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Wongers is back and The Sopranos is getting spoiled as we recap She-Hulk Episode 4, “Is This Not Real Magic?”, on our Marvel podcast. While Wong tries to shut down errant magician Donny Blaze, Jennifer Walters tries to go on a series of dates, only to discover nobody wants Jen – they want She-Hulk.
Full Episode Transcript:
Alex: Welcome to MarvelVision, a podcast about Marvel, the MCU, and right now She-Hulk. I’m Alex.
Justin: I’m Justin.
Alex: And we are going to be talking about the fourth episode of She-Hulk. If you haven’t checked it out on Disney+, do go watch it now because we’re going to spoil it. But two big plot lines happening in this episode. In the first one, kind of the B plot, I would say, She-Hulk goes on a bunch of dates.
Alex: Finds out that dudes don’t like her as regular Jennifer Walters and only like her as She-Hulk leading to kind of an awful moment towards the end of the episode. And meanwhile, Wong is back once again. He wants to do a cease and desist against a magician called Donny Blaze.
Justin: Donny Blaze.
Alex: Not Johnny Blaze, but Donny Blaze.
Justin: Donny Blaze. Famously the Ghost Rider so strange.
Alex: Yes. Who trained at Kamar-Taj and is still using his sling ring. He gets mixed up with a audience member named Madisynn who becomes best friends with Wongers. And she spoils the Sopranos a bunch before a bunch of demons break out of a portal and the two plot lines come together. Now, obviously, Pete, our main She-Hulk defender isn’t-
Justin: Oh, right. Sorry. I should say like, “I’m Pete and I agree with Justin and Alex.”
Justin: “I’m here too.”
Alex: “First real quick. Let’s talk about the Marvel flip. The Marvel flip at the beginning.” No, I don’t want to make fun of Pete too much.
Justin: No, no.
Alex: He is our main She-Hulk defender here on the podcast, I think. You’ve been-
Justin: We’re the plaintiffs and he’s the defense, to use the courtroom terminology.
Alex: Exactly. Well, you’ve been, I think, mid-negative and I’ve been a hard negative on the show.
Alex: And I think both of us though, we’ve been very hard on it particularly because of the structure of it, which is not actually structured like a comedy so much as 20 minute chunks of a Marvel movie. And also just generally the humor, which I haven’t really found that funny. It’s had a hard time bringing all this stuff together, but I will say on the positive bend, it does feel like here in this fourth episode, they finally figured out how a comedy show works. At least structurally. At least structurally.
Justin: That’s what I was going to say. Maybe it’s the lack of Pete here, but I’m filling in the gap because I do think this has the structure of a comedy. There are a lot of jokes. There’s some fun stuff in this episode. So I’m feeling good. I feel better.
Alex: I’m still feeling a little negative, to be honest.
Justin: Yeah. I can tell.
Alex: Mostly because of the dating storyline, which still feels like it’s stuck in the early 2000s, maybe, in terms of how it executes. I know I’m starting off with a negative here, but I really do want to start with that and then move to the positive stuff. I forgot I was going to do this, but I was going to frame that up as like, “Hey, another great episode of Wong. We got to meet his supporting character Madisynn. Also guest star She-Hulk in the episode.” Which it kind of feels like a little bit here. And it’s to the determent. I know I’m a little all over the place here.
Justin: Well, let me just say on that, I do think that’s something in comedy called following the fun and improv and everything. And it does feel like the Wong stuff from last episode when we talked about how Wong is such a hub or a center spoke in the Marvel universe right now. So he’s an easy character to write around and write for and it shows. Like he is fun here. And his partnering up with Madisynn, spelled with two Ns, is great. Their scenes were really fun. Her jokes hit. They were a little bit, “Yeah. Okay. This is that stereotype,” but at least it was funny. You know?
Alex: Yeah. I think the actress, and I should probably look up what her name is, but she was very fun in the part. I think some of the jokes went a little wonky. I was annoyed at the lack of payoff for the line that she had of Madisynn spelled with two Ns and a Y, but it’s not where you think, it was where we think in her name. So I feel like there needed to be some sort of punctuation there in terms of it. I like Tatiana Maslany’s delivery of being like, “Just spell your name,” when they got to the trial. But once she spelled it, I was like, “That’s where I thought the Y was. What is the deal here?” So there’s still a little wobbliness in terms of how hard they’re hitting the jokes. But to your point, the end credit scene with them just sitting and watching TV and talking about drinks and her constantly spoiling the Sopranos was a lot of fun. Her calling him Wongers and him just begrudgingly rolling with it. Like you talked about Benedict Wong is a great straight man. And that really plays out really nicely in this episode. And they play in that almost to the detriment of the other storyline, like I was getting at earlier.
