‘She-Hulk’: Exploring Jennifer Walters' “Justified” Rage in Episode 8
“Jen thinks that she can be in control of this thing that is ultimately way outside of her control."
Early in Episode 1 of Marvel Studios’ She-Hulk, Bruce Banner makes a comment to his fuzzball cousin, Jennifer Walters, that if she’s not careful with her newfound Hulk abilities, people won’t see the Hulk — they’ll only see a monster.
Jen, still hellbent on not becoming a Hulk let alone a Super Hero, brushes Bruce’s comments aside. She knows how to control her anger and rage (hey, she’s a woman after all) so there’s no way her emotions are going to get the better of her. She’s not going to let the monster come out.
Flash forward to Episode 8 of the season, and Bruce’s warning has come back to haunt her. During a gala honoring her as a recipient of the Female Lawyer of the Year award, Intelligencia hacks the presentation and flashes private moments of Jen’s life across the screen for the entire audience, including a video of her and Josh hooking up. Overcome with rage at the moment, Jen lashes out and destroys the entire video screen, sending the audience fleeing outside. But Jen’s still not done. She grabs one of the Intelligencia goons and roars at him before she realizes she’s been surrounded by Damage Control.
The one thing Jen insisted she wasn’t going to let happen, happened.
The creative team behind She-Hulk, many of whom identify as female, were intent on pulling from their own real-life experiences to capture the full spectrum of Jen’s emotional state, exploring the rage and sadness Jen has been forced to bottle up this whole time only to let it bubble over now.
“I think it's so important to have the representation behind the camera match the representation in front of the camera because there are just so many life experiences, these lived-in experiences, and nuances that you can't fake and you can't replicate if you really just don't understand it,” Head writer Jessica Gao tells Marvel.com. “Having all these women who all have different life experiences and perspectives and points of view really helped fill out this very well-rounded cast and this world.”
Gao mentions that the creative team began “mining each other’s lives” to find common threads, and “those were the things that we really wanted to infuse in the show so that women who watch the show really felt seen and really felt represented.”
One of those, of course, was being forced to keep emotions in check even in the worst situations. And even though Jen might turn into a 6’7” towering green Hulk, she’s still Jen Walters, and the experiences she has as Just Jen aren’t going to go away.
“She is a woman who walks through the world and has experienced things that every woman has experienced,” Director and executive producer Kat Coiro, who helmed Episode 8, explains. “We just took these very relatable experiences that women have and put them on to this character who is able to defend herself and doesn't have to be polite if she doesn't want to because she has brawn that most women don't have. It really felt like an organic part of the process. As we introduce her to the MCU, we introduce a fully-formed female character who has experiences that we can all relate to.”
Unfortunately, one of those experiences happens to be when your privacy is violated in the most public way, as Jen watches a video captured of her and Josh (ugh, that guy), play out for her friends, family, and colleagues and it’s too much for her to handle.
“The rage of just feeling that people can take your power from you, that you have no agency when you deserve so much more, that's definitely— female rage is very deeply explored on the show,” Director of Episodes 5, 6, and 7, Anu Valia adds. Even just filming the end of Episode 7, where it’s revealed that Josh captured footage of Jen in bed, made her incredibly uncomfortable. Anu adds that for the most part, it’s been interesting to see human Jen have more anger than She-Hulk, which is an interesting dynamic.
“You would think that when she becomes Hulk she really lashes out, but when she’s just Jen, she knows what it feels like to have power, and now [she] doesn’t have it. I think that was a really smart decision to be able to play with that.”
“Initially she's sort of confidently able to deal with [becoming She-Hulk] because she's spent her entire life being angry or afraid, so that transition into She-Hulk is effortless,” Star Tatiana Maslany continues. “It doesn't have a bunch of torture in it. It doesn't have a bunch of violence in it. It's clean because that's how she's learned to deal with her emotions.”
So when we do see Jen’s rage finally come out, Maslany wanted it to be “justified.”
“I always wanted to remind all of us that this moment where she is so angry is massively justified. It's only because of the outward perception of that anger and how it looks from the outside that it looks monstrous. Of course, she'd want to go after this guy who just publicly humiliated her. Of course.”
Two of the women closest to Jen in the show, her best friend and colleague Nikki Ramos and Mallory Book, try and stop her from completely lashing out at the gala, but it’s no use. Both are forced to simply watch it happen, and then help Jen through the aftermath.
Ginger Gonzaga, who plays Nikki, mentions that “a healthy amount of rage” is justified, especially for Jen in this current situation (Don’t forget, Episode 1 of the series is actually even titled “A Normal Amount of Rage”).
“I love how in the pilot she talks about how she knows how to deal with rage kind of because she's been forced by the patriarchy to contain it, which is not healthy and not fun…If we're not mad about injustices, if we're not mad about being diminished or silenced or marginalized or called difficult for having an opinion or called a million different awful pejoratives that they will call women that they won't call men when they're having thoughts or being creative, I don't want that,” Gonzaga explains. “I want people to be upset by that. So it's a healthy amount of rage. Like, let's be mad at this status quo. And then push through that in a way that we can find a way to create some sort of change and have a smarter dialog about it.”
And while we’re seeing the depths of female rage and emotions, it’s hard to also not see just the support system Jen has built for herself with Nikki and Mallory, especially the latter. While the two start off on icy terms, Mallory quickly warms to Jen (and Nikki), becoming a person she can rely on during tough times. Mallory can also spot Jen’s outburst a mile away.
“I think it shows the growth in the relationship that she's standing on a stage with her [when it happens,]” Renée Elise Goldsberry says. “If it happened at the beginning of the season, she would not be down [to help] her. But what she's discovered, and I think she discovers it first in episode 5, is it is incredibly unifying to see somebody specifically another woman injured. It doesn't matter. Everything else is off the table. Every other reason why I might be annoyed or threatened by you or why I've decided that we're not friends is because we don't have things in common, if somebody is coming for you, they're coming for both of us.”
At the end of Episode 8, it’s hard not to hear Bruce’s warning echoing back from Episode 1. The creative team sprinkled those breadcrumbs throughout the season, knowing what was coming in the end.
“Within our own show, we were kind of exploring ideas that we knew would loop back around and that was tied to the meta-nature of the show,” Coiro reflects. “It was always being conscious of what the main themes are. It's about a reluctant Super Hero who has to come to terms with the duality in her nature and how you can retain your sense of self but you have to question what ‘self’ means when you're perceived so differently by the outside world.”
Though sad for our hero, Maslany notes that this outburst of rage “felt so right to me.”
“To feel like you could have control over how people perceive you, I think that's true,” She continues. “Jen thinks that she can be in control of this thing that is ultimately way outside of her control. I just knew that we were weaving a story within highly comedic, goofy moments that was leading to something deeply intense and moving and political and all of it.”
The Hype Box
Can’t-miss news and updates from across the Marvel Universe!