Part of me wanted to rate this episode lower as the show failed to do one of the key things I want ‘Powerless’ to strive for every week, capitalize on the fact that the characters live in the DC Comics world, but I could not do it because it was still an entertaining and funny episode despite that flaw. Do not get me wrong, ‘Powerless’ has had better episodes, but this is far from the worst they have churned out this season, and enough entertaining stories were going on (and ridiculous jokes that I found amusing) that it was much easier to excuse them for just being a work-place comedy this week, and not actually being a comedy truly about characters living in a world of superheroes.
So the main story basically revolved around Emily deciding she and Jackie should take self-defense classes (spurred on by Crimson Fox’s announcement early in the episode that she is leaving the city for Metropolis), and Emily’s belief that crime will go up without the superhero around (not to mention she and the other female employees are tired of being hassled by the creepy hot dog vendor outside, who the guys all think is hilarious and makes amazing hot dogs).
Jackie is not about it, but Emily thinks she has it all planned out, even scheduling the classes during their lunch break so Jackie does not have to worry about it before or after work (and make them matching t-shirts to wear, which Teddy comments proves that Emily does not know Jackie very well at all). However, Jackie bails on the first class and Emily is chased into a dumpster in an alley by a villain after the class and blames Jackie.
Eventually Emily learns that Jackie was driving an Ubeproveng her lunch, and after Jackie lies and says it was so she could make some cash to send her kid on a class trip to Six Flags Metropolis (which Emily learns was a lie while visiting Jackie’s kid’s school and disappointing a lot of kids who had no idea about a Six Flags trip), Jackie eventually just tells Emily to butt out of her life and leave her alone. Just as she drives away and her car is blown up by Jack-O-Lantern. Fortunately for Emily, she is Jackie’s emergency contact and they make up at the hospital with Jackie admitting she likes having a friend who cares whether she lives or dies, and Emily admitting that it is nice having a friend who gets her to tone down her enthusiasm a bit. We learn Jackie was actually saving up money for night classes so she could eventually get a new job as she does not want to be Van’s secretary for the rest of her life.
In the B Story (which for once was pretty enjoyable), Van is outraged that someone has used the private bathroom in his office (citing a magazine not his own in the bathroom as proof), and spends the episode investigating the employees to find out who did it. Not surprisingly, he eventually deduces that it was a member of the science team who did the deed, and he goes after Teddy, Ron and Wendy to try to get one of them to confess or rat out the others, but none of them turn on their coworkers, which infuriates Van (the whole investigation, with Tudyk coming up with poop jokes on the fly was amazing).
Eventually the entire science team goes to Van’s office and declares, one by one, that they used his toilet, and Van is disgusted that they all went to the bathroom simultaneously, and when they point out they are using the ‘Spartacus” tactic to protect themselves, Van berates them for ruining that movie for him. He then pulls out a security tape which will reveal who really used his bathroom, and we learn that earlier in the episode when Van was cowering from a bee and demanding Jackie kill it, she had rolled up a magazine to kill the bee and left it behind in the bathroom, thus explaining his “evidence.”
In the episode close, we see that not only are Jackie and Emily taking the self-defense class together now, but Jackie is even wearing the matching shirt with her friend, which she is sporting when she attacks the hot dog vendor when he makes one last inappropriate comment to the ladies. Ron and Teddy watch the exchange while eating their hot dogs, commenting that it is hard to separate the artist from his work as they enjoy their latest meal from the hot dog guy. And later, up in Van’s office, we see the janitor (who’s name is Peter but Van kept calling Pedro or some other ethnic version of Peter) sitting at Van’s desk erasing security footage of dozens of employees using the private bathroom, commenting that his name is “Peter,” thus allowing us to know this is all part of his revenge plan on Van.
So many random jokes, good timing, a good B-story, lots of visual humor, the episode had a lot going for it, but again, aside from the inciting incident for Emily wanting to take self-defense classes being Crimson Fox leaving Charm City (and Jackie’s car being attacked by villain Jack-O-Lantern) there was very little connecting this episode to the actual DC Comics universe, and the stories could easily have been done on any show doing workplace comedy. They really need to find that balance if they want to be that top-tier show that fans are looking for, because the show cannot survive just being a regular comedy, there are sadly too many other shows just like it out there for that to happen. Still, if they can keep this episode’s level of comedy and get the DC world formula down, the potential still exists for this show to be decent, though I fear its time may be running out soon, as they are six episodes in and still struggling to find their groove. Here’s hoping from this point onward they have nothing but gems to put out there, otherwise I would not be surprise to see the NBC cancellation ax coming down.
Nick is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, who belongs to the privileged few who enjoyed the ending to ‘Lost.’ For more of Nick’s thoughts and articles, follow him on Twitter (@starfro67)