Justin: Well, and I agree with you. What I want to say on that is Wong is a great straight man. And I think it makes She-Hulk, who is also sort of the straight man, using the comedy term here, its sort of like Wong is sort of replacing her in this episode and a little bit last episode. It’s also strange for the main character to be such a hard comedically straight man role. You want her to pop a little bit more and to be making some bigger swings so that the fun can really be on Jen and the She-Hulk character. And I do think it’s turning that way. And we should talk about the dating plot because I think we are getting into maybe some of the meat of what this season is going to be about.
Alex: So with the dating plot, she goes on a bunch, it’s not Tinder, they don’t call it Tinder, but a bunch of Tinder dates. Nobody is interested in her when she’s Jen Walters. As soon as she switches her profile to be She-Hulk, she immediately gets started asking out on a bunch of dates and immediately meets this guy who is a hot doctor, who also seems to be a feminist. The entire episode, you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know he is going to pull this thing of actually he’s an asshole. And nothing against this guy, but it was hard to tell with his performance. I feel like he telegraphed it a little too much. Maybe that was in the writing. Maybe that was in the direction. But it’s hard to tell if like, he’s acting like this because he wants to sleep with She-Hulk or if he is actually like this. And then he gets turned off by her at the end.
Alex: The main thing, and I know again, I’m sort of grasping at a bunch of different things here, but it does feel like when I’m watching these episodes, people have pointed out online, a bunch of different, very strong feminist ideas. And I think the internet is doing a better job of that than the show is, frankly.
Alex: Because they’re pointing out these different speeches and these different moments and talking about like, “This is something men probably do not know about women or do not observe about women and they are observing it here. This is what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace. This is what it’s like to be, the whole speech about angry all the time from the first episode.” Maybe there’s some stuff dating in this episode, obviously we’ll see how the conversation evolves. But from a comedic perspective, to get back to that, it feels like this the same dating montage I have seen in 1 million movies and sitcoms with no value added other than it’s on a Marvel show.
Justin: I agree with that. And also the men are so broadly awful. They’re just wildly, across the whole show and maybe that’s the point, but it just feels like it makes it harder to understand the very real feminist point that you’re saying because the men are so cartoonishly horrifying. And if they were just regular with the bad qualities shown, I think that would allow us to really see it more. And rather than this, the guy on the day when he doesn’t want to pay and is talking and it’s just like, “Oh, I don’t believe this person is real,” so it’s hard to actually walk away with it feeling like, “Oh, I see what the show’s trying to teach me about what it means to be a woman.”
Alex: Well, just to sort of Gabe this out a little bit, I think there’s entirely possible that some of these horror stories may actually have come from the writer’s room and may be based somewhat on fact.
Alex: Because particularly in LA, as far as I assume, I have not dated in LA nor for a while, but it seems particularly horrible. But there’s a level of commentary where, and maybe what I want is more bite and this show is softer than that. I don’t know if you see a movie called Fresh with Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sebastian Stan, who everybody knows as Bucky, the Winter Soldier, but that’s a movie to spoil a little, little bit where it also has a dating montage with a couple of terrible dates, but there’s something about them that’s a little sharper and harder. And that ultimately there’s a big twist with Sebastian Stan’s nice guy character that takes it so far beyond anything you could possibly imagine.
Alex: I don’t think She-Hulk needs to go in those directions, but when you have Wong off in a storyline that’s dealing with magic in the MCU and sling rings and demon dimensions and everything like that, to have the She-Hulk dating storyline be even more banal is frustrating for me because you’re in the MCU. It’s interesting, the idea of a superhero dating. What is that like? We don’t have that at the MCU. It’s mostly a sexless franchise. So I would love to see what it’s like when a superhero goes on dates. But to have her go on regular dates is far less interesting, I would say.
Justin: You want super dates.
Alex: I want super dates. Like, I don’t know, they’re probably not going to go here, but She-Hulk going out a bunch of Tinder dates with mid to low level superheroes and villains, in my mind, is much funnier, much more interesting than her going out with a bunch of LA guys.
Justin: Or at least mix it up a little bit. It’s the whole unique thing about having a show in the MCU is you get to do that stuff. And the fact that they didn’t take that opportunity is a bummer, but maybe we’ll get there. And maybe there’s a whole episode sort of focused around that. So they’re saving that. I would hope because that is a fun, just place to explore. I wanted to say we in the first episode, something that’s really stuck in my brain is the conversation that Jen has with Bruce about how he’s surprised she doesn’t have the voice, the split personality in her head. And I feel like that’s going to be the story of this season. And maybe we’re starting to get some clues about it with this dating, how Jen doesn’t get any attention on the dating apps and She-Hulk does. This is the split in her personality where it is a little bit the flip of Bruce Banner Hulk, where it’s she’s sort of loving being She-Hulk. It’s the addiction of that super power set that maybe what her flip is.
