Over the last seven weeks of watching She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Jen Walters (Tatiana Maslany) has been so relatable and effortlessly sweet and charming, like someone I could be friends with. So I say to her now, as I’ve said to many real-life friends in the past: I knew that boy was trouble. Sure, Josh (Trevor Salter) is tall, cute, and has a penchant for fries dipped in milkshakes. But ghosting Jen after they sleep together for the first time? That’s a red flag so big, even Man-Bull (Nate Hurd) would find it hard to resist. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Jen obsessively checks her phone in the three days following her night with Josh — despite Nikki (Ginger Gonzaga) pointing out how unhealthy that is — until she receives a call notifying her that Emil Blonsky’s (Tim Roth) inhibitor was set off, meaning there’s a chance he broke parole and is turning into The Abomination. She agrees to go to Blonsky’s meditation retreat with the parole officer and see what it’s all about.

When they arrive, it turns out the ankle monitor was simply miscalibrated after Blonsky got shocked by an electric fence trying to rescue his favorite chicken. Roth always manages to walk this fine line between sincere and sarcastic sprinkled with just enough apathy that you’re never 100% sure if he’s lying or not. While the parole officer can’t get out of there fast enough, Jen finds herself stuck for a few hours after two guests of the retreat — the aforementioned Man-Bull, and El Águila (Joseph Castillo-Midyett) — wrestle right into her car, smashing her window.

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While waiting for the tow truck, Blonsky tries to get Jen to take advantage of the many services the retreat offers, but she is more interested in wandering the expansive property looking for cell service. That journey takes her right into the group therapy session, which includes Man-Bull, El Águila, Porcupine (Jordan Aaron Ford), and Saracen (Terrence Clowe). While Jen initially rejects the offer to join them, she changes her mind when they’re joined by Wrecker (Nick Gomez), one of the men who attacked her outside her apartment in Episode 4 in a bid to take her blood for a mysterious boss. Blonsky suggests they work out their issues in group, and, now in She-Hulk form, Jen agrees.

It was at this point the episode began to go off the rails for me, and give me a strange feeling I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Up until this point, the series had a fairly good sense of what it means to be a woman in her 30s in this day and age, and also what it means to be a strong woman in the public eye. Yes, some nods to internet trolls and Twitter armor were a tad on the nose, but they aren’t exactly unfounded. Even the introduction of alt-right-lite website Intelligencia last week seemed to suggest that the show and its writers had a pretty good idea where so much of the hate directed at women, and women-centric media stems from.

With this episode, however, the moment group therapy started it was as if we had regressed by about 20 years. Why, for instance, was Jen pouring her heart and soul out to this group of virtual strangers — one of whom literally tried to kill her a few short weeks ago — and not to, say, Nikki? Or Pug (Josh Segarra)? I’m certain Mallory (Renée Elise Goldsberry) might have some insight and even Madisynn (Patty Guggenheim) would probably have a thing or two to say about being ghosted. Hell, even Blonsky’s seven soulmates who reside somewhere on the property. But instead of entrusting Jen to her cadre of mostly female friends, writer Zeb Wells sticks her right in the middle of a group of men she does not know for classic dating advice that essentially suggests any degree of sentiment, caring, or vulnerability is cringe-worthy and laughable. As if decades of media suggesting this exact thing isn’t how Jen — and many people in real life — find it so difficult to engage in meaningful conversations and relationships.

While she does manage to make peace with her dual identities and realizes that despite people behaving otherwise, Jen is every bit as awesome as She-Hulk is, the moment of acceptance is soured by the final scene in the episode. Things jump back three days, to the night Jen and Josh spent together. While Jen is asleep, Josh is awake and dresses in the semi-darkness. Maybe he has somewhere to be? An early shift, perhaps? For a few seconds, I let myself believe he’d slip out for reasons of his own, be apprehended just outside Jen’s apartment, and the next two weeks would be a reverse damsel-in-distress type of scenario. Truly, how naive of me. No, it turns out that Josh was awake and cloning Jen’s phone shortly before sending a message to the mysterious “HulkKing” notifying him that he has succeeded in getting a sample of Jen’s blood — but not, of course, before taking a photo of a naked, sleeping Jen without her consent.

She-Hulk worked as a commentary on modern dating being a nightmare. The endless swiping, the dates with under-whelming people with a superiority complex, and yeah, even getting ghosted. All a “nightmare.” But with this episode and this final scene, things took a turn into the genuine, unfunny sort of nightmarish. As if every woman and femme-presenting individual doesn’t go out with a stranger without sending their picture, and the exact address of where they’ll be to a trusted contact — not to mention the amount of trust it takes to get to a position where you’re sure your trust and your person won’t be violated. It’s not fun scary, or superhero movie scary; it’s a very real sort of horror that was tacked on to the end of this episode of She-Hulk for a cliffhanger.

And the sad thing is, I’m not even sure the writers realize just how horrifying that final scene will read to so many people. Maybe this was viewed through the detachment of being a superhero story with a superhero cliffhanger. It may not register to someone who likely doesn’t have a low-level threat warning running through their brain constantly during waking hours that being photographed in such a vulnerable way without consent, by someone you were meant to trust, is a genuine, real-world horror — especially in a world that has established the existence of a site like Intelligencia, which is almost certainly not above posting revenge-porn images of She-Hulk in her Jen form.

It’s not even as though this plot point couldn’t have still happened without the outright ick factor of the final scene. Say Jen and Josh were having a cozy night in, cooking dinner before going to bed, and she cuts herself. Josh oh-so-sweetly helps her clean it up, somehow pockets a sample that way, and — I cannot stress this enough — does not take violating non-consenting nude pictures of Jen. Is that kind of blood sample viable for HulkKing purposes? Well, this episode does feature a man/bull hybrid and two characters who can turn into large monsters, so I think we can suspend our scientific disbelief just a little.

Until this week, the show was a delightful breath of fresh air. It had the vibe of a procedural comedy, it had enough MCU cameos without overdoing it, and it featured a largely female cast that all walked the line between apt and comedic social commentary and the kind of action demanded of a superhero show. This is not to level an accusation at Wells personally, because I don’t know him personally. It’s also not to suggest that men can’t write women either, because that’s not true. But when the plot hinges on such specific experiences that form a real-life horror for so many — the kind that would warrant a tag or a trigger warning in romance fiction — it makes me wonder why this story was given to a man to tell. Why did the female writers on this show only get to tell the funny side of things, while steering clear of the horror they might have brought real nuance to?

I don’t have an answer to that. I can only hope that She-Hulk does much, much better about this heading into the final two episodes.

Rating: C+

The first seven episodes of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law are streaming now on Disney+, with new episodes released weekly every Thursday.

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