Oct 2, 2020
Powerless: #Girlboss or #BFF?
One thing I do like about the world of “Powerless” is that every Charm City resident seems over super villain hijinks. The Joker rigs two evacuating ferries with explosives and Gotham loses their minds. General Zod and Superman [edited because I accidentally wrote “Batman”] battle in Smallville and the U.S. government debates whether Superman is a threat to humanity. In Charm City, some villain throws fireballs down on people and everyone is just upset their breakfast plans are ruined.
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Emily is a nice person, but my God is she annoying. She talks Jackie’s ear off about her ideas for workplace bonding and search for a new apartment. But her optimistic can-do attitude is at its most annoying at the morning staff meeting, when she volunteers the R&D team to finish the Rumbrella, their newest product which is supposed to protect citizens from falling rubble during superhero fights, within one week.
Emily tries to motivate the team, saying corporate will be impressed by their “squad of badasses”, although Teddy and the team try to suggest that perhaps corporate will be more impressed by their ability to execute projects in a reasonable time frame.
Is it any wonder why Teddy, Ron, and Wendy exclude Emily from their fantasy superhero league, which in this universe looks and sounds way cooler than any fantasy sports teams? Jackie reminds Emily that she’s supposed to be their boss, not their friend.
Still, Emily is so desperate for her team to like her that she doesn’t let her frustration show when her team procrastinates on the project in favor of watching the superhero fantasy sports league.
Jackie reminds Emily that if she wants to motivate the team, she has to be a jerk like Samuel, the head of HR. Van hates Samuel because Samuel is prominently featured on Wayne Corp’s corporate photo in the lobby. The rest of the office hates Samuel because because he is a huge stickler for corporate policies. Emily tattles about the team playing game online, hoping that Samuel will block the website so they can go back to work.
However, Samuel takes it one step further and blocks entire Internet access for the whole office. The only accessible website is LinkedIn, which just adds further sting to the punishment. Even if you procrastinate by going on LinkedIn, that can be argued as “work”.
Even though it was an extreme solution to her problem, Emily hopes the team will finally focus on the project. Instead, the team wastes even more time trying to get the Internet back.
However, they do let Emily join the fantasy sports league because they think she tried to talk Samuel into giving the Internet back. This is a hollow gesture because they can’t play at work, but hey! It’s the thought that counts.
Meanwhile, Van prints a large photo of himself in an obnoxious finger guns pose and pastes it on top of the corporate photo in the lobby. Because he insulted and berated her all day, Jackie lets the R&D team “meme” the photo. Everyone has a good laugh at Van’s expense but Samuel writes everyone up for bullying. Emily protests so as punishment for standing up to him, Samuel reveals that Emily was the one who suggested the Internet block.
Naturally, the team gets mad at Emily. She protests that she just wanted work to get done, but they tell her that she’s just like their other corporate bosses, going behind their backs and trying to manipulate them.
I get that the team is upset at Emily going behind their backs, but to be fair to Emily, no boss would be happy with their team pulling an important product together at the last second.
Meanwhile, Jackie earns Van’s forgiveness when she reveals that she simply talked the photographer into adding Van to the corporate photo again. The team also forgives Emily when Samuel informs them that Emily elected to watch HR’s 6 hour anti-bullying four times to get everyone off for the meme incident and get the Internet back.
The team is impressed with Emily’s devotion to making things right that they get the Rumbrella project done on time and let Emily back into their fantasy league. Emily picks Crimson Fox, who turns out to be a surprisingly good pick. Although they are not best friends yet, the team finally sees Emily as more than just their boss.
Powerless or Powerful?
This wasn’t the most amazing episode but it’s good enough to suggest that “Powerless” is getting on the right track after that mediocre pilot. The jokes are tighter although the characterization is still being worked out. I do worry that “Powerless” might get locked into this “Emily has an optimistic idea, people scoff at her, her plans go awry, she makes up for it, the team rallies around her, rinse, and repeat” cycle that can get boring fast. Van’s subplot was also dull but I do like the character Samuel. He’s a great antagonist and I think it’s because he has enough of a distinctive personality so when he serves as an obstacle to Emily, I truly believe that fits his motivations and not just because the writers want her to struggle. The biggest issue with the show is that the R&D team seems to hate Emily for no reason. Yeah, she’s a little annoying and it’s understandable that they would be apathetic towards her attempts to motivate them, but their hostility feels unwarranted, especially since Emily is just so gosh darn nice all the time.
Emily reminds me of Lesile Knope from “Parks and Recreation”, another slightly socially awkward but hypercompetent woman with extreme passion for her work. Although Leslie generally had good interests at heart, she was extremely stubborn and had a tendency to steamroll people, even her friends. Similarly, Emily needs the a twist on her most positive traits to make it understandable why people wouldn’t like her.
Most Powerful Lines
“I don’t need to tell you–”
“I regretted it immediately.”
–Ron to Emily, after she pretended to crack a whip in his direction
“Jackie, what’s wrong with this picture?”
“There are no women or minorities?”
–Van to Jackie, on the Wayne Corp corporate photo in the lobby