She-Hulk episode 8 review Ribbit and Rip It has bad reveal costume introduction for Charlie Cox Matt Murdock Daredevil

This discussion and review contains spoilers for She-Hulk episode 8, “Ribbit and Rip It.”

“Ribbit and Rip It” is a fairly solid episode of She-Hulk, albeit one that largely abandons the sitcom aesthetic that the show has been honing for the past few weeks in favor of more conventional superhero fodder.

Most obviously, this is the big Daredevil crossover, with Charlie Cox making his long-teased appearance in the penultimate episode of the season. Daredevil has been a major part of the marketing and branding for She-Hulk. There had been speculation about the character’s appearance as early as December 2020, with another round of speculation in July 2021. He was even the end-of-reel teaser for the She-Hulk trailer released at Comic-Con in July 2022.

For all that fans obsess over spoilers “ruining” their enjoyment, She-Hulk repeatedly signposted the arrival of Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock. “Mean, Green, and Straight Poured into These Jeans” ended with a shot teasing the character’s return, revealing that Matt Murdock was a client of super tailor Luke Jacobson (Griffin Matthews). He was all over the mid-season trailer. The fight scene from this episode was released early as a “sneak peek.”

As the series rushed towards its climax, there was something mildly amusing in the online audience’s frustration with She-Hulk’s withholding of the fan service of Daredevil’s appearance. “Where’s Daredevil?” demanded ScreenRant. “Why are they doing this to us?” Metro quoted fans. She-Hulk leaned into this. “Just Jen” opened with a joke to the audience about “a self-contained wedding episode” arriving at “an inconvenient time in the season.”

Then again, this gets at one of the central tensions of She-Hulk. It feels like a half-measure. Given that the villains of She-Hulk seem to be angry nerds posting about She-Hulk on the internet, it would be hilarious for the show to so aggressively troll them. The funniest joke that She-Hulk could pull would be to lure in fans that only care about the continuity cameo from Matt Murdock and then never deliver on it. It would be a very confident, assured, and provocative choice from the series.

She-Hulk episode 8 review Ribbit and Rip It has bad reveal costume introduction for Charlie Cox Matt Murdock Daredevil

However, She-Hulk would never risk provoking potential fan outrage on that level, even for what would be a very self-aware gag that would serve as a wry meta-commentary on the nature of these shows and the audience’s relationship with them. So the result is something of a strange compromise. Matt Murdock makes his appearance, but as late in the season as he possibly can without crowding Jen out of her own season finale. It feels very calculated and very cynical.

There’s also a sense that She-Hulk itself is decidedly ambivalent about all this. Back in “A Normal Amount of Rage,” the show argued that what distinguished Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany) from her cousin Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) was that she didn’t share his identity crisis. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of She-Hulk itself. The show seems constantly caught between wanting to be its own thing and relying on a steady stream of cameos and in-jokes to satisfy its audience.

“Just remember whose show this actually is,” Jen told the audience in “The People vs. Emil Blonsky,” which featured the second consecutive crossover appearance of Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) and the first of two consecutive appearances from Wong (Benedict Wong). In “Is This Not Real Magic?,” Jen joked that Wong’s appearances gave “the show Twitter armor for a week,” but it wasn’t really a joke. Even the “previously on” segment in “Ribbit and Rip It” has Jen assert ownership of her show.

This isn’t just an academic discussion about the marketing of superhero streaming shows under the banner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This is also what She-Hulk is actually about. In one of the show’s best character moments, in “The Retreat,” Jen opened up about her insecurities about her superhero persona. Building off “Is This Not Real Magic?,” the best episode of the show to date, Jen wondered if people loved her for herself or for her superhero alter ego.

Titania punched

She-Hulk seems wracked with the same insecurities. The show seems unsure whether its viewers love the show for its own distinct identity or simply as a delivery mechanism for fan-service cameos. The biggest cameo of the season, with the most hype around it, Matt Murdock’s cameo appearance in the season’s penultimate episode most prominently feels like the show caught between the two extremes. It can joke about withholding that fan service, but it’s too afraid to completely reject it.

Indeed, “Ribbit and Rip It” seems explicitly structured as a repudiation of She-Hulk’s own sitcom identity. The episode’s teaser sets up a classic sitcom premise, as Jen finds herself in the middle of a lawsuit between client Eugene Patilio (Brandon Stanley) and superhero costume designer Luke Jacobson, just as Jacobson is putting the final touches on Jen’s dress for the big gala. It’s a charming, seemingly low-stakes character conflict that seems rife with comedic potential.

