How bad is She-Hulk? So bad it screws up its main selling point, which it pretends isn’t its main selling point by constantly having Jen deny it. So bad it makes jokes about how poorly it’s written. So bad it breezes haphazardly through scenes revolving around one of the key attributes of its main character and this week’s highly anticipated guest star. So bad it resorts to making its target audience (or what should be its target audience) the main villains. So bad that even when Jen is handed what should be the moral lesson that defines her character arc, it still can’t make her seem like a halfway decent person. So bad it features characters doing that obnoxious snap-clap thing that makes any sane human being want to throw something – in this case, their TVs, preferably out a window.
Jen represents a moronic wannabe superhero who claims his suit malfunctioned and its developer owes him compensation, but the case presents a conflict of interest for her. Her opposing counsel proves much friendlier than an adversarial system would suggest.
“Ribbit and Rip It” (yup, that’s the title) epitomizes what’s wrong with She-Hulk before the episode even begins. In the “previously on” intro, they cut from the Hulk asking Jen what she would do with her powers other than being a hero to She-Hulk twerking with Megan Thee Stallion. It’s like they’re saying, “This is what you expected, and this is what we’re giving you.” What’s amusing – or sad, depending on how much She-Hulk has allowed you to care – is that if the show were better, this could have been a poignant commentary on Jen’s character flaws; she’s wasting a gift that she could be using to help people by trying to advance her career and get the attention she wanted in her human form. But She-Hulk never presents this as being wrong; Jen’s “I’m in it for me” attitude is consistently justified by surrounding her with evil men and jealous rival women who want to tear her down, the only exceptions being Nikki and Pug, who exist to tell her how great she is.
That remains the case in “Ribbit and Rip It,” where, once more, another popular guest star suggests that Jen could use her powers for good. This time, it’s Matt Murdock, who finally appears so people can skip the finale… I mean, enjoy the return of this fan-favorite Marvel hero. After beating her in another ineptly written trial scene where Jen comes off like the most incompetent lawyer on the planet, Matt shows up at the bar where Jen hangs out and, while flirting and talking shop, he suggests that maybe Jen can be a superhero on her own time, writing the wrongs the legal system can’t. It’s a good set-up, and this scene isn’t bad. Of course, it’s helped immensely by Charlie Cox, who slips back into this role with ease, once again conveying Matt’s charm, good humor, and morality, often in the same sentence. And he functions just right in the story, giving the episode, the series, and Jen a purpose by presenting her logical evolution as a character.
The problem is that She-Hulk never pays off this thread because it’s either unconcerned with or incapable of showing Jen’s growth as a person and a hero. The legal case involves a burgeoning street-level vigilante who calls himself Leap-Frog suing superhero fashion designer Luke Jacobson for making him a faulty costume. Jen doesn’t want the case because taking it would risk Jacobson refusing to make her any more outfits. When her boss points out that she waived an even bigger conflict of interest by defending the man who tried to kill her cousin, Jen brushes it aside, and it’s never brought up again. This should be an important plot point; Jen is selfish and seems concerned with things like conflict and morality only when it affects her. But we can’t have her shown as less than perfect, so it’s treated like an afterthought. All those lofty principles she touted when taking Blonsky’s case are forgotten as well because this show goes to great lengths to make Jen as amoral as possible without acknowledging it and using it to spur an arc.
Later, Leap-Frog calls Jen and tells her he’s under attack, and she heads out to rescue him. After a tussle with Daredevil, she finds that Leap-Frog is actually the bad guy who’s kidnapped Jacobson to force him to make some cool new Leap-Frog suits. He has a bunch of henchmen (or goons; “Ribbit and Rip It” spends more time on the difference between “henchmen” and “goons” than it does on Jen learning what it means to be a hero) scattered throughout his warehouse, so Daredevil devises a plan to take them out, but Jen complains because she doesn’t have enough to do. Daredevil is being pragmatic and responsible because Leap-Frog has a hostage, but Jen doesn’t care; it’s all about her showing off how cool she is. Luckily, the bad guys are as dumb as everyone else on this show, and Jen smashing through walls and ceilings doesn’t get Jacobson killed. She even gives him legal advice while Daredevil takes out his underlings, prioritizing her career over saving a life and failing to internalize anything Matt said to her earlier. But girl power and stuff.
