Warning: This article contains spoilers about the season finale of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law threw the Marvel Cinematic Universe rulebook out the window to deliver a unique and subversive finale. Unsatisfied with how messy the plot was getting, Jen Walters aka She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany) literally rewrote her own ending, breaking the fourth wall (and the Disney+ homepage) to enter a different series, Marvel: Assembledand using her superpower of being a lawyer to argue for a better finale — first with the actual She-Hulk writers’ room before confronting Marvel boss Kevin Feige himself … or rather, the artificial intelligence named KEVIN, aka Knowledge Enhanced Visual Interconnectivity Nexus, “the most advanced entertainment algorithm in the world.” The episode reached new levels of meta that was perfect for the irreverent legal comedy that spent its entire first season subverting what Marvel fans have come to expect. But the finale didn’t always unfold that way.
Head writer Jessica Gao tells EW that “it was a long, long, winding road” to figure out the perfect ending for season 1 of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law because she had been placing limitations on herself. “When we first started talking about the finale, I was really of the mindset that now is the point where I have to make a Marvel ending,” Gao says. “We got to have our fun with our little show and do something different but there is a certain Marvel formula, and now is the point when we have to really get with the program. And by the way, no one is telling me this, this is just me mistakenly thinking this. But that was my expectation: ‘Now was the time to do the Marvel ending.’ And I can’t even count how many different versions of a finale that I actually wrote in script form. But none of them felt right.”
Marvel Studios; Inset: Katie Jones/Variety via Getty Images
She ultimately realized that none of her ideas were working because the “typical Marvel ending” just wasn’t right for this show. And the inspiration to break all the Marvel rules came from a very surprising source. “It wasn’t until Kevin said there’s no reason to make it a ‘Marvel ending,'” Gao remembers. “He said, ‘This isn’t a Marvel movie. You’re not making a Marvel movie, so why are you trying to force a Marvel movie ending? This show from the beginning has been completely different than anything we’ve ever done . It’s completely new, so there’s absolutely no reason to try to make it , at this point, the same as everything else. Make it its own thing. Do what you want to do with it.’ That really freed me to think, to shed these expectations that I thought were being put on me and really just go out of the box with it.”
Gao turned to the She-Hulk comics and saw how the character literally ripped through the pages in John Byrne’s run to jump through panels, argue with the writer, and even went to the Marvel offices to complain about her story arc. “It just feels so natural that, of course, for a character that broke the fourth wall, that was super meta, of course she would do the TV version of that, which is go talk to the head of the studio and complain and demand for the ending to change,” Gao says.
When She-Hulk confronts the writers’ room in the finale, Gao makes a cameo as one of the writers, but she never intended to put herself in the show. “I was only pitching that She-Hulk goes to the Disney lot and goes to the Marvel office and goes straight to Kevin; he was the one who actually suggested that she go to the writers’ room,” Gao says. “I very specifically didn’t initially pitch the writers’ room because I don’t want to be accused of being self indulgent, I don’t need to be putting ourselves into this show.”
And the idea for making Feige an AI robot also went through multiple different ideas first. “I’d first pitched that when she finally got to Kevin’s office, we would stunt cast it with some handsome debonair actor like George Clooney in a tux drinking a scotch, and that we were basically saying that’s actually Kevin,” Gao says with a laughs. “But then I thought it’d be even weirder and wilder and funnier if Kevin was a big Akira-style AI brain.”
While everyone in the writers room loved that idea, Gao tried to one-up it again. “I was like, ‘No, wait, I can even beat that idea, wait ’til you guys hear this: She-Hulk goes through all the security, she gets into Kevin’s office, and then there’s a throne with a pillow and a little puppy on the pillow, and that puppy is Kevin!’ And then the room revolted against me,” she admits with a laugh. “This writer Zeb Wells started screaming at me, ‘What are we talking about here? Kevin is a puppy?!’ And that was when I knew I went too far, so then I said, ‘Okay, we’ll just go back to the last pitch I made, the last one everybody liked.’ And so Kevin is a robot.”
Gao even wanted to get the real Feige to voice the KEVIN robot. “Of course I tried to get him to voice himself, but I knew he was never going to do it,” she says with a laugh. “He shut that down immediately and definitively. But he was totally open to all of the rest of it. That scene is very much a reflection of the relationship I have with Kevin in real life. So much of what they say to each other is from actual conversations I’ve had with Kevin.”
Below, check out EW’s exclusive look at a page from the She-Hulk season finale script, complete with Gao’s notes.
The first season of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is now streaming on Disney+.
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