There are any number of interesting ways that the story could develop from that setup, with Holden Holliway (Steve Coulter) even laying out a fairly obvious avenue for the sort of social awkwardness on which sitcom plots thrive. “I suggest that you try to come to an agreement with Mr. Jacobson, so then a filing would not be necessary,” he explains. It’s a straightforward story, with a bunch of characters who have competing and clashing agendas, thrown together with hilarious results.

However, “Ribbit and Rip It” quickly discards what could have been an amusingly goofy setup for something like the legal battle of the comic book magicians in “Is This Not Real Magic?” Then the lawsuit is handled cleanly and efficiently, dismissed within minutes of the show’s opening title card. The lawsuit was simply a plot justification for bringing Matt Murdock to Los Angeles from New York, to defend Jacobson.

She-Hulk episode 8 review Ribbit and Rip It has bad reveal costume introduction for Charlie Cox Matt Murdock Daredevil

Of course, since the central hook of this episode is the appearance of Daredevil, it is worth talking about Daredevil. Charlie Cox is as charming as ever. He shares some nice chemistry with Tatiana Maslany, to the point that it’s a shame that the show has to spend so much time with Cox wearing a mask that obscures his face and Maslany offering a motion-capture performance as a not-so-jolly green giant. The two would work perfectly in a screwball legal romantic comedy together.

More than that, there is something weird in how She-Hulk chooses to characterize Matt Murdock. This is the character’s first major appearance in the shared universe, following a brief cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home, so this is important in terms of establishing who Matt is as a character.  “Ribbit and Rip It” makes a point to bring up Matt’s pro bono work in Hell’s Kitchen as a defense attorney representing those who need help, but it only does so superficially.

Jen fleetingly mentions the irony that she serves a gigantic law firm that works for entitled rich assholes like Eugene Patilio or Todd Phelps (Jon Bass), that she helps powerful entities like Kamar-Taj maintain its cultural dominance. However, Matt is also part of that world. In Daredevil, a show explicitly about the evils of gentrification, Matt used a working-class tailor in Hell’s Kitchen to make his costume. In She-Hulk, he is using a celebrity designer on the other side of the country.

“Ribbit and Rip It” makes it clear that Matt is now operating inside the world of the MCU. There is an off-hand reference to how the Sokovia Accords “have been repealed,” and the episode takes for granted that superheroes are a protected social class rather than urban vigilantes that have “always been criminals.” When Jen points out that superheroes “operate in the public eye,” Matt counters, “The distinction here is that we’re not talking about celebrities.” They just use celebrity tailors.

She-Hulk episode 8 review Ribbit and Rip It has bad reveal costume introduction for Charlie Cox Matt Murdock Daredevil

Again, there is a sense that there might be a more interesting or compelling episode built around the legal arguments that Matt and Jen are making. In recent comic book runs by writers like Charles Soule or Chip Zdarsky, Matt Murdock has pushed the legal concept of the secret identity, allowing heroes to testify before courts and even serve time in their costumed personas. That might be a fun thing for She-Hulk to explore, but “Ribbit and Rip It” breezes right past it.

“Ribbit and Rip It” makes a number of cute allusions to the aesthetic of Netflix’s Daredevil. The first confrontation between Daredevil and She-Hulk takes place in a carpark, visual shorthand for “gritty and grounded” superhero action since The Dark Knight. The episode seems to set up another ambitious Daredevil hallway fight, only to abruptly subvert it by having “She-Hulk smash.” It’s an interesting choice for Matt’s big debut, to make jokes about the aesthetic of his previous show.

There is something frustratingly cynical about all this. At one point, Jen responds to Matt’s earnest “I’m Daredevil” with the wry observation, “Well, it’s just very daring to use ketchup and mustard as your color scheme.” However, recalling Dan Harmon’s criticism of “the Monopoly Man” joke in Ace Ventura, the punchline is somewhat undermined by the fact the show changed Matt’s costume so it could make a joke about how silly it looks.

It’s also tiring to see She-Hulk make jokes about impressive practical stunt work on Daredevil only to replace it with terrible computer-generated imagery. The visual effects on She-Hulk have come under deserved criticism, reflecting a systemic problem in modern film and television production. It’s noticeable, for example, that She-Hulk avoids showing Jen’s transformation where possible. Head writer Jessica Gao has talked about being told she had “carte blanche” with effects early in production, only to later be told to scale them back.

As such, it’s frustrating to see that so many of Matt Murdock’s stunts in “Ribbit and Rip It” are rendered in unconvincing animation, particularly as he leaps around the carpark and confronts Jen. This is precisely what some fans worried about when it was announced that Marvel would fold the distinct aesthetic of the Netflix shows into the shared universe. Everything bends towards the house style, even in uncanny ways. It’s the worst of both worlds, shortchanging both Matt and Jen.

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