Honestly, I can’t make up my mind about Powerless yet. For once, I agree with many of the main line TV critics out there in that the concept is great. Vanessa Hudgens plays the wide-eyed Emily, who’s moved from the country to the big city “to make a difference in the world.” She’s the new development executive at Wayne Securities in Charm City. On her first day, she discovers that she has only been hired to make her boss (Alan Tudyk) look good, and that company owner Bruce Wayne is planning to cut the entire staff. Tudyk’s character is a captial-J Jerk (and quotes a certain over-spray-tanned executive more than once). I’m excited to see the Firefly veteran in a villain role, because everything he does is hilarious.
Unfortunately, the pilot didn’t really let anyone shine. There’s an experienced comic cast working to bring these scripts to life, but the writing simply doesn’t give them enough to sink their teeth into. On its face, the idea of a corporation designed to make products to help people stay safe from superhero fallout is full of interesting questions and comedic potential. However, the writing team seems to be going for a tone somewhere between Ugly Betty and Super Store that feels stifled and just isn’t clicking… yet. I do hope the key word ends up being “yet”. Supergirl had a rocky start and managed to stick around long enough to become a great addition to the DC TV family.
With the brighter tone and comedic storyline, DC seems to be trying to mine for something missing in the rest of their on-screen lineup. The light-hearted hope and humor that Marvel has sprinkled so liberally throughout its TV and film offerings is infectious, pulling from the same font of inspiration that made shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer so popular – a world with personality, great characters, and not taking anything too seriously most of the time. Like its recent movie attempts, however, DC has yet to create a robust television slate that can compete with Marvel on that level.
Powerless has potential. Centering as it does on a young, female executive leading a team of mostly men, the opportunities for character growth and social commentary abound. Add to that that Bruce Wayne is kind of the bad guy – or at least the distant boss (no one knows he’s Batman of course) – and you have a brilliant setup for trope inversions at every turn. But so far, it’s just a good concept. Only time will tell if Powerless has any actual staying power.
About Our Rating System:
The Loresworn Order doesn’t give out scores for individual episodes of television. Check back for a verdict at the end of the season.