So Powerless was on a bit of a break, so here’s my double review of two very… different episodes. Different from each other, I mean. But also, from the show at large, each in its own ways.
Episode 5: Cold Season
So, in the interest of finally giving Danni Pudi something to do, the show presents us with a new invention that’s actually cool (hey, look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t enjoy that could heat up your popcorn faster than your microwave, I dare you) and useful. The scene where Emily and Teddy are testing out the gloves is good, it has energy, and so is the one where Teddy confronts Emily with the ugly truth: she entered the gloves into the contest without his permission because she didn’t want to be seen to work with a bunch of losers, albeit also to prove to the team that they aren’t a bunch of losers, that they have cool ideas.
That’s one of the themes of Emily’s arc: she does something “nice” for someone else, only she also does it for herself — to feel better about herself, or to be validated as a good person, or to be popular. A lot of the time, those attempts backfire, and it’s become a tiiiiny bit tedious to have the same beat played over and over every episode, because in the end, of course it’s all fine. BUT the thing that saves it is the contrast played up between Emily’s leadership and Van’s. Well, if you can call what he’s doing leadership, because it ain’t that. Emily learns from her mistakes in the sense that she does what she can to fix them. It doesn’t mean she won’t produce a similar sort of mishap again in the next episode, but she does what she can to make amends. Van, on the other hand, just pretends to have learnt something and then takes advantage even more disgustingly than before.
Specifically, of Ron. Damn, that last bit was manipulative af. I love Alan Tudyk for his flawless delivery of lines like this, though:
That is the perfect fishtail! And you know it!
Jackie’s Ominous Voice and ‘Tampa!’ are strong contenders for best bits, too, although the absolutely best moments of the episode were Teddy’s exasperation when faced with his parents and his brother (a space doctor, grEAT) witnessing his failure; and Ron’s blow-up at Van, and then, his quiet admission, “I may have a problem with people taking advantage of me.” THIS is what I meant when I was talking about modulation and giving characters more than one voice to work with.
So, on balance: a lot more character work than before, but still superhero-adjacent. I like it.
At the end, Emily and Teddy save Crimson Fox and Charm City is safe once more. The End.
Oh, but: “Dylan is a girl’s name… and she does not like the car,” is not a punchline that has aged well.
Also, a question: Emily gets excited over Lena Dunham retweeting her because…?
Episode 6: (Bitch, )I’ma Friend You
This is where DC’s new superhero show departs the subject of superheroes altogether, the fact that they’re working for the Batman without knowing it becomes entirely irrelevant, and everyone learns a valuable lesson about friendship.
What I really liked: Jackie establishing friendship boundaries while admitting that, maybe, she has a few too many for people to actually become her friends. For very private/introverted people, being friends with people who like to break into song at any given opportunity can be overwhelming, and the “turn it down… oh god, turn it OFF” metaphor works really well to illustrate that. I like that Emily actually listens, too. See, I was right, give this show some functional female friendships while providing Jackie with the tenacity to get her MBA and we’re in business.
Also, oh my gosh, seeing Tony the Street Harasser get his arm twisted: so satisfying. You have no idea.
Otherwise, this episode was a bit of a floating-toating turd joke, because most of it revolved around the drama of other people having used Van’s throne. I mean, private toilet. I was getting a little bored with the entire thing, but then the resolution/punchline came at the very end, which, I gotta say: well-played, Powerless, that is how you sustain a joke across an entire episode and then twist it into something actually funny at the very end. And, again, Alan gets the best lines:
“Who was perusin’ while they were number two-sin’?”
Who comes up with lines like that?? It’s infantile and very, very silly, but there’s nothing about a good poop joke that I won’t appreciate, so…
Van gets his comeuppance, though, without being aware of it, at the very end: the janitor’s name is Peter, you racist wanker, and everyone’s been using your toilet, Van. For things you don’t even want to imagine. Happy flushing.