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She Hulk Ep 4.png

'She-Hulk' Is Just Trolling Us Now

By Tori Preston | TV | September 9, 2022 |

By Tori Preston | TV | September 9, 2022 |


She Hulk Ep 4.png

Years ago, two of my good friends decided to go apple picking without me. Still, they thought they ought to let me know they were thinking of me, so they texted me a photo — not of themselves, but of the apples. Apples that spelled out “NOT FOR TORI” on the ground. Turns out, being a jerk is basically a prerequisite for friendship in my book, and as I watched this week’s She-Hulk I realized it also can apply to television. Previously I speculated that the series was knowingly thumbing its nose at the sort of gatekeeping fan bros that were likely to take offense anyway, and yeah it probably is. But it’s also ribbing the rest of us too, and that’s absolutely FINE in my book. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Take, for example, when Jen finds out she’s getting sued by Titania and then looks at the camera and says, “Kind of a bummer way to end this episode. I bet there’s a fun tag!” And sure enough, there was! Because… there always is. Marvel movies trained us to wait for mid- or end-credit scenes, hoping for some easter egg or clue as to the next MCU venture. The shows have also done this on occasion, but She-Hulk is both acknowledging and toying with our devotion by guaranteeing a post-credit tag every episode while ensuring it is absolutely meaningless. Wong watching This Is Us next to a drunk woman in a fleece onesie is probably not a hint at, oh I dunno, Wakanda Forever or something. There is no larger meaning. It’s just fun.

The show’s biggest troll move this week also centered on that drunk woman, whose name is Madisynn — “with two n’s and one y but it’s not where you think.” She volunteered to participate in the magic show of Donny Blaze, a bottom-of-the-barrel illusionist who also happens to be a Kamar-Taj dropout. He held onto his portal ring, though, and when his show starts to drag he uses it to drum up some excitement… by dropping Madisynn into another dimension. And here’s where things get interesting: Madisynn claims she wound up in a fire-land full of goblins and escaped a lava pit with the help of a talking goat in exchange for 6 drops of her blood. She also says she made a pact with a demon named Jake (who may or may not be the same as the goat?), the terms of which she can’t discuss or he’ll reap her soul, and he is the one who opened another portal straight into “Wongers” living room, where Madisynn promptly spoiled the Sorcerer Supreme’s binge of The Sopranos.

A hell dimension? With demon pacts? COULD THIS BE THE LONG-AWAITED INTRODUCTION OF MEPHISTO?! Probably not. It wasn’t so long ago that viewers were spotting flies in WandaVision and speculating that it was Mephisto All Along Actually, and we all got burned when that didn’t happen. And that’s what I think She-Hulk is referencing — not so much Mephisto himself, but the time we got tricked into thinking Mephisto was coming. The clues the show lays out are so obvious, but so off, that they’re practically begging to be misconstrued. “Donny Blaze” is so close to Johnny Blaze, a.k.a. Ghost Rider, a.k.a. a dude who famously made a pact with Mephisto and ended up a fiery spirit of vengeance. But Donny Blaze isn’t Ghost Rider, he’s just a bad magician. Or take Madisynn King herself, who popped out of that “diff dimensh” and immediately asked Wong if he’s the “Goblin King.” Madisynn is an alternate spelling of Madison the same way that Madelyne is a form of Madelyn or Madelynn. Madelyne was also the name of the clone of Jean Grey, who was tempted by the demon S’ym and became the evil Goblin Queen. And now I sound absolutely bonkers! My point is, it’s all sorta connected, if you squint hard enough, but… no, Madisynn is probably NOT the MCU version of Madelyne Pryor. Likewise, “Jake” the demon could turn out to be any number of demons from the Marvel comics, or none of them at all. This entire plotline was built out of details designed to trigger knee-jerk reactions from comics fans because yeah, it does sound almost like the characters and storylines we know. But not quite.

So sure, maybe Madisynn will pop up again when demons or hell or Limbo are confirmed, and her pact will be revealed to have been with Mephisto All Along For Realsies This Time. I hope so! But I’ll be just as happy if She-Hulk keeps Madisynn around to spoil more shows for Wong, too, though. This episode was a perfectly tuned dog-whistle designed to stir up theories and clickbait that may or may never pan out, but it also was a light-hearted and emotional look at She-Hulk’s real bread-and-butter: Everyday life in the MCU. Not only does Wong binge TV in between bouts of guarding our dimension, but he turned to Jen for legal help getting Donny to stop messing with real magic because he wanted to set a precedent. Like it or not, sorcery has moved out of the whispers and rumors and into the public eye, thanks to the (sometimes disastrous) efforts of Stephen Strange, and I appreciated that the consequence of that was Wong deciding to settle the Donny matter in the human realm, instead of the metaphysical one. Too bad our court system doesn’t know how intellectual property rights apply to spells. Jen’s dating debacle was another example of the superhuman co-existing with the painfully human, as she struggles to find decent matches online until she decides to try dating as a Hulk. Suddenly all kinds of people are interested in her… but only that one side of her. Even She-Hulk has a hard time turning a one-night stand into something more.

Another thing She-Hulk has a hard time with? Her name, apparently! Titania copyrighted it and is now suing her, just as Jen finally got comfortable with the moniker the masses gave her. If this is Titania’s way of earning a nemesis, I kinda dig it. It’s a law show, not a superhero show, after all. Bring on alllll the petty lawsuits.