Powerless: Emily Dates a Henchman

Now this was actually an improvement. While there are still a few kinks to iron out when it comes to delivery, some of those jokes have actually started to land.

I finally figured out what my problem with the show is — sort of, anyway. It’s modulation. See, everyone deserves a change in sentence melody and emphasis every now and again, and that’s the one thing these characters have not been getting. I wrote last week that what was missing was each figure’s thing, something to recognise them by. This can be a running gag, a recurring kind of punchline through different sorts of jokes, or a particularly terrible streak of puns. So in trying to give each character on this show a thing, the writers gave each one voice, and one voice only.

I mentioned in my pilot review that Emily is just disgustingly happy-go-lucky, but then… she stayed that way. And yes, that can work, because it makes moments in which comedy characters react markedly differently stand out. (Just think about Gina throwing down her badge and following Captain Holt to the PR department. I dare you not to gasp and cry into your cereal a little bit.)

Trouble comes when the voices aren’t consistent — and when they’re the only thing you ever hear from a character. See, not every line a character speaks can be delivered in that manner of speech, i.e. their signified punchline voice, it will make everything sound the same. And in the past three episodes, the jokes were basically a pearl necklace (too soon?) of lines tacked onto each other, each delivered in each character’s signature style. I mean, every episode is only 20 minutes long, what are they going to do, but… you can’t speak in only punchlines, it doesn’t work. Especially when half of them don’t really work because that delivery is just ever so slightly off. There has to be other stuff.

As silly as it sounds, even comedy eventually needs plot.

Photo from the episode "Emily Dates A Henchman"

So when Emily is gently bullied into entering the dating world again, we’re actually getting some of that plot. Plus, an actual subplot for Teddy, Ron, and Van — an unlikely trio, I grant you, but they jibe surprisingly well. For all that the show is DC Multiverse-adjacent, this is the first episode that’s not just using the Evil Pumpkin and Crimson Fox. Batman makes an appearance, Van really wants to be Robin, and the Riddler’s henchman Emily is dating has had a nasty run-in with Green Lantern. The episode is better for it, because it finally moors the show to something; and the episode is better for having a plot because it finally provokes actual reactions. Also: Pudi is finally getting more than two lines at a time! My heart! Vanessa gets to have more than two facial expressions! Ron wasn’t as lucky this episode, but I feel like his chemistry with Pudi has improved.

Dan. Dan, Dan, Dan, also known as Major Lilywhite from the CW show iZombie. Turns out, dating a henchman is really just like dating a base player in college.

What I really don’t understand: what’s the Gilmore Girls on Dan’s lock screen for? Like… why is that supposed to be funny? Was there a punchline in there somewhere? ‘Cause I can’t see it, what with all the eye-rolling I’m doing.

Good lines:

Ron: The acceptance of a racist grandfather is still my white whale.

Jackie: … someone who will make you his problem and not ours.

Van: I know you can hear me, DORK KNIGHT.

Van: Jackie, get a pair of scissors and cut me out of this suit. Emily, what you still doing at work, get a boyfriend or summin’.

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