In this gripping two-hour season premiere, David travels to Hawaii, where he meets a beautiful psychiatrist who agrees to take him on as a hypnosis patient–and then as a husband after they fall in love.
For the second season premiere of The Incredible Hulk When Season 2 of The Incredible Hulk began series creator Kenneth Johnson wanted to ensure it started right. While the majority of season one episodes were formulaic, standalone episodes written and directed by a variety of people, Johnson himself returned to write and direct this two-hour episode Married.
While the set-up of this episode is similar to most others in the series, the tone of Married resembles no single episode, but rather the pilot movie for The Incredible Hulk. Both are slow-paced dramatic stories of David Banner (Bill Bixby) searching for a medical breakthrough, all the while falling in love with a blond scientist aiding him with his research. In Now Playing’s podcast review Stuart in LA called The Incredible Hulk pilot “a superhero origin without a villain.” Like the pilot, Married has no villain; there are no smugglers, drug dealers, or mafioso. But it also has no origin story; David Banner is already the Hulk.
Yet despite those absences, Married is considered to be one of the best episodes of The Incredible Hulk, and the only episode of the series to win an Emmy award when guest star Mariette Hartley won for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Dr. Caroline Fields. Additionally, like the two pilot movies before it, Married received theatrical release internationally with the title Bride of the Incredible Hulk. By taking the formulaic superhero series and making a feature-length dramatic episode Johnson found success.
That said, the episode is a bit of an oddity for this series, and I wonder how the viewers who enjoyed watching Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) put the smack-down on criminals felt about watching a psychological drama that served as a psychological exploration of David Banner’s psyche. I know it wasn’t what I expected out of this series to be sure!
The episode opens with David in Hawaii. There’s a great line when he tells Caroline it was very difficult for him to get to Hawaii and she asks “Did you swim?” David laughs and says “Almost, yes.” So the show acknowledges it’s hard for working people to afford a trip to the big island, let alone David who previously didn’t have enough money to use a pay phone.
Dr. Caroline Fields is a psychologist and expert in hypnotherapy. David has gone to Hawaii to find her in the hopes that she can help him cure his bursts of anger that trigger the release of the Hulk. It’s a bit more of a naturalistic solution to the Hulk problem, versus the science-fiction radiation treatments that have failed David so often in the past.
David’s unlucky streak continues, however, as he arrives on Caroline’s last day; she’s taking an extended sabbatical. David follows the doctor out, pleading with her to take his case, but she refuses and refers David to one of the associates at the institute. David equates that to “Going to see Michelangelo and getting one of his apprentices” and refuses to give up. He even stalks Caroline, following her to her house, and I’m thinking this is not a great way to convince a psychologist that he is sane and deserving of her help. It is more likely she will file a restraining order against him.
When he arrives at her house he finds her hooked up to an EEG machine and performing self-hypnosis. This is shown in a visual montage of effects similar to the opening credits of every Hulk episode, showing close-ups of her cells, her trachea, her brain, her veins, and even her heart and blood cells. It’s a visually striking montage, and also reminiscent of the Hulk pilot when David is experimenting on himself. It ends with Caroline having a seizure in the chair. It’s shot in an extreme way, using a fish-eye lens positioned right above her head, her neck craned back to look into it, attempting to provide the distorted tunnel-vision point-of-view of a seizure victim.
David rushes to her aid, breaking through her glass door, cutting his arm on the glass. Once her fit ends she realizes he’s helped her, and responds with kindness–instead of calling the cops about her stalker she bandages his arm.
While tending to David’s wounds we find out that she has a terminal illness. It is one of those fictitious Hollywood glamorous diseases where the afflicted woman looks perfectly right up until the time of their tragic death, but it is described as similar to Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but it also causes circulatory malfunction and her cells are malfunctioning, refusing to repair themselves. She is shocked at David’s ability to diagnose the disease, and when he tells her he worked at in advanced genetic disease research at the Culver Institute in California her face brightens. She asks if he worked with Dr. Banner, and David wryly says “quite closely.”
