**This article contains discussion of revenge porn which some readers may find upsetting**

Advertisement

From The Snap to Red Skull's return in Infinity War, Kevin Feige and his cohort of Marvel creatives enjoy nothing more than yanking the rug out from beneath the MCU faithful. Shocking, tragic moments designed to leave audiences slack-jawed and bereft are par for the course.

But none have felt more destabilising than the big twist in the final moments of She-Hulk's latest episode.

A number of women, including Jen as She-Hulk, were being honoured at a Female Lawyer of the Year ceremony. The recipients of the accolade gathered on stage in front of their families, friends and peers to collect their shiny trophies and share the hard realities of what it's like to be a woman in the world of law. But rather than focus on the negatives, Jen used her speech to bask in the glow of her achievement and thank her parents for their support.

But before she could continue, her address was abruptly cut off.

Intelligencia, a forum in which hordes of angry men gather to spew their intense hatred of Jen and share their desire to harm her, hijacked the presentation. Myriad private images from her phone and dating profile were beamed onto the giant projector as she watched on, powerless and confused. It was a deeply troubling moment, but it's what happened next that made her blood (and mine) run cold.

Suddenly, a video began playing. The footage featured herself and Josh, the man she connected with at her friend's wedding and spent the night with a few weeks later. Having endured a string of lousy dates with men who only had eyes for her big green alter ego, she allowed Josh, who was seemingly all in on Jen (not She-Hulk), into her world.

More like this

But first impressions can be wildly misleading, with the lawyer none the wiser that her new beau was an Intelligencia member laser focused on bringing about her downfall.

Tatiana Maslany as She-Hulk.
Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer Walters in She-Hulk. Disney+/Marvel Studios

The initial expression on Jen's face following the reveal was one we hadn't seen from her before: total emotional collapse. She's rendered mute by the revelation, palpably devastated and fearful, with her smarts, wit and even her super strength unable to shield her from this catastrophic blow.

Like every woman who has been subjected to a revenge porn attack – 75 per cent of the 4,406 cases reported in 2021 came from women, which is also an increase of over 40 per cent in the number of reports – or any other form of sexual violence or misogyny, Intelligencia's assault on Jen stems from the the simple fact that she is a woman, with the group's fury rooted in the fact that she possesses what they believe to be the singularly male characteristics of the Hulk.

Following her initial stasis, Jen's horror morphed into white hot rage. The green mist descended as she shattered the projector, before launching herself at a group of Intelligencia members who had gathered to appreciate their work in person. Jen hauled one of them up by his collar and roared into his face as the gala guests, who had scattered in blind panic, watched on, horrified by the scene before them.

But it wasn't Intelligencia's actions that unsettled them, but Jen herself.

She has weathered a number of sizeable challenges across the series, but this is undoubtedly Jen's greatest hurdle to date. She must now not only reckon with the fallout from Josh's betrayal, but also confront She-Hulk's evolution. A trait of her alter ego that previously didn't appear to exist – the blind fury we associate with Hulk – was seemingly lying dormant all along, waiting to be triggered.

Tatiana Maslany as Jennifer "Jen" Walters/She-Hulk in Marvel Studios' She-Hulk: Attorney at Law
Jen Walters. Marvel Studios

Using She-Hulk's big twist to further comment on just how atrocious it can be to exist in this world as a woman isn't surprising, given what we've seen from the series thus far. It also makes total sense that this, of all things, would cause Jen to truly "Hulk out" because it goes to the very heart of what it means to be female. But how the show chose to expand on that with this latest development is a departure for both She-Hulk, which has adopted an easy-breezy tone up until this point, and Marvel as a whole.

There's now a seismic question mark hanging over where the character of Jen goes from here, with creator and writer Jessica Gao helming the toughest episode of the series's debut season, and arguably one of the trickiest writing gigs in the MCU to date. Delivering a satisfying season finale is challenge enough, but Gao must also provide a substantial response to this uniquely demanding development.

If you're going to subject your female characters to sexual violence, you cannot spend a single follow-up episode unpacking what that does to a person, and then move swiftly on to greener pastures. That incident has generated a fundamental shift within Jen and will impact her intimate relationships with other people, and also her relationship with herself – and the writing must reflect that. This is now a part of Jen's fabric and if season 2 is given the greenlight, the echoes of the violence that have been enacted upon her here must continue to be felt if the show is to avoid accusations of using female trauma as a rug pull to spice up its storytelling.

Storytelling in which super strength and Infinity Stones and the multiverse allow us to temporarily freeze out climate change and the cost of living crisis and violence against women. But the likes of Marvel can also be used as a Trojan Horse to comment on real-world injustice, and even kickstart positive change. If She-Hulk responds in the right way to the horror enacted upon Jen, it'll be a ground-breaking moment for the franchise, especially in light of the misogyny displayed by pockets of its fandom. But if the writing stumbles, it won't simply be a missed opportunity but a calamitous failing.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is available to stream on Disney Plus. Sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 for a year. Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

Advertisement

The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement