This article contains spoilers for She-Hulk: Attorney At Law and The Incredible Hulk (2008). If you haven’t caught up yet, check out our spoiler-free She-Hulk Episode 2 review!
It’s been almost fifteen years since the MCU crashed onto screens with Iron Man’s releases months away followed quickly by The Incredible Hulk. In the years since, fans have met many of the Marvel Universe’s most famous heroes, along with some lesser-known ones who have now achieved A-list status. But a decade and a half of storytelling means also that there was time for introspection and, in some cases, reckoning with past mistakes. It started in earnest in the wake of Avengers: Endgame, when Spider-Man: Far From Home began investigating the legacy of Tony Stark, a man who thought it was a good idea to give a child of arms ending the world. Since then, the MCU has dug even deeper into the Avengers and the actions, events, and organizations that created and enabled them. The second episode of She-Hulk builds on this exploration with the reintroduction of Emil Blonksy (Tim Roth).
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Although viewers briefly saw the character as Abomination at Madripoor Fight Club in Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, we haven’t seen Blonsky in his human form since The Incredible Hulk. In She-Hulk, he is presented as a central conflict for Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany). If she wants to lead the superhuman law department at GLK&H, then she must represent Blonsky at his parole hearing. There’s a small problem with that: Years ago, Blonsky tried to kill his cousin Bruce. What could have – and arguably would have been in previous MCU entries – turned into a career-ending fight or sparked an international incident instead becomes a meditation on Blonsky’s experience and how he was exploited. As he explains to Jen, he was a highly regarded and rewarded soldier who received a botched recreation of the serum used to create Captain America.
In Blonsky’s mind, he was a hero who was sent to reduce a threat by the US government. And he is not wrong. The events of The Incredible Hulk – led by Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) – are set in the first heavily militarized setting of the MCU and its heroes. Aside from Ross’ personal vendetta against Bruce Banner due to his relationship with his daughter, he is desperate to create a Hulk-like weapon for the US military to use on the battlefield. His exploitation of Blonsky was founded on promises of heroism, medals, and a Captain America-style legacy. Blonsky’s desperation to be that hero led him to use the blood of Bruce Banner to expand his powers, creating the creature known as the Abomination. In the end, it was Banner who became an Avenger and Blonsky who spent the last decade of his life in prison.
In that way, it’s kind of surprising that Marvel Studios took so long to get back to Blonksy, because his connection to the Super Soldier Serum was actually our first real connection to what would become the larger MCU. Although The Incredible Hulk was the worst performing MCU movie, it was the first to introduce a version of the serum that created Captain America – something that has become increasingly important – as the recreation was part of the origin. of Bruce Banner as well as that of Blonsky. . Captain America may have been a successful result of the serum, but it’s often been used to exploit and weaponize. Bucky Barnes AKA the Winter Soldier was also tortured with a version of the serum, much like his fellow experimenters we met in Captain America: Civil War.
But it was another serum victim who really showed the world the depravity and reality of the program. When The Falcon and the Winter Soldier featured Isaiah Bradley– who in the comics held the role of Captain America in the field before Steve Rogers – there was no doubt that he was an innocent victim of the Super Soldier Serum. While in the past the MCU seemed to leave conversation in a space of moral darkness, Isaiah’s story showed that the government used black soldiers to experiment and, in his case, then imprisoned him for silence him. It was the first real statement about the dangerous legacy of the Super Soldier Serum as well as Captain America’s mantle. With the addition of Blonsky and his direct removal from the program that made him an Abomination, the MCU is once again dealing with that legacy.
However, She-Hulk doesn’t just criticize the Super Soldier program. He’s actually trying to come to terms with it, and for Bruce and Emil to get closure. Jen is shocked and moved by Emil’s experience, deciding to take the case. But her love for her cousin means she must lead him first. It’s a huge moment for the MCU because we rarely, if ever, hear MCU Bruce (Mark Ruffalo) referencing The Incredible Hulk and the Bruce (Edward Norton) experience. The cheeky nod to this comes as Bruce explains that he thinks Jen should take over the case, a generous gesture that allows him to move on. As he reminds his cousin, he’s “a completely different person now.” And as we all know, that’s a literal as well as a metaphorical truth. Although Emil’s fate remains unclear at the end of this episode – and to be honest, he doesn’t look great after leaked video of him battling in Madripoor – with Jen by his side, he has a good chance of having a new life. And it was time.
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