Then we get a bit of backstory that I wondered about since the pilot episode. In that podcast I wondered if David had been researching strength enhancement before his wife died or if he just accomplished a lot of research in less than a year. Here we get more of David’s backstory, told in third person by David himself. While his wife Laura was alive David’s focus of research was curing of genetic diseases like the one Caroline suffers. After Laura’s death David abandoned his genetic research and switched the focus to strength enhancement.
After learning Caroline’s secrets David spills his own, revealing his true identity as well as his alter ego as the Hulk. He again asks for her help, asking her to give him hypnotherapy will help him control Hulk. Caroline is willing, but simply cannot–she only has six to eight weeks to live. She is hoping that through self-hypnosis she can find a way to arrest her own illness, and she cannot take time away from that pursuit to help him.
But David offers to stay in Hawaii and help Caroline. He claims the reason is that if he can help her have more time to live then maybe she can help him control the Hulk. In Bixby’s performance though I get that David is helping because it’s what David does, helps those in need. Possibly David is also anxious to return his life to a bit or normality as well, performing genetics research as he did before the Hulk entered his life.
We then have several scenes of David looking into microscopes, talking about mitochondria, and other technobabble that reminds me of the pilot episode and it’s slow pacing, spending lots of time on the science research. That languid pace is repeated here, which is not shocking given that Johnson is once again writing and directing the show.
But, also like the pilot, the focus here is on David’s relationship with his research partner. In the pilot we saw David’s unspoken reciprocated love with Dr. Elaina Marks. Here we see Caroline and David researching, spending all day and night together, taking respites on the beach, and making progress with her illness. With the acting of both Bixby and Hartley I believe the relationship is genuine and enjoy watching it progress.
But after a few days of research Caroline cannot resist the chance to help David in return. She puts him under hypnosis, having him revisit the events of his first metamorphosis. We see the scenes in flashback as David recounts the events, and when he starts to get worked up Caroline calms him down through hypnosis.
I love David’s description of becoming the Hulk for the first time: “I had a feeling inside me like 100 people shouting all at once. Like a locomotive beginning to roll.” For a year viewers watched David transform, but now we finally hear what it’s like for him to transform, and it does not disappoint.
What is slightly disappointing is that David blacks out totally when he becomes the Hulk. But Caroline tries to push him further, to find the repressed memories of what the Hulk did that night–and he does get some images! The film style changes, to an almost frame-by-frame slow motion of his first transformation, of Hulk smashing the car. Then Caroline jumps to his second transformation, and David recounts his dream in the hyperbaric chamber. He tells of the good times with Laura, and then the car accident in which she died. Footage from the pilot is used liberally here.
I’m torn on these retellings. When this episode aired in 1978 it had been almost a year since The Incredible Hulk pilot aired. Without the benefit of home video, video-on-demand, or even syndication, audiences would have not had a chance to revisit this pilot except in the rare rerun. By putting these scenes in the second season opener Johnson allows latecomers to see the exciting scenes from the pilot that populate the opening credits every week. It also reiterates David’s full backstory, the death of his wife and the direction of his research. And I do love that we hear David’s own retelling of events, giving us insight into the origin of our hero.
By the same token, these scenes are very drawn out and while David’s viewpoint is a nice shading, there’s no new information here. And while these scenes were exciting in the pilot, seeing them as they happened, the slow-motion flashback style robs the scenes of all excitement and tension. While I watched the pilot a month ago, not a year, I find myself thinking that Johnson may have overplayed his hand by bringing back too many scenes from the pilot all in the first hour of this episode.
Hulk-Out #1: As David tells of Laura’s fatal car accident and his recurring nightmares reliving the event his emotions become heated and Caroline’s hypnotic suggestion to stay detached have no effect. As he relives the death of his wife, David shoots up in the chair, he growls in his Hulk voice “I couldn’t get her out!” and his eyes go white.
This is the first time since the pilot that David has transformed without a task for Hulk to perform. Be it to take out aggression on a car, land an airplane, or beat up a mobster, when Hulk comes out I’m pretty sure of what he’ll smash. But in this scene, for the first time since his transformation in the hyperbaric chamber I don’t know what Hulk will do. I am enraptured, and Caroline is, rightly, petrified.
