Powerless S01E04 Review “Emily Dates a Henchman” (Spoiler free)

Originally posted to Facebook on 2/24/17

I decided to write a proper review! I am open to (and requesting) feedback on my review and my writing style, and I’d love to hear what other people thought of the episode as well. Thanks guys!

Review of episode 4 of Powerless. “Emily Dates a Henchman” (no spoilers)

First, the big question, did this episode continue the big upswing in quality of episode 3 “Sinking Day”, or did it return to the flatness of the first 2 episodes. Well, neither really, but much closer to the former. This episode wasn’t as good as the last one, but it was still better than the ones that came before. This is somewhat understandable, considering *how* good episode 3 was.

This episode contained two stories, the main one being the titular discovery that Emily is dating a villainous henchman. The B story followed the male characters in their quest to meet Batman. The biggest issue with this episode was a lack of stakes in either plot. While both had several opportunities for humor (which they successfully took), there wasn’t much in the way of character growth or forwarding of greater plot. In last week’s “Sinking Day”, one of the best parts was that, in addition to the good comedy, there was a lot of growth for Alan Tudyk’s Van Wayne, as well as the furthering of his friendship with Emily. This week’s episode lacked that. The closest we get is in the men’s arc, which gave us a chance to see Tudyk interacting with Danny Pudi and Ron Funches’ characters in a way that wasn’t the typical boss/employee shtick. This will hopefully lead to stories and interactions that go beyond standard corporate comedy fare and more into the family dynamic that was seen in later seasons of Parks and Recreation.

While the Batman arc ended somewhat anticlimactically, it did tie in very well to the ending of the henchman arc in a fun, unexpected way. Also, the tone of the show is still being dialed in, with different characters treating the show with varying levels of camp vs seriousness. The female characters especially have been unsteady in how they’ve been playing it, and I’m not sure if that’s due to writing, acting or both. Vanessa Hudgens has been sitting on the lighter side of serious the whole time, but that’s likely due to how her character has been written. Christina Kirk is the closest thing this show has to a no-nonsense character like Ron Swanson or Captain Raymond Holt (Parks and Rec, and Brooklyn 99 respectively), but she lacks the gravitas and conviction that veterans Nick Offerman or Andre Braugher bring to their roles. Hopefully with more time and sharper writing her character will either grow a direction that best suits her performance or her performance will grow to suit the character she’s being written as now. Jennie Pierson’s character, Wendy, is the weakest of the bunch, but that’s likely due to her not being given much to work with and therefore she is forced to go full-camp in order to squeeze every second of screen time into something memorable, at the cost of it being something necessarily good.

On the male side, Pudi and Funches have been more camp than serious, but at least they’ve been sticking to it. Their dynamic is fun to watch and less reminiscent of Troy and Abed, but closer to “characters Troy and Abed would play” if that makes sense. And Tudyk, likely due to experience, is hitting a fantastic blend of camp actions but played seriously, which grounds the comedy despite having some of the more ridiculous bits. It was interesting this episode to see all the men interact, given their different approaches so far. It had the possibility of causing some dissonance but actually worked quite well.

All in all, a good episode. And though it didn’t hit the highs of last week’s, it’s still a good sign that the show is settling into a positive rhythm that spells good things for the show’s future.

Rating: B-