Marvel Studios is officially underway with its final episodic Disney+ show of Phase 4 in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, bringing Tatiana Maslany's Jennifer Walters into her debut MCU outing. Fans saw her origin story fully play out over the course of Episode 1, although that wasn't always the case during the development process for this new story.
During the initial filming for She-Hulk, Marvel planned for Jen's origin story to not be fully revealed in the series until Episode 8, which meant Episode 1 would likely have started off with her already having her powers. Head writer Jessica Gao explained that she wanted fans to learn about She-Hulk's first moments as a superhero earlier than Episode 8, even though it forced the VFX team to scramble in order to make sure the first episode was ready to go.
But on top of that, Gao explained in a more recent interview that she actually wasn't on board with this call from the get-go.
She-Hulk Writer on Major Episode 1 Changes
In a chat with Collider, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law head writer Jessica Gao shared some insight into how much Episode 1 of the show changed in the development process.
Gao revealed that the origin story initially came in Episode 4, as she wanted to start the series with Jen already having found herself as She-Hulk in the beginning. There was a plan to show the leading heroine's life after the car accident where fans "spend a couple of episodes getting to know her" before jumping into her backstory, which all changed during post-production:
"Yeah, it actually moved around quite a bit because, when we first wrote it in the writers’ room, it was episode four. I always wanted to start the show in-situ, where we get right into it. I thought, 'Let’s just get to know her and what her life is now, and then, once you spend a couple of episodes getting to know her, we’ll reveal all the backstory and that’ll put a lot of the things you were watching about her in context, as far as why she was so reluctant and why she was at this point in her life and why we were meeting her at this point in her life.' And then, it was during production that we decided to push it to episode eight. I remember there was a lot of discussion. Honestly, I was probably was in a fugue state. I don’t actually remember what the catalyst was of moving it to episode eight, but we did, and that’s what it was for a very long time, until we were in post-production."
Gao admitted to "[fighting] tooth and nail" with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and other creative execs to keep the origin story from being told in Episode 1. However, Gao understood that she possibly "underestimated...people’s familiarity with this character," and after test audiences "really wanted to know more about" the superheroine's backstory early on in the series, the change was made:
"Months into post-production, Kevin and everybody at Kevin’s level, wanted to move it to the first episode, and I fought them tooth and nail. But, I understand it. I think it’s just because we underestimated, or at least I did, people’s familiarity with this character. Because I knew this character, inside and out, and she was always my favorite in the comics, I really took for granted that everybody would know who she was, how she got these powers, and her relationship to Bruce. I just took for granted that everybody would know this, but not a lot of people are familiar with her. People who watched it, test audiences, really wanted to know more about her. They were having trouble. It was the elephant in the room, and they couldn’t get past it. So, I lost the argument."
Although Gao was happy with how everything worked out, looking back on it, she only wished that she could have developed the story that way originally:
"Yes. And here’s the thing, I’m totally happy to have a premise pilot and start with an origin story. I just wish I could have designed it that way."
Struggles to Have She-Hulk's Story Told Right?
Introducing a new character into the MCU is never an easy task, especially considering how many new faces have already taken important roles in Phase 4 alone. Of those new entities, She-Hulk was arguably one of the lesser known heroes before the promotional tour for her show truly got going, leading to a few discussions about how to bring her into the fray the right way.
On top of that, this is the first projected centered on a Hulk-based character in more than 14 years, the last one being Edward Norton's The Incredible Hulk in 2008. The series faced a tall order in having to catch up with the Hulk while introducing his cousin, and though Gao may have felt strongly about wanting to hold off on the heroine's origin story, Episode 1 ended up working out to kick off the series.
Thankfully, reception for the show has been high as a result of reactions from critics who have already seen the first four episodes, and the general public has shared much of those sentiments after one week of action. With plenty more surprises to be shared and characters to join the ranks later in the proceedings, fans will certainly be curious to see how the rest of the narrative plays out.
The first episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is now available to stream on Disney+