trusts a creative risk, and will hopefully keep doing that.

It’s dialogue-heavy scene, full of jokes and nods and winks (including literal), propelled by Maslany’s charisma and something every by-the-book Marvel finale lacks: Suspense. There may be no fighting, no flashes of light and aliens and explosions, but for the first time in years this is a scene that could truly go in any direction. Jen Walters is talking to a robot brain that runs Marvel Studios. She could as easily run into a new show or movie (which K.E.V.I.N. jokes about) or onto ABC or Freeform. She could cancel the scene she walked out of or countless scenes before, rewriting the series back from its pilot or skipping ahead to a different point in time. She literally asks for what she wants to happen as K.E.V.I.N. alters the scene before her eyes. The multiverse didn’t even come close to this kind of chaos.

And while the “She-Hulk” finale doesn’t necessarily solve Marvel’s repetitive finale problem — most MCU entries can’t get mad and enlist K.E.V.I.N. for a live edit — it finds a fun loophole that lines up with the show’s voice and values. There are the seeds of setup for future Marvel projects, with Daredevil back in the picture and Hulk’s adventures on Sakaar, but they don’t detract from Jen’s story. Despite a tentative start, “She-Hulk” Season 1 concludes with a smash, one of the most satisfying and enjoyable finales in Marvel’s library. Congratulations, K.E.V.I.N.

“She-Hulk” is now streaming on Disney+.

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