This review was written before the news that Powerless had been cancelled before finishing its first season. This review may help the shows super fans understand what the network was thinking.
Powerless is(was) a television show on NBC and streaming Hulu. It’s a half hour show about the daily lives of innocent bystanders in a universe where superheroes are real. Specifically. the DC comic universe. How do non-heroes survive when a villain attacks your favorite deli?
Emily Locke(Vanessa Hudgens) is an enthusiastic go getter from a flyover state. Nothing ever happens to her in her quiet town, but she wants to help, so she goes to work at Wayne Tech Industries in Charm City. There she will lead a team of engineers to make safety products for everyday citizens, dealing with the annoyances of alien invasions, mega villains, vigilante justice, etc.
Her team of engineers are wacky slackers. Teddy(Danny Pudi), Ron(Ron Funches), and Wendy(Jennie Pierson) would rather surf the internet and play around than work. Together they are great, creative, pains in Emily’s ass.
Her boss, Van Wayne(Alan Tudyk) was born a Wayne, inherited his branch of the company from his father, and wants nothing more than to move to the main branch in Gotham. Jackie(Christina Kirk) is Van’s overqualified, put upon personal assistant. She is the cynical foil to Emily’s overly optimistic views.
There is a lot to like about this show, but some of the character tropes they use are very painful to watch. Emily is the overly sweet, naive, stubborn, enthusiastic small town girl trying to make it in the big city. Wendy is the nerdy/weird girl who doesn’t understand social boundaries and tells creepy/wacky sex stories. Teddy is the textbook younger brother of a space doctor. Ron is the people pleaser/chubby teddy bear. Van is the spoiled daddy’s boy dudebro and Jackie is the calm, capable single mother who ends up always being right. I like them, but it means that many of the episodes are predictable.
Major DC characters are mentioned or hinted at but never seen outright. Batman, the Joker, The Riddler, the Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Aqua Man have all been alluded to or mentioned in everyday conversation. The DC characters we get to see are lesser known heroes and villains. Green Fury, Crimson Fox, The Olympian, and Jack-O-Lantern have all been in the DC universe before appearing in the show.
There are a few nods thrown in for the super nerd, but unlike other shows that try to bank on the geek is chic craze, Powerless doesn’t require that you have any nerd cred. The nods are designed so that everyone can enjoy it, no matter what level of nerdom you are at. If you’re new to being a geek and only know superhero stuff because of movies, great ,there are jokes for you. If you have been a DC geek your entire life and know all the backstories to all the characters, great, you can appreciate the jokes for the n00b.
This is by no means brilliant life altering television. It’s a half an hour of fun, predictable plots, with characters that I like. There are a few nods to nerd culture, which make me giggle. I don’t feel alienated for being the wrong kind of geek when I watch this, but I don’t feel inspired to cosplay any of the characters or devote my life to making sure this show gets more seasons. I hope it gets a second season, but if it doesn’t I won’t be mourning its loss.
3 out of 5 stars
You can currently stream all 9 episodes of Powerless on Hulu or Amazon Video.