The transformation is one of the best ever as well. First, that animated green blob that annoyed me so much season one is finally gone. They show Bixby’s face in make-up, but the make-up is much improved. Instead of green kabuki make-up and silly Groucho Marx eyebrows, now they have applied latex moldings to his face. It now really makes Bixby himself look larger and more muscular. The shot is bottom-lit, like a kid using a flashlight to distort his face while telling a scary tale by a campfire. It makes Bixby look even more inhuman. Intercut with shots of the clothes tearing I see that the make-up and transformations have received a second season upgrade, and I like it!
On the commentary Johnson mentioned that Bixby had little patience for the make-up process employed here, which may explain the more lackluster transformations of the first year. Still, it’s an astounding moment and I can only hope Bixby’s distaste for the latex process doesn’t force a return to the cheesier transformations and reverse transformations going forward.
When the transformation is complete we see Hulk, also bottom-lit from a lamp, and he starts to smash Caroline’s house. He goes for the window, his normal means of escape, but Caroline says “no” so Hulk stops. But while he obeyed that first order, Hulk is testing his boundaries. He seems to toy with the psychologist, kicking a table in her direction. Here Ferrigno is showing true menace, more than I ever saw him show to one of the villains-of-the-week. There seems to be some intelligence in Hulk’s eyes, and his actions are not those of an unleashed berserker but that of an evil demon who wants to show Caroline who’s the boss. I don’t know why Hulk is this way–is it an after-effect of the hypnosis? Was it the hypnotic control that stopped Hulk from smashing the first wall? Whatever it is, Hulk almost shows a sarcastic smile as he throws a lamp backwards to break a window, and runs out it–cutting his arm on the way out just as David did on his way in earlier this episode.
Then we get a startling jump-cut to a man screaming at the top of his lungs. The loud noise had me jump in my seat, but it was just a Hawaiian luau and show for the tourists; the scream was that of a performer. The noise attracts Hulk, and then the performer screams again–a scream of terror seeing the green giant. All the attendees scatter, but for one curly-haired boy who sits and smiles as Hulk punts the roast pig.
Hulk eventually calms down and the reverse transformation beings, witnessed by Caroline who followed Hulk across the island. This transformation is also without the animated green light, but in Hulk the transition from Hulk to David has never been as elegant as that from David to Hulk and this is no different. We get some fades between shots of various make-ups that, honestly, the green glow helped hide how terrible this effect is. As a child I would watch Hulk and always be excited on the rare occasion that I would see this reverse transformation. As an adult I just know that these look terrible and my memory tells me that in later episodes they would do all they can to not show the transformation back to a human. Seeing this attempt of the effect I understand why.
While cleaning up Caroline’s house from Hulk’s mess she notices that David’s arm is mostly healed, and that the injury Hulk sustained is halfway healed already. David reveals that as a result of his metamorphosis his metabolism is very high, and Caroline gets excited thinking the Hulk may be the key to her cure. She wants to again hypnotize David, to help him control the Hulk, so they can get a sample of his tissue. With that sample Caroline hopes they can cure her disease.
I smile inwardly knowing that this same exact fool’s errand of cultivating Hulk’s tissue is what led Glenn Talbot to his death in Ang Lee’s Hulk. But here we see the plot’s live-action origin!
So Caroline puts David under hypnosis again, and now we get the spotlight of the episode–we get to see inside the mind of David Banner and the Hulk! I have read much about the making of this scene both online and in Lou Ferrigno’s autobiography. But for all the heat and troubles the cast and crew suffered, these scenes are worth it.
It starts like a scene from Oliver Stone’s The Doors, David walking across sand dunes in his bell-bottom jeans. In this desert is the only time the entire series that David and Hulk are on the screen at the same time, and it’s a remarkably powerful sight to behold. Ferrigno plays it so well, all confidence and strength, and puny Banner runs from Hulk!