Alex: I can definitely see that going in that direction. And I do think even though I’ve repeatedly expressed my frustrations of them trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of how a comedy show works and a lawyer show works at a superhero show works. If that is the place that we’re getting to and we do eventually double down on that metaphor, that’s great. And I’ll be super into that. And I really do, to be 100% clear, despite everything that I’m saying, I’m rooting for the show. Tatiana Maslany is great. The rest of the cast, like you’ve mentioned a couple of times, we still don’t know anything about them, but they’re good actors and actresses and I’d love to see more of them. But right now we’re not there.
Alex: I think, to tie into, I’ll also throw out, it’s kind of the same thing with the Donny Blaze jokes, which even if I liked the stuff going on with Wong, Madisynn is funny. Donny Blaze is your straight over the plate, magician character. There’s not too much added there beyond the sling ring. If anything, the thing that makes him way more interesting is his weird assistant that he has, who just keeps echoing everything that he’s saying. That to me is a much more fun bit, even than Donny Blaze, which there’s nothing added beyond the sling ring, I would say. I don’t know if you feel the same way.
Justin: Yeah, I think they did have it’s another place where making this character more specific or more unique, I think, would’ve popped. The actor sort of looks a little bit like Bruce Campbell, I thought. And I wanted that Bruce Campbell energy from the MCU where he is just weird. Like he is saying weirder things. His character’s always, I mean, obviously in the Raimi Spider-Man and then recently in the Dr. Strange movie, you get to see him say things that stick out. And I wanted that here, especially with the actor reminding me of Bruce Campbell.
Alex: Yeah. It’s not exactly a Chris Angel style magician necessarily, but that’s certainly kind of what they’re going for except in a magic castle type place. I wasn’t in the writer’s room. I don’t know what they talked about. But it feels like they’re like, “Oh man, magicians are funny.” And, “Oh man, dating is funny.” And that’s kind of as far as the thought process went. There’s not more critical analysis there.
Justin: Yeah. And these are areas that I think comedies love to play in. Like, magicians, I mean, you can name a bunch of them. Arrested Development, all that like touching on that dating obviously universal comedy thing. But we see it play out in stuff ways we’ve seen before. How do you feel about all the Sopranos spoilers? They really do them. They do them hard. Like the first one, I’m with Wong. I’m pissed. Also that episode they spoil is sad, is horrible, horrifying, and they just keep coming with them. Are we in a place where people are just fully spoiling the Sopranos? Because I feel like it’s a show people are watching now for the first time.
Alex: Here’s my secret shame. I’ve never seen the Sopranos.
Justin: See. I knew it. I could tell.
Alex: So I was actually okay with it. But I imagine as somebody who loves the show, you’ve watched it at least twice. Right?
Justin: Actually, I’ve only watched it recently.
Alex: Oh okay.
Justin: I watched it in the pandemic for the first time and really enjoyed it. It’s fucked up, but there are some great episodes. And it is such a signpost in like prestige TV. But I was just surprised how hard they go spoiling in this episode.
Alex: I think it’s okay. I know everybody has different spoiler rules, but the Sopranos has been off the air for off the air, for what, a decade, something like that at this point.
Justin: Long time. Maybe longer. Yeah.
Alex: It’s okay. If you haven’t watched it and you’re watching She-Hulk and it spoils for you, you really can’t get mad. But I do think that, I think, is actually a great example. And maybe you could speak to this better because you’ve actually watched it. But for me comedically the specificity of those storylines and how specifically Madisynn mentions them and walks them through, that it’s not like, “Oh, that episode of the Sopranos,” but that she goes even farther in terms of describing the storylines and everything that’s happening to the characters. That worked for me. You need that in there.
Alex: There’s, not to get all comedy lesson, but a quote that’s really stuck with me. I think this is Mike Byers talked about it actually. Where he’s like, “If you’re in an improv scene or you’re doing a scene, don’t say, ‘Hey, give me the ketchup.’ You say, ‘Hey, hand me the Hines,’ because that’s more specific.”
Alex: And that gives you a frame of reference because ketchup is more a general thing. People are like, “Yeah, I don’t know. I have a relationship with ketchup. Sure.” But Hines, you say that, you’re going to connect with more people in the audience because they’re like, “Oh, I know that as a brand. Here’s where I remember that brand. Here’s what I’m thinking about.”
