Powerless takes place in Charm City, and with a name like that the show runners must have been hoping against hope that their fan-favourite cast wielding their whip-smart one liners would boast enough charm to let their bizarre little corner of the vast DC multiverse live up to its namesake.
Well watching Emily (Vanessa Hudgens) get herself tangled up with *spoilers* one of The Riddler’s henchmen in a wonderfully playful caper. Not only does this show consistently deliver on the charm factor, but this week they’ve given us Bat-fanatics one of the most entertaining non-cameos of Gotham’s Dark Knight, playing with the character with a kind of charm that we don’t really get to see used for the Caped Crusader. And let us not skip over the little fan treat that no one knew we wanted until we got it; Alan Tudyk dressed in a rubber Robin costume (with obligatory Schumacher-esque suit nipples). Seeing a horde of Riddler goons running away from the bumbling Van Wayne (Tudyk) in a hilarious case of mistaken identity is the exact kind of wholesome, “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb” humour of the Silver Age. Given the current direction of the DC cinematic universe, I am very glad to see the diversity of the source content flourish on the small screen.
For a show that does seem to rely on that bright Golden Age tone there are a few elements which feel out of place. The sometimes-ruthless quips thrown between the cast – while always well written and performed – don’t keep in line with the overall theme of the show. Jackie (Christina Kirk) is absolutely one of the strongest elements of the show, however her misanthropic rhetoric and her assertions over her ill-fated personal life feels like it could exist in any sitcom, and perhaps doesn’t fit in with a team of people working for a company that makes boulder-resistant umbrellas and anti-Joker EpiPens. To provide balance, Kirk isn’t the only part of the cast who comes across superfluous at times. Teddy (Danny Pudi) is very much the same character as Abed from Community, especially when he embarks on madcap hijinks to return a batarang to its rightful owner. It’s not Pudi’s fault, there’s a lot of talent in the show and only 20 minutes to hold it all.
I’m hopeful that as the show goes on, as with any beloved sitcom, we’ll get to see our Powerless roster grow into fuller characters, because as much as the show delivers on charm and laughs, it doesn’t yet feel like it’s carved out a place for itself. It needs something to identify itself as distinct from your everyday sitcom, as well as distinguishing itself as a DC entity separate from the CW or wider DC Universe.