As this is David’s mind, rules don’t matter, so I let it pass that suddenly some construction equipment appears out of nowhere and David is able to use it to drop a net on the beast. But even the strongest ropes David’s mind can make cannot cage the beast, and so Caroline wakes David up and they plan to try again later.
Now my appetite has been whetted for David’s internal psychological battle, so I find myself less patient with the romantic scenes of Caroline and David. My patience is strained further when David adopts the stereotypical accent and pigeon English of an Asian while bringing home Chinese take-out…I cringe at the offensive stereotype but remind myself this was 35 years ago and this must have passed for a charming flirtation with “mama-san.” We also find out that Caroline was almost married but held off, wanting to put off children and focus on her career. She and David walk the beach, hold hands, and the love theme that played in the pilot during the scenes between David and Elaina is reprised here as David falls for another blond scientist.
I also find myself a bit disinterested when we have hypnosis of Caroline, trying to control her cells and fighting off her disease through the power of her mind. Caroline is using visualization techniques and stock footage in her hypnosis. While there is stock footage of cells and such, Caroline was inspired by David and a grating John Wayne impersonation to visualize her disease as a group of Native Americans attacking a convoy of “pioneers”. The footage in in black-and-white and serves to make me feel like TBS inserted footage of an old spaghetti western in the middle of my Hulk episode. Worse, it’s full of racial stereotypes and a terrible score. I want to back Caroline and her fight against the disease but I am put off by the way the story is told.
I am more interested when National Register reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) arrives on the scene. With the Hulk having been spotted at the luau McGee couldn’t be far behind. Hell, if I were Jack and the Register would pick up my travel expenses I’d research Hulk sightings in Hawaii, Rio, Sydney, and London. As always, when Jack arrives the stakes are upped as David must hide both his Hulk face and his real one. We find out here the Register is offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the Hulk’s capture, so every fortune hunter around will be trying to capture the green beast.
Jack has come to question Caroline about possible Hulk sightings, but unsuspecting of trouble David goes to answer the door. It’s a well-filmed and choreographed dance that occurs. David walks towards the door, and I wonder what will happen to make McGee not see David. But David opens the door! McGee has his back turned, looking away. He spins around, just as David realizes who is there and slams the door shut again. It’s the closest call the two have had so far this series and quite a bit of fun, feeling like a throwback to the comedies of days gone by. Caroline opens the door the second time and shoos away the reporter.
I hoped McGee’s arrival portends an increase in the suspense of the episode, but it didn’t–this is McGee’s only scene in the entire episode. While it’s a fun scene, it does not drive the plot and hardly justifies the flight from Los Angeles for the actor! I really hope Jack Colvin enjoyed his trip to Hawaii, because a vacation is the only excuse for him being here.
Then we go back into the recesses of David’s mind. This time Hulk is in a cage, reaching through the metal bars to grab at David, his captor. I notice Ferrigno’s make-up is shedding in the heat and his sweat, but the scene is still powerful, and made more so when David starts to release a yellow gas tranquilizer in the cage. From this scene came a poster that graced the walls of thousands of boys across America, including me, with Hulk in a cage, the gas swirling about.
But Hulk still breaks out of the cage, and David is awakened again, frustrated that the Hulk is “too damn strong to be caged, even in my imagination!” but Caroline remains optimistic.
At this point we are about halfway through the episode, and I have really enjoyed the performances and the hypnosis scenes. The romance is evolving in a very natural way, with flirtation that has not yet boiled into a love affair, but is certainly at a full simmer. But nothing we’ve seen in the episode so far could prepare me for the wild, crazy ride that was about to come.
Despite her racially biased self-help visualization Caroline gets a pathology report showing no progress against the disease. She has only two to three weeks to live.
I am a fan of Joseph Harnell who did the music for all Hulk episodes, but he insists on playing these test result scenes too large. The instrumentation is akin to that when Janet Leigh is being stabbed in the shower. The score this entire episode is tremendous, even if it does devolve into disco riffs at times, but during these scenes his atonal notes serve to undercut the tension.
