Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Episodes 1-7 of She-Hulk.
The latest episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law looked like it was headed in an obvious direction. Emil Blonsky’s parole officer Chuck Donelan (John Pirruccello) contacts Jen (Tatiana Maslany), fearful that Blonsky (Tim Roth) may have broken his parole conditions and turned into the Abomination. She meets the officer at Blonsky’s ‘wackadoo ranch’, hulks out, and…
Expectations: They enter the ranch, where Abomination leaps out of a tree and throws Donelan aside. Jen and Abomination scrap, with Abomination gaining the upper hand. With his hands around her throat, he chillingly says to her, “Bring me Banner” before explaining his plan for world domination.
Reality: Nothing. The inhibitor just needed some fixing. But with Man-Bull (Nathan Hurd) wrecking Jen’s prized Prius, she’s stuck at Blonsky’s retreat for a few hours, where we are treated to the Blonsky experience… and it is comic gold.
Blonsky Has Changed a Lot From The Incredible Hulk
To truly appreciate Roth’s deft comedic touch on the character is to remember where the character originated. We are first introduced to Emil Blonsky in 2008’s MCU entry The Incredible Hulk. Born in Russia, raised in England, Blonsky joined the Royal Marines of the British Armed Forces, rising quickly to Captain. He would decline further promotion, opting to remain on the front lines as long as possible. His skill set and leadership bring him to the attention of General “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), where he is pegged to lead a special forces team to capture Bruce Banner (Edward Norton). Banner turns into Hulk, takes apart the special forces team, and evades Blonsky. Blonsky’s mad, and agrees to being injected with Super Soldier Serum. Blonsky loses to Hulk, gets mad, demands more power, and gets more Super Soldier Serum. Denied a battle with Hulk, Blonsky’s mad, and demands even more power, this time getting some of Banner’s blood infused with his own, becoming Abomination. He Fights Hulk, loses, and gets taken to the Vault. Blonsky is majorly intense, passionate about combat, highly competitive, demanding, single-minded, and kind of an a**hole.
The Blonsky of that film was so intense and arrogant that to think he could be repentant at all – about anything – would be folly. Yet not only is he repentant, but he’s also reformed. While in prison he created a literacy program for fellow prisoners, led meditation and yoga, and even gave helpful advice to a prison guard about entering what would have been a disastrous marriage. In other words, the complete and utter opposite of what he was. The juxtaposition between what is and what was lends a whole undercurrent of hilarity to the portrayal, a sense of disbelief that what we’re seeing from Roth is even possible for the character.
Seriously, would one ever think that Emil Blonsky would own a pet, a pet chicken no less, and go out of his way to rescue it? The preposterousness of it compared to what we thought we knew about Blonsky is simply funny. Even better? The name of the chicken is Princess Silk Feather. So now that we’re in a world that shouldn’t even exist, everything that Roth rolls out in his portrayal is golden. There isn’t a single self-help trope that he doesn’t hit, and not a single one that isn’t made slightly off-kilter by the circumstances of the character. The Summer Twilights retreat name and the name of the self-healing group, Abomaste, are both so pitch-perfect that they verge on parody alone.
Blonsky’s Retreat Gives Us More Goofy Supervillains
We know we’re in for a treat with the aforementioned accident to Jen’s Prius. Two characters emerge nearby as Blonsky and Jen stand by her car: Man-Bull and Águila (Joseph Castillo-Midyett). Man-Bull slams Águila into the car’s windshield, prompting Jen to transform and angrily demand an explanation and reimbursement. Blonsky’s reaction to the moment is priceless. He is the picture of calmness, explaining to Jen that the two are ‘working through their resentments in a safe environment’, as if a mutant bull man and a
matador swashbuckler battling is perfectly normal. Blonsky’s taught Man-Bull to take responsibility for his anger, which he does by offering to apologize to the Prius. And when Jen asks how she’s supposed to get home, Blonsky goes full guru, telling Jen to view the time as a teachable moment, that her Prius Prime is the impetus for learning a lesson. The whole scene is ridiculous, with Blonsky the root of it all, and Roth hilariously remains placid throughout.
Then we head into the Wood Lodge (again, pitch-perfect) for Blonsky’s Abomaste session, where we meet two more eccentric characters: Porcupine (Jordan Aaron Ford), aka Alexander Gentry, a man in a porcupine suit, and Saracen (Terrence Clowe), a human that thinks he’s a vampire. Again, Roth doesn’t betray the absurdity of these two new introductions: there are no eye-rolls, smirking, or anything of the sort. It’s an absolute riot how normally he treats the abnormal. Then Dirk Garthwaiter, ‘Wrecker’ (Nick Gomez) enters the room, the same Wrecker that was one of the four men to attack Jen in Episode 3. Justifiably angry, Jen morphs into She-Hulk and throws him into the corner.
Blonsky’s response? “Jennifer, darling, I’m gonna need you to sit in the calming chair now.” Yet another perfect self-help trope delivered by an unshakable Roth, who brings Jen into the group’s discussion, where they all help Jen find peace with her alter ego and move on from Josh (Trevor Salter). After spending some time in the Yurt Hut, Jen emerges to find the tow truck has arrived, and as she prepares to leave, Blonsky and the group of misfits in his care present her with a farewell card they all signed. Seeing them all stand side by side is a priceless visual, Blonsky standing amidst a group of people he would have had no time for in his past.
What’s truly funny about Roth’s portrayal is counter-intuitive: it’s funny by just how unfunny he is with the character. He’s calm in the midst of anarchy, speaks in a soothing voice, and doesn’t bat an eye at the strangeness of what surrounds him. A lesser talent could be tempted to match the idiocy of the situation, but in imbuing the character with a staunch commitment to healing and peace, Roth guides the episode into one of the best of the series so far. Another visit to Summer Twilights? Yes, please.