Strip to Stream: She-Hulk, Harley Quinn and Locke & Key, Reviewed
Streaming services, cable TV and Primetime television are fighting for your viewership now more than ever. UNBINGED is here to help you weed through it all, with reviews of the latest shows that highlight what we love, what we hate and what we love to hate-watch, too. This week we take a look at new TV based on comic books, from Marvel’s new green goddess, She-Hulk, to Netflix’s family versus phantom saga Locke & Key to DC’s sexiest supervillian sidekick Harley Quinn, now in a well-deserved spotlight.
She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (Disney+)
Disney+’s She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (AKA Beauty and the CG Beast) is a hilarious new effort for the small screen that stands out from the other MCU shows. Its chaotic nature, self-reflexive humor, and high energy (thanks to actress Tatiana Maslany) makes it a playful alternative to super serious superheroes who sometimes get side-tracked in their own mythology.
After an accident causes her blood to mix with her cousin Bruce Banner’s, attorney Jennifer Walters finds herself in superhero territory as she is now able to “Hulk out.” But becoming a “liability” and losing her job at the DA’s office, the brilliant lawyer is tapped to head a new “superhero law division” of GLK&H Law Firm where she has to defend meta-humans of all sorts…good and bad.
Unlike previous Marvel shows, She-Hulk isn’t doing a lot of the heavy lifting (pardon the pun). Neither she nor the show attempts to carry over a previous storyline, or to help develop a complicated concept to prep an audience for an upcoming story arc. Rather, She’s just out to have a good time (for now).
This is by far the most ludicrous and amusing of the new Marvel shows. Though different incarnations of the comic book have developed Walters’ dark side, the Disney+ version has opted for the lighter shade of green, keeping the premise and the tone fluffy and fun. Fans of the long-running comic (though not recent versions of the superhero) will find that this version is more on par with her original incarnation: silly, sexy, confident and friggin’ savage with the clapbacks. And because She-Hulk lacks history and character familiarity with most of the audience, the show can make good use of the original comic’s fourth wall breaks, appealing to the audience directly.
The meta humor is a nice break for Marvel fans who love to be in on the joke. Its self-referential tone helps it stand out from the other Disney+ spandex efforts that sometimes take themselves too seriously. She-Hulk’s ability to call out the absurdity of the MCU and the rules it abides by, as well as a few of its previous plot lines, is what makes it a fun watch. And though far from perfect (that CGI takes a bit of getting used to), for the most part it’s a smashing success.
Locke & Key (Netflix; Season 3)
In the final and third season of the Joe Hill comic book adaptation, the meddling Locke kids once again find themselves hip-high in hijinks as those gosh-darn magical keys once again prove to be too much of a temptation. This time around, along with the usual double-edged swords that the keys represent and the occasional self-serving evil entities, the Lockes are now plagued by the evil spirits of British revolutionary soldiers.
Sadly, the series, while still rich with creativity and character development, hits a slump in this third outing. Though there’s new villains to fight against, the battles against a trio of Funky Phantoms feel too familiar; just more supernatural baddies from the spiritual realm who want the keys. We’ve seen it time and time again throughout the three year run and it’s getting old.
In addition to the lack of truly creative foes, the kids are their own worst enemies. Bode (Jackson Robert Scott) makes terrible decisions and his small fits really test the patience of viewers forced to watch yet again as the youngest Locke creates more problems for the family and the world as well. Like, can we just send this kid away to military school? That would solve 80% of the issues here.
In the end, the curtain draws for the Netflix series in a milquetoast final outing that wraps up the story but offers repetitious conflicts in a labored effort to reach a conclusion. The story ends for the Lockes, not with a bang, but with a whimper, making it easy to lock up the viewing and throw away the key.
Harley Quinn (HBO Max; Season 3)
After a bit of a delay, the foul-mouthed, animated Queen of Crime has returned to streaming and hopefully, a larger audience than previously seen. Joker’s former squeeze is back on HBO Max. After living a half-existence on the DC Universe streaming app for its first two seasons (which were then aired on HBO), Harley is finally given the platform to test her raunchy wings. And man, does she fucking soar.
Filled with tons of bawdy jokes and cartoon gore, Harley Quinn as played and produced by Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory, The Flight Attendant) is the adults-only animation Batman fans have been clamoring for. As Batman tends to live in the dark, Harley lives in the dark side of humor, allowing her mouth to run amok without much of a filter. The series paints Harley less as a head case and more of a misguided miscreant who thinks with her heart rather than her head, and honestly, it’s refreshing.
Though Harley was born from Batman: The Animated Series, she was only seen through the lense of the heavies on the show, rarely given a moment to shine unless it served to further Joker’s storyline. By allowing her to find her own identity and self expression, first through her breakup with Joker, then again through her love of Ivy, Harley becomes more real. Even in 2D form.
In this third outing, Harley and Ivy are officially Gotham’s Hot Crime Couple, as the duo make it official and try to take over the city…together. In all honesty, it’s great to see. Sure, they are chaotic as hell, killing innocents in their wake and leaving a trail of destruction a mile wide everywhere they go, but given the fact that there are few same-sex couples ever shown on the small screen with a healthy, passionate sex life and a drive to want to make their relationship work, it’s a win. It might be fleeting, but their relationship and the show’s ability to get down and dirty with a few of the darkest villains in comics history, makes Harley a novelty and a joy for any true Batman fan.
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