Move over, Avengers. Step aside, Justice League; there’s a new blockbuster in town, and it’s coming to the small screen.
“Small” is an apt setting for NBC’s Powerless, too, considering this will be the first series set in the comic book realm to tell tales from the vantage point of the little guy. Taking place in the DC universe, Powerless is an office comedy centred around an insurance company struggling to keep up with all the super-powered mishaps occurring in its American location—cue the hilarity.
It’s a sign of the comic genre’s growing appeal that a studio on the scale of NBC feels comfortable green-lighting such an obscure concept, but one that will undoubtedly go down smoothly with the mainstream masses gravitating closer toward the many page-to-screen adaptations emerging.
But don’t expect this show to follow the blueprint of CW’s Flash or Netflix hit Daredevil. Powerless capitalises on its DC legacy by mentioning the likes of Batman and Wonder Woman, but the focus is very much on the everyday man and woman, and it makes for a welcome shift in direction.
The main woman in question is claims adjustor Emily Locke, portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens—a surprisingly fitting casting, miles from her ditzy, damsel-in-distress High School Musical days. There are also the likes of Alan Tudyk (Dodgeball’s Steve the Pirate), Danny Pudi (Community) and Christina Kirk (Love Is Strange) to complete a solid, funny foundation of a cast.
Footage of Powerless’ pilot episode was briefly leaked last week before swiftly being taken down, but from what was seen, this new blueprint works and has the potential to be a slam dunk. One particular bright spot saw insurers quarrel over whether Wonder Woman’s actions counted as an ‘Act of God’, owing to the fact she’s technically a demi-God—brownie points for being true to the source material.
That being said, there won’t be lot of Justice League alumni popping up in Powerless—in fact the closest we got to a real hero in the pilot trailer was minor player Crimson Fox. But that’s perfectly okay; we can go elsewhere for the capes and cowls, and frankly, it’s getting hard to keep up with it all.
As comic book movies have grown, one theme has become more apparent throughout. We saw it in DC blockbusters Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; it’s also been apparent in Marvel hits like The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and most certainly Captain America: Civil War.
That theme is collateral damage. General Thaddeus E. "Thunderbolt" Ross did the favour of explaining to us the ramifications of superhero actions in Civil War:
Except Powerless doesn’t analyse these cataclysmic events as reason to take down the Son of Krypton or rein in the Avengers. Instead, it toes a far lighter side of the debate, assessing how a laser-visioned building or a derailed metro impacts its surroundings and the people therein.
Den of Geek’s Rob Leane reported earlier in May that the pilot had in fact been picked up by NBC for a full season of DC comics comedy—the first of its kind—and all signs point toward the series giving a fresh take on a genre that’s otherwise chugged along on a very linear path. Hero emerges, villain emerges, hero fights villain and so on and so forth.
Powerless promises to be what Breaking Bad was to The Wire, what Dexter is to True Detective or what Scrubs was to ER.
Sure, we enjoy seeing our super-powered icons save the day, but Powerless is a spin-off for the Average Joe to enjoy—as long as you don’t work in insurance.