Powerless Wayne or Lose Review
NBC‘s Powerless: Season 1, Episode 1: Wayne or Lose was the second attempt by the National Broadcast Company to enter the comic book universe-inspired TV arena. Unlike Constantine, a comedy like Powerless was a better fit for the family-courting network than a sorcerer imbued with numerous bad habits.
Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) was an insufferably upbeat, vivacious, and optimistic business woman in Wayne or Lose. Her demeanor was funny, surreal, and consistent with the world she inhabited. In the real world, Locke would be referred to as “the quirky character” who always saw the bright side of a situation. In Wayne or Lose, she was the quickly acclimated ingénue, uninitiated to a city dominated by supervillain shenanigans and superhero deeds that ended in property damage (think Hancock). It was hard to root for Locke because it was hard to imagine anything bad could be fall such an affable person à la Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now. The viewer watched Locke but since that invisible protective aura was around her, that was all that they did.
Superheroes were so commonplace in the Powerless ‘verse that no one marveled (no pun intended) at their exploits in the slightest during Wayne or Lose. Everyone in the Powerless ‘verse was desensitized to murder, carnage on a large scale, and death. No one was afraid while a super fight was taking place. Some or all of the bystanders could have been maimed or killed yet they had absolutely no emotional reaction. Even for a comedy, this lack of fear, apprehension, and dread stripped the drama out of all of the superhero / supervillain action sequences within Wayne or Lose. If the people in the scene are blasé about the danger and unafraid, there is no danger. The viewer certainly didn’t feel any hence there was a lack of emotional investment during the episode. That was a problem created by Ben Queen that could have been easily written out of with skill. I am not saying Queen is unskilled. He is but I can’t imagine a writer who doesn’t want the viewer to have an emotional reaction to their characters besides indifference.
The pilot episode for Amazon’s The Tick reboot, on the other hand, contained Powerless‘ spoofing comedy but also added in what Powerless lacked. The full spectrum of human emotions was added into the action and comedic narrative of The Tick. It grounded the on-screen narrative to the point where something was at stake. In Wayne or Lose that wasn’t the case. Nothing was at stake except job loss.
The comedic tone of Wayne or Lose was consistent, much like the tone found in HBO’s Veep: non-stop jokes, challenges to overcome, and humorous situations. The overt (Gotham City) and subtle references (Wayne or Lose) to the DC Universe were pretty clever. They added something to the proceedings – a sense of authenticity – that would have been lacking if they weren’t present.
From the content within Wayne or Lose, NBC may have a minor hit on its hands. Powerless effortlessly played to two hungry audiences: comic book fans and comedy lovers. Both will be amused by what Powerless has to offer. Could Powerless be a better comedy or superhero TV show? Oh yes. Is it unique enough to thrive? It is.
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