SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t watched the season finale of “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” now streaming on Disney +.
Throughout “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), repeatedly breaks the fourth wall by not only directly addressing the camera, but acknowledging that she exists in a Marvel Studios superhero TV show. In the season finale – pointedly titled “Whose Show Is This?” – Jennifer smashes out of the show entirely, jumping through the Disney + portal to confront the writers of the show about why the finale is so needlessly convoluted with extraneous, nonsensical plot lines, including one about a cabal of toxic fanboys who troll Jennifer online about being a female superhero who doesn’t deserve her powers.
Eventually, Jennifer confronts the one in charge – no, not Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige, but KEVIN (or Knowledge Enhanced Visual Interconnectivity Nexus), a sentient robot armed with “the most advanced entertainment algorithm in the world.”
As Maslany, creator and head writer Jessica Gao, and director and executive producer Kat Coiro explained to Variety, Feige was in on the gag from the start, and even helped to shape his AI avatar. They also talked about the satisfaction they felt in seeing real-life online trolls use the exact same criticisms of “She-Hulk,” the show, that the fictional online trolls on the show used against She-Hulk, the character. And Maslany addressed Jennifer’s romance with fellow attorney Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil (Charlie Cox), while Gao and Coiro shed some light on the introduction of Skaar (Wil Deusner), the surprise son of Jennifer’s cousin Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo ).
In addition to breaking the fourth wall, the finale tackles some of the exact same trolling comments that Marvel fans have been making. How did it feel to watch that happen as the show aired, knowing how the finale would turn out?
Tatiana Maslany: Jessica Gao is a genius and knows about the culture we’re living in and her position in it when she’s writing these stories about a woman superhero. She knows what that response is going to be. As a cast, it was delightful sending each other these troll responses, like “Oh my god, give them a week and then they’re going to literally see this pop up verbatim in the show and become the villains of the show.” It was thrilling.
Were you expecting to face the trolls when you signed on for the show?
Reading the script, it was so true. There’s so much resistance to a woman just existing in that space of superheroes. There’s always going to be that. I sort of anticipated it. It’s why I also feel it’s important. There’s such an entitlement to space held by certain people, and to even exist as She-Hulk is like a fuck-you, and I love that.
What do you hope to see from Jen and Matt Murdock’s relationship?
I don’t know what Jen’s life looks like now, other than it’s opening up. They definitely have a very real connection. I’m curious how that manifests, whether it’s getting together every now and again and having fun, or if it buds into something more. But I don’t think either of them are thinking in terms of that. They’re at the beginning of something.
Which Avenger would Jen get along with best?
Baby Groot would be such a great day. Impossible to film, unless we put him on my head or something. There are so many characters that would be fun to see how Jen and them get along because she is a bit of an odd oddball and a little bit of an outsider. I think any pairing would be interesting.
She and Deadpool would destroy the fourth wall.
They’re gonna fight over whose camera is the dominant camera.
Did Marvel give you any suggestions for the hate comments they get online?
Jessica Gao: That conversation between Jen and KEVIN is very much the relationship that I have with real-life Kevin and a lot of that is taken from conversations I’ve had with him. That scene was so much longer in the scripts. If they had let me, I probably would have written a 10-minute conversation of my avatar arguing with Kevin. This is probably the tightest version of what it could have been. There were a couple of jabs where Kevin was like, “OK, this is a little mean now.”
How did it feel to accurately predict what the trolls would be saying?
Our writers room opened three years ago. The fact that we were able to predict what the reaction was going to be, what a lot of the trolling comments were going to be, really shows how very tired and unoriginal these trolls are. That really tickled me because the little troll that lives inside of me really loves trolling the trolls.
How did you decide to introduce Skaar?
From the beginning, we often talked about if there would there be a cameo at the end or, in typical Marvel fashion, would we tease a new character at the very end. A big cameo would be completely dependent on who was available and who was willing to do it, and you can’t really bank on that at the script stage. We talked a lot about what character we could tease. Ultimately, it was Kevin who decided it should be Skaar. His look di lui is all Kevin Feige.
In the episode set at the superhero retreat run by Emil Blonsky, aka the Abomination (Tim Roth), you introduced several little known Marvel characters, like the vampire Saracen. Was he meant as a Blade reference? Were there other obscure comic book characters you wanted to use?
We were working backwards from wanting to make jokes about blood. We had originally explored a weird, monstrous creature. Originally, we wanted to use Varnae, who’s a vampire character who’s more bat-like, so we could have a character who isn’t completely human and make a lot of jokes about being more animalistic and wanting to drink blood. That’s how we ended up with Saracen. There were a lot of characters from the comics that we pulled and thought were so obscure and deep cuts or just silly characters that we thought would be really fun to bring into the story. A lot of them we couldn’t do because either there was already a plan for them or there was a rights issue with the character. We also tried playing around with them and didn’t have anything story-wise. At one point, we had come up with some story for Stilt-Man just because it’s such a silly character, but we ended up not really coming up with a good story to use him in.
What was Kevin Feige’s reaction to the finale?
Kat Coiro: Kevin had a huge hand in that finale and in the character of KEVIN Ironically, I was more squeamish about it than they were. I was like, “Are we going too far? Are we throwing Marvel and fans under the bus by putting down Marvel films? ” They have such a self-deprecating, irreverent sense about themselves and were totally willing to poke fun at themselves. Any criticism you can lob at them, they have thought of.
Did you have to dig deep for all of the Marvel criticism or just scroll through Twitter?
One thing I noticed is that at the beginning of the series, I was getting a lot of nasty, mean comments. As it’s gone forward, that has stopped. I think it’s because now they realize when they target us, they’re playing directly into our hands. And we called it, which is pretty gratifying. It’s so satisfying. Even negative commentary, I always interpret as engagement. If people are that angry, they are paying attention. I look at all of it as positive.
How many of the cameos at the end, like Daredevil, Skaar, Hulk and Abomination, were just for gags or were they intentionally placed for future storylines?
Kevin was very specific about with Skaar, so I’m sure there’s some plan in the future, though I have no idea what that might be. We all knew that Daredevil had to come back because people love him and their chemistry is so great. I only wish that Patty Guggenheim as Madisynn had come back in the finale. That’s my great regret.
What reverberations will the finale have in the future of the MCU?
I like when KEVIN says that the glitch has been fixed, because I don’t want every character in the MCU to [be able to] compare him about their plotlines. So I’m hoping that it’s a one-time thing. We now know that it exists, but I don’t think that we should revisit it all the time.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.