Speaking of disco riffs, we get our best disco scenes here as Caroline, upset with her test results, goes on a self-destructive bender. She starts a dangerous, speedy drive in her Mercedes. She happens upon a bar named “Swingers” and pulls into the lot. Perhaps I was naive, perhaps I thought the 70s were a simpler time, but I never expected Swingers to actually be a bar for Hawaiians into partner-swapping. Nor did I expect Caroline to be a freak on a leash. It turns out Caroline also has a monster inside of her–a sex monster, and it’s aching to get out in a big way.
Caroline goes in and drinks fruity cocktails served with pineapple wedges and the disco music plays. The scene is the epitome of the 70s with the waka-waka music and the man with a large afro and sideburns. Then a guy with a porn-style handlebar mustache, his shirt unbuttoned to his naval to show off his gold chains, hits on the drunk psychologist.
This is the exact 70s swinging stereotype mocked in every episode of Three’s Company but here Brad is being entirely serious, and the audience is expected to go with it. “Hello”, he says, “I’m Brad.” Caroline replies “Oh yes, you probably are.” The two then go disco dancing and I cannot contain my laughter. But I stop laughing and my jaw hits the floor when she goes back to his place with another couple.
The dialogue is really something. The other woman says to Caroline “Aren’t they gorgeous?” and Caroline replies “Yes, and their chests are so neatly brushed!” I am dumbfounded. Is this intentional humor poking fun at what men considered “sexy” in the 70s, or is she really turned on by this man’s lush body hair?
Then both women start to dance with Brad then go looking for the hot tub and a bit of group sex. Brad notices how drunk Caroline is and tells his friend “I think we can get out the cheap stuff now” and his friend replies “I can dig it.” The pure 70s-ness of this scene is out of sight, man!
But before Caroline and her new girlfriend can run their hands through the rest of Brad’s brushed body hairs David shows up. He sees Caroline have a momentary breakdown, falling to her knees crying, and tries to go to her but Brad stops David at the door. Looking back and seeing Caroline having a good time with the brunette Brad and the other guy have no reason to believe David even knows Caroline.
In another bit of unintentional comedy, Brad’s friend pops a champagne cork right into David’s chin. David runs past the men to Caroline, but Brad and his friend will not allow this jive turkey to harsh their buzz, so they beat David and throw him off a balcony into a glass table. To which the brunette slut exclaims “Far out!”
Hulk-Out #2: The two studs go to throw David out, but waiting for them is the Hulk. He lifts one of them up by his chest hair and throws him behind a bar (No, I’m not joking). Hulk then super-leaps to the balcony, and seeing him the brunette slut moans in ecstasy and cries “Far out!” again. Hulk goes to toss Brad by his hair, on his head this time, and ends up ripping the swinger’s toupee right off! Brad is as bald as Telly Savalas, and Hulk is just confused by the rug in his hands, so he pushes Brad back through a wall into a bathroom. Hulk then picks up the passed-out Caroline, but the first stud can’t leave well enough alone and throws bottles at Hulk.
Hulk replies by picking up the entire fireplace and tossing it at the bar, causing the house’s second story balcony to collapse–so much for Brad’s sexy swinger pad! No one is hurt in the collapse, but their night, and Brad’s house, is ruined. Hulk finally leaves with Caroline, as the fire starts to spread through the ruins of Brad’s house.
And now I wonder how off-the-rails this episode has gone! I was fine with the slow paced melodrama and romance-through-research of the first hour, and captivated when it evolved to the symbolic representation of the Hulk in banner’s psyche. But suddenly we have devolved to Hulk saving Caroline from poor moral choices and beating up some swinging singles. It went from serious to absurd in the span of a single disco song. I can only presume this was to stretch the episode to a two-hour running length while giving us someone this whole episode for Hulk to fight, but due to the dated nature of the scenes and the crazy, sexual nature of the plot I have gone from praising to mocking this episode. Truthfully, these scenes have to be seen to be believed.
