By Dustin Cabeal
Being that this is a comic book site, there’s an expectation that we cover things like comic book TV shows. For the most part we’ve given up on this because how many times can you say “The Flash is boring because all Barry wants to do is bang Iris, and that gets in the way of storytelling!” or “Shield lost its relevancy after Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the Inhumans suck.” It’s been a while since a new comic book TV show premiered. Maybe I missed one, but I doubt it, and so here we are watching and reviewing a comic book related TV shows under some guise of duty because “comic books.”
Powerless comes across as rejected Better Off Ted scripts that were hyper-injected with DC movie and comic references. In the first episode, they even make fun of Batman v. Superman as a meta attempt to say, “We listen to the fan base, see we get it,” but ultimately, it’s just a joke the writers like and the WB will continue not to get the joke.
The show stars Vanessa Hudgens in what’s sadly her first mature role. The last time I saw her was in Sucker Punch playing a teenager. In Powerless, she’s a grown ass adult and carrying the entire show. I mean that both regarding acting and the script because nothing moves or transpires without her character. She’s like the main character in a Role-Playing Game waiting to enter a room and trigger the story flags.
Hudgens’ character Emily Locke is new to Charm City, which is a city filled with walking internet trolls, seriously, not a single one of them still pop for a super fight? Not even the intentionally overweight children? She’s in charge of leading R&D for the Charm City division of Wayne Corps, and she’s read Batman’s fucking book over and over and feels she’s up for the task. The team quickly points out that she’s their fifth boss of the year and that she’s never developed a product. Which is a great point… shouldn’t she have some experience in that? And couldn’t they have just faked her some experience in that? Let’s not pretend that this isn’t going to be conveniently used for the rest of the season, and if by some small miracle the show gets to season 2 (assuming it finishes the first season), it will be forgotten and dropped… so why not just give her some experience? Even if it’s just a new way to churn butter or some shit.
The crux of the episode is that Bruce Wayne has decided to close the department because they don’t do shit. They come up with ridiculously expensive ideas, or they steal other companies ideas and make cheap versions of it. There’s a Joker anti-toxic reference twice in the episode, and neither were funny or made sense with what the fuck was going on in the episode. Eventually, they get to this, and if you don’t figure it out by the second time, I pray that you’ll get it by the fourth… or fifth time that it’s baited. A miracle happens, they make a useful product, and another shitty Batman joke comes from it. The show/the company get to continue… aren’t we all lucky.
The assistant to the boss played by Christina Kirk was the only person that was amusing in a non-asshole way. Her interaction with Hudgens brought out the only two moments in the show that weren’t terrible. The three R&D characters are the same character, but with different disciplines of “Snark.” Pudi is more of the classic snark, while Ron Funches is a passive aggressive snark and lastly is Jennie Pierson whose character comes across as threatening and violent… but never in a funny way. I began to actively dislike her character whenever she appeared on the screen and was thankful for the quick pacing that moved the show through scenes at a frantic pace.
There is one good thing about Powerless… it looks fantastic. Whoever shot it and decorated the sets did an incredible job. It all looks like a set, but in a way, that isn’t annoying. It’s bright; it’s colorful, it's everything other superhero TV shows are not. I hope that they keep that up since there’s already nine more episodes in the can and ready to release.
Listen, pilots are rough. They suck to write as much as they suck to view. That said, they could have trimmed all the damn DC references down and had an instantly better product. They could have paced the comedy better and not tried to get Danny Pudi to reprise his role on Community. They could not have watched two seasons of Better Off Ted and then tried to write the third as if the company had been purchased by Wayne. I wish I were joking or being mean on that last one, but they have fake commercials in the episode… just… like… Better… Off… Ted.
Powerless E.01 – “Wayne or Lose”