Let's just get this out of the way — Powerless is by no means an amazing show. The jokes are simple, the characters are fairly one dimensional, and the episodic plots are predictable. That being said, I am enjoying it immensely... or at least I was, until I got to work this morning and discovered it had been cancelled. This really threw my "Why You Should Be Watching Powerless" article down the drain. But honestly, we all should have seen this coming.
Powerless was doomed before it was even released. Its original premise — a sitcom based in an insurance company dealing with superhero damages — was altered significantly when #DC became more involved in the production. Suddenly, the show went from a satirical, fresh take on the superhero genre (which we desperately need) to just another fluffy DC show, complete with the obligatory Batman obsession.
This is apparently because DC cannot laugh at itself, despite the fact that many parts of this particular comic book empire are so undeniably silly (stubbornly grimdark DCEU or plot-hole ridden Arrowverse, take your pick). And we love that! We love DC's superheroes! But sometimes it's very difficult to take them as seriously as DC wants us to — which is why we need #Powerless, or something like it.
Gone Too Soon: 'Powerless' Could Have Been Great
Despite the defanging of its original premise, Powerless had a lot of potential. Hitting its stride about five episodes in, Powerless became a cute little show about ordinary people living in an extraordinary world. It was an interesting version of the now-mundane office sitcom, and in contrast to the usual overblown hysteria in superhero shows and movies, it was refreshing to see the normal citizens of Powerless react in bored exasperation to villainous threats.
Not to mention, it was nice to see Powerless expand DC's mythology in its strange, quirky way, like Atlantis' Sinking Day celebrations, and the annual "cold season" as all the cold-powered villains blast their icy wrath on Charm City. Oh, and the subtle digs at Trump had me cackling.
There was also some neat commentary on superheroes in modern culture. C-list superhero Green Fury brought with her some interesting story beats, like an exploration of how superheroines are subject to sexist objectifying by the media.
This episode, "Green Furious," is perhaps one of Powerless' best, as it ends on a subversive note when Green Fury and Emily trick the posturing Olympian into starring in a sexy and sexist advert originally intended for Green Fury — complete with a naked, soap suds-drenched car wash.
And that's when I really sat up and started paying attention (and no, not because of the Olympian's rippling muscles). Once it got over the trope-ridden and predictable early episodes, Powerless really evolved. The humor became cleverer, subverting our expectations and laughing fondly at pop culture. The episode plots became more interesting as characters's hidden depths were revealed.
Sure, the concept could have been dealt with more imaginatively, but there was plenty of time for the writers to do this. Powerless had a lot of potential to become everything we hoped it would be, and more. And yet, because of low ratings it was cancelled — ratings which, as we've already examined, are largely to do with terrible marketing and exec decisions rather than a lack of quality in the show's content. (Plus it's worth noting that 2-3 million viewers would be a very acceptable rating if Powerless aired on The CW, where most of DC's shows are based.)
We Need Superhero Satire
Ok, Powerless is dead, ripped from us too soon. But that's not to say its potential has to be wasted.
Right now, our media is absolutely saturated with superheroes — they're everywhere! You've got the three major movie franchises — the MCU, the DCEU, and Fox's X-Men — which are chucking out two to three superhero movies a year, each. Then there's the TV shows: DC has the Arrowverse, Gotham and Krypton; Marvel has The Defenders shows and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, along with a ton of upcoming series like Cloak & Dagger and Runaways. Even Fox is finally catching up to the TV game with the excellent high-concept Legion and Bryan Singer's upcoming Gifted.
Superheroes Invade TV — Read On For More:
- How Does 'Cloak And Dagger' Tie Into The Wider MCU?
- 'Legion' Is The Answer To All Of X-Men's Problems
- Teen Titans Go! Live Action 'Titans' Show Confirmed
With all of these movies and shows, the oft-predicted "superhero fatigue" is almost upon us, approaching over the horizon like a black cloud which, as you look closer, is filled with thousands upon thousands of costumed heroes — and each one has a comic origin, a TV show, and a movie contract. At least half of them are played by men called Chris.
What we need, nay, what we deserve, is a TV show that will fondly poke fun at all these tights-wearing, cape decorated heroes. A TV show that focuses on the civilians who have to put up with superheroes that cause as many problems as they solve. A TV show that offers as much satirical insight into the genre as it does laugh-out-loud moments. A TV show like Powerless, but better.
Here's hoping the major comic book studios learn how to make fun of themselves before we all get too sick of superheroes to even laugh at them.
Do you think 'Powerless' should have been cancelled?
[Oddly appropriate, yet tragically ironic, poll image via NBC]