Transforming back into human, David takes Caroline home and puts her to bed. And then they make love…so Caroline still got what she wanted that night, though with maybe only half as many people involved. But David wakes up to find himself alone in bed, and thinking it was wham-bam-thank-you-Banner he runs to look for her. We see Caroline has not gone off on another group sex bender, but is just playing Frisbee with the curly-haired boy from the luau, obviously regretting her life choice to not have kids.
David can read all this in her face, so he asks Caroline to marry him. She doesn’t get it at first thinking it is a gesture, but David tells a story about a tiger and a strawberry that basically says “we may not have much time but let’s enjoy the time we have to the fullest.” They pledge their love to each other, and then they get lai’d–as in they put lais over each other’s necks before their wedding ceremony. It’s a small ceremony but done in the beauty of Hawaii I can think of no spectacle as sweet as these two damned people exchanging rings.
It also is good to see David over Laura once and for all. While David has had girlfriends, and presumably lovers, as he wandered the country, his original motivation for becoming the Hulk was to pay a karmic debt for Laura’s death. His cheap flings in Vegas and Texas cheapened that somewhat in my mind. But now he has had a true love affair, and though everyone knows she is going to die before credits roll it is a sweet and subtle character evolution for David.
The honeymoon is short though as we return to hypnosis scenes. In the desert of David’s mind the scientist is locking Hulk in a large safe. Caroline’s hypnosis is to trap the Hulk so David can release him in controlled circumstances. But even the large vault cannot contain the Hulk.
Meanwhile Caroline’s pilgrims are still fighting those indians, but the cavalry, in the form of a new chemotherapy drug, has come riding over the ridge. Her newfound energy allows Caroline to rescue the curly-haired boy from drowning in the ocean, as well as “play doctor” with Dr. Banner. But her exertion speeds up the progression of her disease.
As David sleeps one night we see more of his desert subconscious, this time without Caroline’s guidance. Hulk is breaking free of his cages and following David in the desert. Then David’s memory changes, leaving Hulk behind and going to happy times with Laura, and then to happy times the past few days with Caroline.
The dream changes again. Caroline, in her wedding dress, takes off her lai and boards a bus driven by the Grim Reaper, in full black cloak. The bus drives away and Caroline waves from the rear window, and try as he might David cannot catch the death bus.
The death of his past and current wife intermingle in David’s dream, and we see where this is going.
Hulk-Out #3: This is another incredible transformation with Bixby wearing facial appliances and good make-up. Hulk stands and begins to smash Caroline’s bedroom before turning on the psychologist herself. Perhaps Hulk is upset at the hypnotist’s attempts to cage him, but he walks towards her menacingly, crushing the bed frame.
But Caroline is determined to get what she needs, and she uses a tool that looks like a pet-hair brush to get a tissue sample from the green beast. He throws her onto the bed, but her soothing words calm him.
The next day David is worried by the bruises Hulk’s slap left on Caroline’s arm, but the cells seem to offer the psychologist the chance at a cure so both doctors put forth all their energies into the research. David thinks that in a sterile hospital environment they can use the Hulk cells to save Caroline’s life.
Unfortunately Banner’s bad luck continues–a hurricane is hitting the island. Caroline’s condition is too critical to wait, and the two newlyweds fight. David accuses Caroline of using too much energy, and we’re meant to understand that Caroline is not just dying of her disease–she traded her life so she could save that of the curly-haired-boy. But she won’t give up without a fight so David takes her Mercedes to the hospital, and we are treated to some grainy, old stock footage of hurricanes while they drive.
In the commentary Johnson said the cinematographer intentionally degraded the new footage shot so as to better match the grainy stock footage. While it did help to minimize the contrast between the two scenes.
That said, where did this hurricane come from? For David’s entire stay in Hawaii he’s been treated to blue skies and sunny times on the beach. There was never any talk of an impending storm, and there should have been. First, had this entire story been set against the background of a storm it would have provided a metaphor for Caroline’s disease and her relationship with David; it would start sunny and the clouds could build as her condition deteriorated. Second, with some set-up this ending wouldn’t feel so random. As is, it feels like a contrivance to keep Caroline from reaching the hospital.
