The Incredible Hulk as Tragedy

The Incredible Hulk as TragedyI was just over at my sister’s house and so I saw a bit of television. In this case, an episode of The Incredible Hulk episode “The Psychic.”

It was the same as every other episode of The Incredible Hulk: David Banner gets involved in a situation, he turns into the Hulk twice, and at the end of the episode David is walking out of town.

But in this episode there is a psychic who can tell the future of people she touches. At the end, the psychic hugs David before she gets on the bus. And as they hug, we know she sees his future. And she cries. Because David Banner is a tragic character. There is no happy ending for him.

This is interesting because the show implicitly promises that he will eventually find a fix to his problem. But this episode shows that this is not the case. He will be fighting with the Incredible Hulk for the rest of his life. He will die still trying to solve his problem.

There Is No One-Armed Man

This is why The Incredible Hulk is more interesting than The Fugitive. There is no solution. David Banner is a cursed man. And it is tired conceit of the show that The Incredible Hulk will never kill because David Banner would never kill. We all know that under the right circumstances, we would kill. And we would be right!

Time and again, the Hulk doesn’t kill people who deserve to be killed. The show has roughly a Jainist approach to life. The truth is that his id would kill anyone who did him wrong, regardless of how innocent they might be. If a man who worked for Physicians for Social Responsibility and had saved thousands of innocent people sucker punched me, causing me to turn into The Incredible Hulk, I would mess him up — if not kill him. That’s the way the brain works.

This is why Kung Fu works better as a series than The Incredible Hulk.

And don’t get me wrong: I believe in that approach to life. I don’t believe that killing one person will make up for the death of another. But the theme of The Incredible Hulk doesn’t make much sense. Caine is in control. When he fights, it isn’t the result of his id taking control.

The Incredible Hulk Is a Matter of Control

David Banner loses control of his ego and his negative id takes over. But it never kills people who are clearly deserving. Caine would never do that.

So David Banner is a tragic character. The show may always find a way to make The Incredible Hulk (David Banner’s negative id) blameless for any harm (particularly death), it makes no sense. The show must keep up the pretense that The Incredible Hulk would never kill because David Banner never would. You have to ask yourself, “If you didn’t have your ego to stop your id, wouldn’t you kill some people — especially the villainous people that David Banner ran into week after week?”

I love The Incredible Hulk. It was a great show that was a lot of fun. But it was never a show that one should think about too much.


In the last television movie of the Incredible Hulk, The Death of the Incredible Hulk, David Banner does indeed die. So ultimately, even the creators knew they were making a tragedy.

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