Every step along the way is executed poorly. The trial is another dud from the people who think it’s funny that they work for a legal show and don’t know how to write courtroom scenes. Jacobson wins because Leap-Frog had put jet fuel in his rocket boots, which goes against Jacobson’s instructions, and this comes as a surprise to Jen. That means she never bothered to ask her client any questions about how he used the suit so she could advise him on what to say and what not to say in court. Then, perhaps even dumber, the judge finds in Jacobson’s favor without a shred of evidence proving that the instruction manual didn’t suggest jet fuel. Apparently, pinky-swearing is admissible evidence in a trial now. All it would have taken is a line about Jacobson being able to prove his case, followed by a quick cut to them heading out of court the following day, or even Jacobson pulling the manual out of his coat pocket (convenient, sure, but better than this buffoonery).
Daredevil himself is mostly good (thank God), but there are a few dopey and unsatisfying moments involving him. The first is at the trial, where Matt figures out how to win his case by smelling the jet fuel on Leap-Frog. On its own, this is fine and in keeping with Matt’s character and abilities; what isn’t is when he looks at Jacobson after insisting that Leap-Frog is lying about the jet fuel and says, “Don’t ask me how I know; I just know.” Why would he draw attention to his powers like that? I could see if Jacobson had asked him – which he wouldn’t do because Jacobson knows Matt is Daredevil – but it’s not something Matt would volunteer. This is their attempt at mimicking the “I’m a really good lawyer” moment from Spider-Man: No Way Home, but Matt’s attempt to explain what he’d just done made sense in the movie; here, it doesn’t. And it was a major bummer to see them set up a hallway fight for Daredevil, only for She-Hulk to ruin it; I know they think it’s funny and empowering (Jen’s constant “This is my show!” tantrums put this into perspective), but it’s just a letdown. And, finally, I don’t like the yellow suit; I know it was in the early comics, but introducing it after the red one feels regressive. Even aesthetically, it’s nowhere near as cool, nor does it fit with Daredevil’s nighttime action.
But then, “Ribbit and Rip It” pulls out the real show-stopper. After yet another episode that in no way advances the season’s storyline, what Jen describes to the camera as a tacked-on ending finds her at a gala where she’s attacked by cyber bullies. There are so many things wrong with this scene that it’s hard to believe they aren’t trying to make people hate the show. First of all, having Jen introduce it to the audience as bad writing doesn’t negate that it’s bad writing. Then, Jen wins a “Female Lawyer of the Year” award – along with every other female lawyer in the room. Giving them all an award just for existing is kind of funny, as is the show mocking this type of accolade when they’ve spent the rest of the series demanding it. Mallory Book complaining about “twice the work and half the recognition” while Nikki and Pug snap-clap once again stops the narrative cold for feminist talking points. (Pug is so well-behaved; I hope they threw him a milk bone.) But then, Jen’s speech is hijacked so Intelligencia, the evil organization that’s been mentioned, like, maybe twice in previous episodes, can talk about how she “stole her power from the Hulk” and air revenge porn. Get it, Marvel fans? You’re the bad guys! And you’re no better than revenge porn peddlers. Much like Bros, She-Hulk demands the people it clearly hates watch it and love it.
One last thing; there’s something in “Ribbit and Rip It” that I hate more than everything above put together. See, all this can be chalked up to a bad show being itself. But a major MCU plotline is resolved in one throwaway line. During the trial, while arguing that superheroes have a right to privacy, Matt says, “The Sokovia Accords have been repealed.” So, that’s it; the universe-altering plot point introduced in Captain America: Civil War that had massive ramifications on almost every movie and show since is over, and it happened off-screen at some undetermined point in time. It didn’t involve Captain America or Iron Man, or any of the supporting characters from those movies. It isn’t even important enough to be shown. It’s just an inconvenient story element that was tossed away like a used napkin and will now be forgotten, like Loki conquering Asgard or Thor joining the Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel really doesn’t care anymore, does it?