Jennifer Walters gets it right in She-Hulk: Attorney At Law’s fourth episode when she says Wong’s exciting return “gives everyone Twitter armor for the week.” Our favorite Sorcerer Supreme is back for the show’s most facetious outing yet, and personally, I’ll take the opportunity to learn more about what Wong does during his day-to-day. Relatably, it’s mostly lying on the couch and watching TV. “Is This Not Real Magic?” embraces the show’s silly legal comedy side over its superhero side. It’s a brief respite until next week’s episode that presumably brings Jameela Jamil’s antagonistic Titania more into the fold.
It’s easy to roll your eyes at the farcical nature of She-Hulk so far, with Jennifer breaking the fourth wall (as she does in the comics) and plenty of meta moments. The show is actually a break from the recent assortment of Marvel projects itself. From Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and Thor: Love And Thunder to the upcoming Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Secret Invasion, they’re all enthusiastically advancing to Phase Five, with lots of action to boot. She-Hulk has five episodes (and a Daredevil appearance) still left in season one, so it can still succumb to classic Marvel-ness and deliver a big climactic showdown.
Until then, it’s pleasant enough to watch Jennifer Walters learn how to balance being a normie and a She-Hulk with such low stakes. (Did anyone really consider the demon-like creatures from this episode a real threat?) Tatiana Maslany is clearly having fun in this role, and while the show frequently likes to remind us that it’s finally her time to shine despite all the cameos, “Is This Not Real Magic?” brings out an amusing side of Benedict Wong’s Sorcerer Supreme.
The ridiculous central case in this half-hour follows Wong trying to shut down “cut-rate magician” Donny Blaze (Rhys Coiro), a name far too similar to Johnny Blaze, a.k.a. the comics’ second Ghost Rider. Is this a potential Easter egg? Or simply a tongue-in-cheek reference akin to the previous blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sidebar mentions of Wolverine and the Eternals when Jennifer and Nikki are browsing job listings?
Anyway, Donny’s a former Kamar-Taj student who lasted only a week before his frat bro personality made him summon beer kegs and friends using the mystical rings. He now performs for disinterested audiences at LA’s
real Magic Castle fictional Mystic Castle, temporarily transporting them to other dimensions using his learned skills. Um, wouldn’t those rings be taken from him if he was ousted from training so quickly? Wong hires Jennifer to stop and make an example out of Donny, motivated after he accidentally portals an unassuming partying woman to Kamar-Taj, interrupting Wong’s The Sopranos binge.
This is when She-Hulk introduces an instantly iconic Marvel Cinematic Universe character. On paper, an eccentric civilian like Madisynn (with two N’s and a Y, but not where you think) is a one-note bimbo. She talks in specific millennial lingo, she’s forever tipsy, and, as a result, doesn’t comprehend the supernatural dangers she finds herself in. Luckily for us all, Patty Guggenheim is goddamn hilarious. She elevates Madisynn from a grating side character to a pivotal part of the episode. She-Hulk’s comedic bits primarily succeed due to Madisynn and Wong’s dynamic. Plus, Wong’s Very Serious Spiel about the hazards of misusing the Mystical Arts juxtaposes perfectly with no one in the courtroom believing him. (Let’s immediately get them all seated for Spider-Man: No Way Home since it’s back in theaters now).
If I were rating “Is This Not Magic?” purely on the arrival of legend and queen Madisynn, it would get an A+. Alas, the episode makes me care more about her than it does Nikki, who’s a series regular. Don’t get me wrong, Ginger Gonzaga is delightful. But all that she’s done in four episodes is support Jennifer and try to get her laid. It’s a fantastic quality in a pal, but unless her own personality develops and we learn more about Jennifer and Nikki’s bond, She-Hulk comes off as an underbaked series with a Token Woman of Color Best Friend trope.
At least Nikki’s recommendation to Jen about uploading a profile as She-Hulk on Matcher partly pays off. She hooks up with a seemingly perfect gentleman who wants to split fries, reads Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist” for pleasure, and asks Jen about her day. The dream comes crashing down in the morning when her date freaks out over seeing Jen in human form. Trying to find romance in your 30s is disastrous, even if you’re a freaking superhero.
The show sets up its next outing because the #FreeTitania movement worked, and the superpowered influencer is out of jail. In a Kardashian-esque move, Titania has trademarked the name She-Hulk and sues Jennifer for using it, so she’s already one of the cleverest villains in the MCU for knowing how to make easy money. You don’t have to snap the population in half to appear smart, people! Now let’s see how She-Hulk’s second half sets up Titania’s endgame, which hopefully includes more Renée Elise Goldsberry as well.
- Disney+ can make 100 MCU shows, but nothing will please me more than a She-Hulk spin-off titled Wongers & Madisynn. Let them drink bottomless gin and tonics, eat popcorn, and watch all the TV they want.
- Speaking of cocktails, when Madisynn asks Wong if he has more alcohol in the mid-credits scene, he casually mentions some leftover drinks from a wedding. Who got married at Kamar-Taj? Is it Wong himself??
- Shoutout to Wong’s nonchalant attitude toward the American legal system. So what if new Mystic Arts students don’t sign NDA contracts or non-compete clauses? It’s “answering to the higher power of the metaphysical laws of the space-time continuum” or bust.
- As I said, Patty Guggenheim is episode MVP. Her dialogue delivery is aces, especially the bit about sacrificing six drops of her blood to the talking goat who helped her escape a lava pit before she reaches Wong at Kamar-Taj. What a journey she goes on.
- One of Jennifer Walters’ dates, played by Jon Bass, calls her incredible, to which she says: “People love using that word around me.” It’s another wink-wink nod to The Incredible Hulk.
- Here’s a snippet from Jennifer’s work calendar: Kraft v. Soule refers to David Kraft and Charles Soule, who wrote acclaimed She-Hulk comics in the 1980s and starting in 2014, respectively. Lee v. Byrne is, of course, referring to Stan Lee and John Byrne.
- Wong is obsessed with The Sopranos and This Is Us. I love that for him.
- I know that Jennifer faced romantic rejection as her real self and as She-Hulk, but I appreciate that she’s learning to be confident in both versions to dust it off and move on. True love is overrated anyway, Jen, just ask your cousin.