Powerless 1×04 Review: 'Emily Dates a Henchman'

The thing that is so frustrating about Powerless is that when I watch it I’m reminded of the potential it had with its original pilot. The original direction and tone of the show presented Powerless as this comedy with substance. It’s what would’ve have made Powerless different from the menial comedies that have come and gone without so much as a blip on the radar.
But that’s what makes wasted potential so infuriating. It’s that you saw the solid direction that the show had going for it, but what you were presented with many months and a new showrunner later was something less than spectacular.
I will admit that Powerless has its moments where it’s really capitalizing on being the lone comedy in the DC television universe. But those moments aren’t enough to sustain it as a whole. At the heart of every television show – even comedies – is a purpose. Not just a purpose, but a purpose that your audience can connect to.
With the original Powerless pilot we were given a tease of what looked to be an interesting parallel between the heroes with the powers and super reputations versus the heroes that we were coming to know in the real world – the ones of this insurance agency that did their part to protect their city. It was an interesting dynamic – that was hilarious as hell – that captured the heart of superhero shows.
But this new Powerless doesn’t possess that allure. In fact, it’s merely a playground for these characters to create toys in an attempt to help people. But it doesn’t come off even half as genuine as the original storyline. It lost its spark.
I say this with every superhero show I cover, and the same is true with Powerless: I don’t give a damn unless I give a damn about the characters. And I’m sorry, but I don’t give a damn about these characters. The fact that I cared more about these characters in the original pilot more than I do about these new characters in four episodes speaks volumes.
It’s a shame because Powerless had the potential for greatness. Sure, it can be a decent comedy that lasts a few seasons. Because Powerless really is funny. But you need more than that to sustain a series.

Let’s break this down:

Dating a Henchman

When it comes to dating, we all have a type. That is, we know the guy or girl that we’re looking for. We also have exs that we feel compelled to make jealous; to make them feel like absolute crap; to make them want us back.
Although I can say with roughly 90 percent certainty that most of us have not dated a henchman. Well, unless you love in Charm City.
In “Emily Dates a Henchman,” the title pretty much gives away this half of the plotline where Emily decides to test the waters after getting an invite to her ex-boyfriend’s wedding. Nothing like getting a reminder from your ex that he’s happily moved on and you’re still utterly alone to make you feel worthless. But with a little push from her new coworkers, Emily decided to get back out there. There are, as the saying goes, plenty of fish in the sea. Unless you were dating Aquaman. Because you can’t possibly do better after Aquaman.
Although when Emily is out at a bar pursuing a man, she isn’t exactly doing herself any favors. She’s very picky, she’s critical. She’s basically all of us at some point in our lives. But lucky for her, a handsome doctor that also happens to love Gilmore Girls and is Team Jess (my lord perfection) happens to find her charming. Lucky for Emily, this man is just her type.
But when you have an episode titled, “Emily Dates a Henchman,” the dramatic irony is in full swing from the get-go.
So Emily quickly learns that Dan is one of Riddler’s henchmen. Oh, but it gets worse. After Emily revealed that her team was working on an indestructible phone case, Dan – real name Reggie – broke into Wayne Security with his fellow henchmen to steal their plans for the Riddler, where he had plans for an indestructible tank.
Luckily Van Wayne’s superhero fantasy of becoming Batman’s sidekick, Robin, saved Emily and Jackie from these lowlifes. And, most obvious of all, Emily and Dan – err, Reggie – are through. And thus continues Emily’s search for love. (Her love could’ve been Teddy if this were the original series, I’m just saying.)

Meeting Batman

Powerless is at its best when it capitalizes on its strength. And that strength is its connection to DC Comics and the well-known superheroes and supervillains that go along with it. Obviously there’s a huge Batman connection here as the company these characters work for is Wayne Securities, which is a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises owned by Bruce Wayne aka Batman. So obviously we’re going to get a lot of Batman teases. And I couldn’t be happier.

In this episode, we saw a surprising team-up between Van, Teddy, and Ron as they used a batarang that Batman left behind in order to lure him to them so they might meet him. For Van, we learned that he was harboring some anger towards the Dark Knight for the time when he took off his side view mirror while in pursuit of a criminal. That happened in 2003. Fourteen years and still going strong.
The three Batman fans – we learned that Van’s secret superhero fantasy was to be Batman’s sidekick, as he even had a Robin costume – found themselves trying to lure Batman out with the batarang & milk and cookies, as well as in a dark alley, the latter of which almost got them killed. And in the end, they kinda-sorta met Batman after he took out a thug that threatened them and retrieved his batarang. So yeah, they “met” Batman. Good for them.
Anyway, this episode showcased a dynamic that I’m going to need more of as a viewer. I need to see more of Van, Teddy, and Ron playing off of each other in certain situations. This whole thing with catching Batman was genius. It was the kind of storyline that made me feel okay with the new direction. If we can get moments like this then perhaps it’s not as bad as I’ve been thinking.

Five Things…

  1. The best part about this episode was the dynamic between Van, Teddy, and Ron and their pursuit of Batman. Like it was a nice plot with some great humor that really allowed for some great interactions between these characters.
  2. Van’s superhero fantasy of being Batman’s sidekick is equally hilarious as it is ironic. While we might know Bruce Wayne is Batman, Van doesn’t. So the fact that he worships his cousin Bruce and wants to be Batman’s sidekick is equal kinds of hilarious.
  3. Ron wearing a Batman shirt to meet Batman is perfection. I mean, what other shirt was he going to wear? Superman? Only if he wanted to get shot.
  4. Emily was dating a man who not only liked Gilmore Girls but was also Team Jess. It really doesn’t get any more perfect than that. Shame he ended up being one of the Riddler’s henchmen.
  5. I’m really hoping this show continues to get better. It’s not great, but it’s not as unimpressive as the earlier episodes were. I’m hoping that we’ll see some good changes that’ll help make Powerless pack a punch.

Powerless airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.

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