Caroline starts to have a fit in the car and, for some reason, grabs the car door and jumps from the moving car, running off into the storm. David gives chase, and is hit by a car which injures his leg. He still is able to keep pace with the infirm woman, who is grabbing her head and hearing loud noises, but his path is cut off by some fallen electrical transformers. Trapped by the sparks we have
Hulk-Out #4: Hulk can easily smash and throw the transformers and give chase after Caroline, who keeps shouting for David though, again I reiterate, she lept from his moving car. Hulk races through the hurricane, having to tear down a fence to get to Caroline (and I wonder how the sick Caroline got there in the first place). Then the two have a tender moment, as she embraces and kisses the Hulk, saying “At least we never gave up trying. I’ll miss you David,” she dies in the Hulk’s arms. Hulk stands there holding his bride in the torrential storm as sad music plays.
The storm passes, and we see in the light rain Hulk has transformed back into David, still holding Caroline tightly.
We then get a scene the next day of David and the curly haired boy sitting outside Caroline’s house which was demolished in the storm. The boy says he wants to be a doctor when he grows up and hopefully find a cure for what killed Caroline. “I’d never have the chance if it wasn’t for her,” the boy says. He imparts a few other pieces of trite wisdom, such as “My grandma always says people never die so long as someone remembers them,” and that gives David a smile.
As David sits on the beach morning his wife, The Lonely Man theme plays and credits roll.
As I said at the start of this review, at the time this was the most acclaimed episode of the series. Perhaps in 1978 this passed for amazing television, but I must say 25 years later the episode does not shine so brightly.
The show certainly has its high points, all courtesy of the performance of the three principles Ferrigno, Bixby, and Hartley. All three give tremendous performances that make me forget of them as actors and make me believe in the reality of their characters.
Mariette Hartley did not want to be in an episode of The Incredible Hulk. Like Bixby before her she thought starring in a comic book show was beneath her, but she was convinced by her agent who said “Mariette, this is your Emmy.” He was right, she won an Emmy for this performance. But I have to say that while I enjoyed her romance scenes, the rest of her performance was merely passable. Her drunk performance was not convincing, and her rare moments of illness seem affected.
That said, I feel like the romance scenes played out a bit too long. I liked that it added realism to their relationship, but it played unevenly. A montage of science experiments does not a great love story make.
And truly I think that is what Johnson wanted to make, not just a love story but Love Story. Much like previous episodes, this one feels drawn from that big screen hit. The parallels are too profound to ignore. But is that what a viewer of The Incredible Hulk wants to see?
Truthfully the high points of the series for me were not in Hawaii but in David’s mind. The metaphorical confrontations with Hulk, the retelling of his first transformation, these scenes were standouts. I feel in this episode Bixby outshone Hartley in every scene. If this were a movie-of-the-week and not a regular episode perhaps Bixby would have had an Emmy himself, but his nomination would have to be judged on an entire season and I imagine voters may not be as forgiving when we return to the normal Hulk formula. From Banner’s finding a new love to help him get past Laura to his fear at facing his inner beast, it was Banner’s story, not Caroline’s, that interested me. Johnson said in the commentary that he was frustrated Banner and Hulk could never meet and this dream arena was his answer to that problem. I’m glad he found the way to do it, the scenes pay off the contrivance of hypnosis.
These scenes are greatly aided by Ferrigno, giving the best performance of his career. Both in the dreamscape and in Caroline’s house, this is a totally new Hulk under different circumstances. This is a Hulk that would give the youthful me nightmares. To paraphrase the self-help mantra David and Caroline chant on the beach “in every day in every way Hulk is getting better and better”.
But the episode also did not date well. The random swinger subplot is the epitome of pre-AIDS sexual freedom. With the gold chains and the chest hair Brad is a walking, talking stereotype that I could roll with in any other Hulk episode. In this serious drama, however, Brad is out of place.
I do recommend you see Married. The unintentionally comedic Swinger bar scenes have to be seen to be believed, and the Banner/Hulk scenes are some of the best of the series. But it’s not as strong a recommend as I had expected to give it due to the episode’s pacing and uneven atmosphere.