The thing is, comedy — needs chemistry. Comedy needs for characters to have their bits. I’m not seeing any chemistry. Or bits. (Not like that, you perverts.)
Episodes 2 and 3 of Powerless prove, much as the pilot did, that this show this has some room until they hit the ceiling.
The interactions that are actually gaining some meat are the ones between Emily and Van, and that’s more because she’s openly calling him on his crap — but also because she’s actually supporting him by the end of the third episode, and that’s so forked up, to borrow from The Good Place for a moment. Van is the embodiment of the whiny rich white guy. But then, he also stands up to his father and closes the deal with the Atlantians………….. after Emily invests a ton of emotional labour. She even sings a duet with him, which is cute, I grant you, but the show does a lot of flip-flopping on Van. He’s useless, he could be Emily’s nemesis in re: trying to thwart every good idea because he wants the company to sink and move to Gotham. Sure, now he’s using the products’ success as a jump-off point to snag himself a promotion — same difference, it seems, as Emily first fights him for that promotion and then… sorta helps him be a better boss. As I said, the quarrels between them are getting good, and Vanessa and Alan are actually showing comedy chemistry; but I’m still not sure if the show wants Van to be the hapless villain we all love to hate, or a mostly useless ally-ish foil for Emily and the team.
Between the members of the team… not perfect chemistry yet. It still all feels slightly forced in between the good parts; and they’re not giving Danny Pudi (Teddy) anything to do. At all. Ron Funches (Ron) isn’t much better off, either, although he at least got a Trump joke in. Not a zinger at this point (there’d have been pointier sticks to shake, even at the point that these episodes were recorded), but it’s in the right spirit. Bonus:
Man, even Luthor’s less of a d-bag than the orange menace, but still, A+ analogy.
The show’s recurring punchline is diversity, after all.
Van: What’s wrong with this picture?
Jackie: There are no women or minorities?
Emily: *appropriates Black vernacular*
Ron: I don’t need to tell you why–
Emily: Immediately regretted it.
Teddy: Classic white person, making white person assumptions.
Emily: I’m half Filipino!
Van Sr.: That Filipino woman.
Van: Oh, is that what she is?
These are all good lines; and I’m really happy that they didn’t whitewash Vanessa Hudgen’s character as pretty much every show has done before. The pun game is strong (“hook ’em and reel ’em in,” for starters), and boy, “You’re a turd in my toilet and you can’t even swim,” is one to keep in a binder for that one really annoying co-worker, I just… I’m missing some sort of spark. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m expecting too much? Maybe my brain just switches into super-serious mode before I watch it?
The thing is, every character in comedy needs their bit, something that defines them. At a writers’ room’s best, that’s Captain Holt’s My Robot Exterior Contains Multitudes persona, to name only one example from Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Everyone in that precinct has their thing; as everyone on any decent sitcom ever made had theirs. At this point, you can sorta tell what everyone’s thing on Powerless is, but it’s not utilised for actual punchlines. Even Jackie, who was very obviously Gina’s distant cousin, somehow lost her thing between Episode 2 and 3 a little bit, because they exchanged her ruthlessness for mooning over Alex the alleged Olympian. Yawn.
So, I don’t know? I like it, and I’ll keep watching, because I’m hoping the spark will come and I’ll really connect to the characters.