POWERLESS was beginning to win me over but just when I thought that it was finally hitting a stride and would naturally continue to improve, it took a few steps backwards with its latest episode, “Cold Season.”
The one good thing this episode did was bump up Danny Pudi’s character Teddy to the A storyline. Pudi is funny, charming, and talented and he has been sadly underutilized here. But even with him in the spotlight, the laughs were few and far between. Maybe I’m just waiting for Pudi to bust into his old character Abed, his break-out role on NBC’s Community, which stood out in a cast of very talented people, too many to name. Pudi should mop the floor with this cast, but isn’t given enough to work with.
Wayne Industries is holding an annual competition that awards the department with the most impressive technological innovation a bonus. Of course Vanessa Hudgens’ Emily is all gung-ho about it, though the rest of her team is decidedly less so. When Teddy shows her a new invention he’s been working on, a type of gloves that heat up enough for him to pop popcorn in the palm of the wearer’s hand, among other things, she insists he has to submit them to the competition. Teddy warns here they aren’t ready. But when two nerdy douches from Wayne X stop by to brag about how they’re going to win (and unsuccessfully hit on Emily), she decides to go ahead and submit Teddy’s gloves anyway, thinking they are a homerun.
Well, they’re not. What’s worse is that we find out that Teddy has been living a life overshadowed by and older brother who is a surgeon AND an astronaut, “Space Doctor is the technical term,” Teddy’s brother says, which actually got a good laugh out of me. The brother is also incredibly handsome and takes a call from the president while sitting in Teddy’s apartment. When Emily tells him that she submitted his gloves without his permission, the only way to appease him is to tell him that they made it to the finals (there are no finals). Teddy immediately calls his parents and seems genuinely happy. All good, right?
Wrong. Jackie informs Emily that the last time Teddy got his hopes really high about something only to be let down his spiraled out of control, letting his hair grow long, lessening his work ethic, and finally culminating in a bizarre trip to Tampa. And if Teddy loses this thing, it could be what sets him over the edge again. Of course, he loses. The Wayne X nerds built an actual person artificial intelligence. The gloves paled in comparison. Teddy is mad that Emily lied to him.
That’s when they get caught up in some superhero/supervillain shennanigans. Out on the balcony, Crimson Fox, the local Charm City fighter of evil, is frozen by a bad guy. Need I explain where this goes? Teddy’s gloves are used to quickly melt the ice and frost away from Crimson Fox. Maybe his invention didn’t win the competition, but Teddy’s gloves were useful after all. And even better than winning that prize? Crimson Fox takes his gloves to help her do battle against the city’s worst bad guys! Teddy couldn’t be happier. Tampa crisis averted.
My two favorite characters on the series, Ron (Ron Funches) and Van (Alan Tudyk) share a B storyline this week. Van gets a delivery in the mail of a child’s “Power Wheels” type vehicle, but is baffled when it comes apparently broken in 100 pieces. Jackie informs him he needs to put it together. He doesn’t have time as he is headed to a remote cabin with his girlfriend and her daughter who the car is for. So who does he get to assemble it? Ron of course. Ron has an issue with telling his boss no when he is asked to do things not included in his job description, and this episode it is continuously tested.
One of the more clever gags of this week came when Van tells Ron to build a toy model of Wonder Woman’s plane and have it shipped to the cabin for his girlfriend’s daughter. “Isn’t Wonder Woman’s plane invisible?” Ron asks. “Yes,” Van replies. “It’s going to be a bitch to put together.” We later see Ron screwing things into what appears to be nothing but air. And of course when he’s finished putting the last piece together, Emily, in a huff, can’t see it and walks right into it, making Ron have to build it from scratch again.
Later, Van video chats with Ron once again, now saying that his girlfriend’s daughter has a “squad” and they have “goals” and they all need their own invisible planes. Ron finally gets the courage to put his foot down and tell Van “NO.” By the end of the episode, Van gives Ron an apology, which Ron accepts, but also somehow results in Ron building a treehouse for Van’s girlfriend’s daughter. So.
I like most of the characters. The stories are fine. The DC Universe feels completely wasted at times, and in the next instant is utilized very cleverly. Overall, the main issue is that there aren’t a whole lot of laughs. I hope as the series continues, we get to see some real character-driven comedy, not just one liners or physical gags. I want to see recurring jokes that build and pay off for faithful week-to-week viewers. I want to see some real justification for why we are specifically telling this story in the DC Universe (beyond using its name to gain eyeballs). So far Powerless falls flat of all of this, but not so tragically I don’t still have hope.
Season 1, Episode 5 (S01E05)
Powerless airs Thursday at 830PM on NBC
Paul transferred from the Gotham City branch of The Tracking Board offices where he used to write reviews for shows with actual superheroes starring in them.
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Paul Gulyas | Contributor