NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Powerless” are present in this review
Hot diggity! Another genuinely good episode of Powerless! I knew NBC had it in them! Yes, refreshingly, this week’s Powerless offering returned the show to pretty solid form, despite referencing a particularly dubious recent DC movie in its title. “Van V Emily: Dawn of Justice” pitted the titular characters against each other to amusing effect, and even gave us a surprisingly humble and vulnerable moment for Van, while Teddy also got a pretty decent subplot that managed to introduce another recognizable DC heroine to the show’s universe.
Things begin with Emily desiring her own office, as she’s the only executive at Wayne Security that doesn’t have one at this point. Van, for some reason, doesn’t want to give one to her, which motivates Emily to do everything in her power to try and change his mind. Eventually, she just goes over Van’s head too, going straight to the Gotham office to get the go-ahead to convert Van’s, “Spider room” into her own work space, after Van sealed it off upon finding a spider in it. Boy, Van really has a spectacular fear of insects and arachnids, doesn’t he?
Of course, it is a little bit questionable that Van won’t give Emily an office, which seems arbitrary and forced, and is one of the only points when this week’s Powerless episode had to strain to get its story into place. Van not giving Emily an office doesn’t really make sense when it comes down to it, and is never truly explained. Perhaps it’s a carryover from when the other employees seemingly despised Emily at the start of the show, but if the show itself is to be believed, Emily has been at Wayne Security for months now, and has managed to win over the other employees well enough at this point. What possible disadvantage would Van suffer by giving Emily an office? Even if he does find Emily annoying, wouldn’t putting her somewhere further and out of the way actually be beneficial to him?
Beyond that point though, the growing resentment between Emily and Van did lead to some great jokes, especially when Van takes Emily’s office away, but is soon after caught playing ‘Green Arrow Darts’ in his own office, an amusing kids’ game where rubber arrows are shot at a target board of recognizable Green Arrow villains like Deathstroke, China White and Merlyn. This results in Emily challenging Van to a Green Arrow Darts game, with the winner getting claim to the former spider room. It’s actually a pretty amusing idea, and calls back to NBC’s love of ‘office games’ storylines in their workplace sitcoms, without exactly copying it for the umpteenth time.
Despite the competition proceeding ahead though, Jackie and the other employees start warning Emily that Van’s ego is fragile, and if he loses, it will make the office hell for the other Wayne Security employees. The testament to Van’s outrageous ego was actually really funny as well, including moments like Van falsely winning Employee of the Month for four years straight (and firing the one woman who won it in his place one time), winning a spelling bee by ironically mis-spelling, “Failure”, and being voted, “Most Perceptive Baby of 1971”, somehow. This originally convinces Emily to throw the competition, but after Van becomes irritating, she starts trying again… Only to lose even when trying her best!
Emily’s surprise loss led to a duo of really standout developments for both herself and Van. Van celebrating his winnings by giving Emily the office anyway, buying everyone in the office new chairs, and even making his own coffee (albeit unsuccessfully), painted a very different picture of the arrogant man that we thought we knew. Likewise, Emily tearing Van down and opening his eyes to his false victories was another illuminating moment, whereupon we learn that Emily, ironically, doesn’t like to lose herself. Emily eventually picks Van up when she reminds him that his family clearly loved him, since they were so concerned with shielding him from disappointment, and this represented some really great character growth for both personalities. This is really good stuff, since this is among the most inspired that Powerless’ character writing has been so far!
Even the subplot with Teddy was pretty good, especially when it actually gave the show another worthwhile DC Universe connection! Funny how the more clever DC connections seem to coincide with this show’s strongest episodes, eh? Anyway, after Jack-O-Lantern knocks Teddy off of a balcony, he’s saved by DC heroine, Fire, going by her other alias, “Green Fury” in the case of Powerless (possibly because Ice isn’t around at this point), and Teddy immediately falls in love with her, despite dating someone else. This results in an amusing sequence of events that has Teddy trying to signal Green Fury again, even accidentally falling off the balcony a second time, only to be saved by The Olympian this time, which greatly disappoints him, in one of the episode’s funniest jokes.
This eventually culminates in an amusing lampooning of the Bat Signal, after Teddy overloads a light and sets it on fire (revealing that Wayne Security has laser barriers and robot repellent next to their fire extinguishers!), at which point he admits defeat, and decides to stick with the woman he’s dating. Then, ironically, on his next date with said woman, Green Fury drops down to reclaim her purse from a mugger, which has Teddy awkwardly pretending that he’s not on a date when Green Fury recognizes him again. It seems like these two are very obviously going to end up together in the near future, and the idea of swapping out Crimson Fox for Green Fury might actually work to Powerless’ benefit at this point. Green Fury definitely seems to have more character potential so far, even if Jack-O-Lantern is still coming off like too much of a transparent plot device, more than anything else. Couldn’t they make him a more central personality in a Powerless storyline at some point?
Despite that quibble though, Powerless finally delivered a really solid episode that effectively rivals, “Sinking Day” and, “Emily Dates a Henchman” as the season’s high point so far. “Emily V Wayne: Dawn of Justice” not only offered plenty of strong laughs, but also contributed some really inspired character development for both Emily and Van alike. Teddy likely finding love with a recognizable DC heroine should also be a solid way to better solidify the show’s DC Universe connections in the near future. We can hope, anyway.
For now though, I’m happy to see that Powerless has found its footing again. I really, really want this show to make it to a second season, even if the odds seem to be against it at this point, since both DC and Marvel alike have plenty of potential to mine in half-hour sitcoms. Every time I wonder if it’s a lost cause though, Powerless gives me an enjoyable episode like this to keep on hoping with. Keep it up, NBC! You’re on the right track again!
- Emily and Van bringing out the best in each other through their shared ego problem
- Hilarious testaments to Van being shielded from disappointment
- Teddy amusingly falling in love with Green Fury
- Van not wanting to give Emily an office doesn't really make sense
- Jack-O-Lantern is still only present as a plot device