Justin: Well, and also it just gives you more opportunity for new or original jokes. If you say, “Hand me the Hines,” it’s like, “Oh, we only have the first 56 flavors. We don’t have the 57th. That’s the one everybody wants.” And so just that specificity opens up like a door. And then you’re like, “Wait, what is the 41st recipe,” or whatever the comedic tangent you want to go on. If you just said ketchup, you wouldn’t have that opportunity there.
Justin: So the specificity in comedy is specifically about opening lanes for more and more jokes. And so limiting in that or sticking to paths we’ve already seen means you arrive at jokes that we’ve already heard and you never want that. And again, this is a comedy workshop in some ways. But I do think what this show is doing more jokes and more at bats mean more hits. And I appreciate that this is my favorite episode so far because there are taking the swings. And I think the Madisynn Wong stuff really hit for me.
Alex: Well, and to take it back broader, you were mentioning the first episode and we haven’t talked about this on the podcast, but there was a lot of discussion in our Patreon slack, patreon.com/comicbookclub about this issue the Jessica Gao, who is the showrunner, did with Variety, I believe, where she was talking about the process there. And we went back pretty hard back and forth and I think got a little too focused on the fact that she said they didn’t talk about Ally McBeal in the writer’s room at all versus they talked about Better Call Saul. They talked about American Crime Story. Both of which I would argue are 100% not touchstones for the show at all versus Ally McBeal.
Alex: But the main takeaway I had with that interview more than anything else is A Jessica Gao is a very funny writer. She wrote the Pickle Rick episode of Rick and Morty, which despite all the cultural influence and all probably bad feelings about that episode and some other episodes just generally in the culture, it’s awesome and hilarious and a lot about deconstructing, just Rick constantly saying I’m Pickle Rick. And just the idea of catch phrases and just hammering home on that.
Alex: So she knows how to write comedy and she knows how to craft comedy, but there’s a significant chunk of the interview where she doesn’t talk about it badly, but she talks about the CGI and how they went to work around that and they had to move things around. And so my suspicion here a lot is a lot of the stuff they’re doing is writing around what was already set or what they already had to do.
Alex: There’s been a lot of talk about Marvel and how hard they’re pushing on VFX artists. There’s been a lot of interviews and reporting about that. But you look at the end of this episode, which is She-Hulk, who is a big green character who has to be CGI’d-
Justin: Oh right.
Alex: … and Wong, who are fighting a bunch of bat monsters and throwing them through magic portals. That’s not the sort of thing where you’re like, “Oh, we wrote that at the beginning of the week and we’re just going to film that at the end of the week. That has to be planned and blocked out and crafted in advance. So once you have that set, that affects the budget for the entire episode, it affects the way that you’re going to craft the entire episode. And so A I don’t blame her for any of the things that I’m saying about this episode. I do think there’s a certain degree of trying to solve a puzzle where some of the pieces are already there and they don’t necessarily fit together in the way that you want and try to force it there a little bit. That probably happen with at least a part of, if not a large part of the show.
Justin: Yeah. I mean, that’s just the nature of working on anything like this. And with Marvel series, it’s even harder because it is following the same schedule of a TV show of a fast pace. Like a movie, you have the meticulous planning and you can sort be jumping around more. With a TV show, you are sort of moving forward at the TV pace. So it’s hard to hit all those marks all the time.
Alex: That said, like I have been hitting over and over and over again, I am rooting for it. I do hope now that they’ve got the elements in place, all the cast I think has been introduced at the very least, even if you had Renee Elise Goldsberry as Mallory Book be like, “What’s going on here? Goodbye.” And that’s been her whole role so far. We also know, is it Josh makes a nice gift basket.
Alex: I think that’s pretty much it. And Ginger Gonzaga, the best friend is she wears big necklaces and hangs out.
Justin: Yeah, I hope we’re going to get into these characters a little bit more. We almost have to. Why? Because you’ve introduced them. We like Chekhov’s gun style. Why’d you put all these people out here if we weren’t going to hang out with them? Yeah.
