Powerless Review: Who Says DC Has No Sense of Humor?

Powerless is Warner/DC’s answer to the criticism that their recent wave of feature films are too serious. They’re poking fun at themselves here, which is refreshing.

The self-deprecating joke Van made about, “Heroes fighting each other for vaguely defined reasons” totally won me over. Listen, Snyder decided on a specific tone for the films and I think the term “no fun” has been overused when referencing Man of Steel or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The films are not meant to be “fun,” they’re bleak and depressing by design. My biggest complaint is that they never feel hopeful, which is how I like my superhero films. Clearly, Warner/DC have taken the critique to heart because Justice League is supposed to have a lighter tone.

Aside from the occasional mention of Bruce Wayne or Superman, Powerless is as far removed from the DC Cinematic Universe as it gets. The CW’s DCTV world is slightly closer in tone, but even those shows never get as silly as this workplace comedy. Though I giggled through this pilot and enjoyed all the little Easter eggs, like the Big Belly Burger sign in the distance, I’m not much of a sitcom guy. If I decide to stick with Powerless, it will be the sole half hour comedy show on my DVR. Several years ago, I decided to drop everything that wasn’t genre TV. Serialized storylines keep me coming back each week. I’m just not sure yet if this new series fits with my viewing habits. Perhaps I’ll catch it occasionally via the NBC App or online?

Powerless - Season 1
Courtesy of NBC

Vanessa Hudgens is remarkably charming as Emily Locke. Though her character is a tad overeager and pushy, the actress makes her quite likable. The fact she moved to Charm City because she’s from a “fly over state” explains away her excitement of the battle between Crimson Fox and Jack O’ Lantern. I dig my superhero shows/movies, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard of those DC characters.

The A-list heroes will get plenty of mentions on the series, but it’s highly unlikely someone like Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman will ever cameo on the show. So we get these guys instead. Besides, showrunner Patrick Schumacker has explained that Powerless takes place on “Earth-P,” its own Earth in DC’s Multiverse. That means zero connection to The CW’s “Arrowverse” or the DC Film Universe. The closest we’ll get to seeing our favorite heroes on the show, is probably the retro opening credits sequence (watch it below) which helps set the perfect tone for the show.

I’m a huge fan of Alan Tudyk since his Firefly days. After watching the pilot, I can’t imagine another actor playing Van Wayne. The guy is douchey yet adorkable, and Tudyk makes it all work. How priceless was the scene where he’s trying to get his secretary’s attention to cut short his meeting with Emily. It was an absolutely laugh out loud moment. How about when Bruce calls to inform him Wayne Security is obsolete and he asks Jackie (Christina Kirk), “How do I look?” To which she replies, “Like someone who doesn’t know how phones work.” The clever, snappy dialogue is ridiculously entertaining.

Powerless - Season 1
Courtesy of NBC

As for the rest of the supporting cast, Danny Pudi (Teddy), Ron Funches (Ron) and Jennie Pierson (Wendy) were enjoyable though at times it seemed they were trying a little too hard. I did like when the trio mocked Emily for being their fifth new boss, until she proved herself. Naturally, Wayne Security wasn’t going to shut down in Episode 1, so you knew Emily was going to hit on a “game changing product.” Wasn’t it cool to hear that Batman used the device to catch the Joker? Emily was cluelessly impressed that their invention was swiped by the Dark Knight. Ha! Did they have to call it Jack O’lert though?

Verdict

While I can definitely see myself bingeing these half hour episodes on Netflix, I’m not sure I’ll have the dedication to tune in each week. The pilot worked for me, but I’m not sure how the writers can keep the DC shout-outs or storylines fresh over 22 episodes. If the ratings for the first few episodes even allow the show to run that long. As I mentioned at the top, I’m not a sitcom fan but I can see comics geeks getting a kick out of this series week to week. By the way, Van’s “Marvel” reference wasn’t lost on me, “With great power comes… living in a taint.” Powerless is a funny, refreshing change of pace from today’s typical superhero shows.

Powerless airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.