Alex: Yeah. I mean, maybe there was also, just to sort of game it out a little bit, maybe there was a directive from Marvel. We know that the eighth episode was the origin one and they moved a large chunk of that to the first episode. And I would argue perhaps rightly so, maybe there was a thing from Marvel of like, “You got to put Bruce Banner in the first two episodes. You got to put Wong in episodes three and four. Make sure people are coming in for the show.” And clearly they’ve been responding. I think the show has been way bigger than Ms. Marvel. Which, Ms. Marvel, good show, people should check that out. But that didn’t quite hit in the same way because you didn’t have those touchstones from the movies like a Mark Ruffalo coming in or anything like that. So now that we have established those characters, now that we have had the guest stars. We know Daredevil is in the future. There’s probably other guest stars to come at some point. I’m sure Mark Ruffalo is going to come back as well. Maybe now that they don’t have to feed that guest star beast, and clearly they’ve figured out the show structure at least a little bit, we’ll be rocketed and enrolled by episode five.
Justin: Rocket and rolling.
Alex: Rocking and rolling.
Justin: Do you want to talk about sort of where we end up? The spin forward here is Titania, as I said, has trademarked She-Hulk’s name.
Justin: And she seems to be perhaps the main villain here.
Alex: Now, correct me if I’m wrong. And I probably am wrong about this, but wasn’t She-Hulk introduced to get around a trademark thing? Wasn’t that they were going to do She-Hulk on the incredible Hulk TV series? I might be mixing up two historical things. I might be mixing up She-Hulk and Spider-Woman perhaps, but there was definitely something that Stan Lee did where… Oh, definitely thinking of Peter Parker and Mary Jane getting married in the comic book. Stan Lee was going to do it in the comic strip. And they’re like, “You’re not doing it in the comic strip first. We’re doing it in the comics.” So there’s definitely been stuff like that. But I think there was some sort of trademark thing with She-Hulk that I think they’re playing off of here.
Alex: Jameela Jamil, and this is speaking totally anecdotally from stuff that we’ve done about Day Job, but going into the series, that’s where the main interest was. We did a ton of She-Hulk stories. People were not particularly interested in reading them unless they were about Jameela Jamil. So just in terms of that, getting back to the guest star thing, I think having her more in the mix and finally bringing them together and head to head, that’s also going to be a very good thing in terms of at least bringing eyeballs to the show.
Justin: And you are right about She-Hulk’s creation. The publisher at Marvel was worried that CBS was going to add a She-Hulk to the TV show so they would own the copyright to the character. So they very quickly dreamed up… Stan Lee dreamed up She-Hulk with John Buscema.
Alex: There you go. So I assume this is going to be riffing off that in a way, which that’s smart so I like that.
Justin: Yeah. What a great reference to touch on that history in a weird way. And that also is such a modern thing of people scooping up domain names and then charging people for them afterward.
Alex: Mm-hmm. I also really do the idea of Titania, however we’re pronouncing it, being a social media influencer. That’s very smart. I know we’ve already introduced that, but I do worry given the broad nature of the comedy that they’re not going to do it specific enough necessarily. Yeah.
Justin: I think we’re getting more specific as the season goes on.
Justin: So maybe we’re going to getting there.
Alex: All right. Fingers crossed.
Justin: I mean, it’s just like because any show, the pilot is always a little less certain or less solidified than the later episodes. And I think this show had a two episode pilot for better or worse. We’ve sort of talked about that. So now I think we’re hitting the ground running and hopefully it’s only up from here on out.
Alex: Speaking of which, why don’t we turn to our vision board and talk about what’s coming next. Justin, what do you want to see on the next episode of She-Hulk?
Justin: I want more exploration of She-Hulk and Jen, that what the difference is between the two of them, are we going to see that sort of personality split happen? That feels like a natural dramatic arc for her. So I definitely want more of that because as we were saying, she is becoming a less interesting character in relation to the other characters that have been introduced in the show. So I want to see her pop.
Alex: On the other hand though, I agree with you on that. I want to see the supporting characters in the next episode. They keep bringing in-
Justin: It’s the guest stars. It’s the guest stars are the ones that keep getting the hits.
Alex: Right. And we keep having these new characters come in saying, “Oh, they’re also on the superhuman law team.” And I’m like, “Do you guys not have team meetings? Why was she not introduced at everybody?” So I want to see everybody in the same room working on a case together. Get a sense of how they all work together.
Justin: Book a conference room.
Alex: Exactly. Come on. Book some time. We’ll circle back and chat about this later.
Justin: Exactly. Get some half sandwiches, some light soups and get in there and do business.
Alex: That’s what I want some light soup in the next episode. If you’d like to support this podcast and buy us some light soup, patreon.com/comicbookclub. Also we do a live show every Tuesday night at 7:00 PM to Crowdcast and YouTube. Come hang out. We would love to chat with you about She-Hulk. Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, or the app of your choice to subscribe, listen, and follow the show. @MarvelVisionPod on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. ComicBookClubLive.com for this podcast and many more. Until next time, stay marvelous.