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Series / Powerless (2017)

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Powerless is a Work Com television series aired on NBC for one season in 2017. Set in the world of DC Comics, it follows the adventures of Emily Locke as Director of Research & Development at Wayne Security, a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, that specializes in products for ordinary humans who are poised to be victims of the battles between superheroes and supervillains. Vanessa Hudgens, Alan Tudyk, and Danny Pudi lead its ensemble cast.

Not to be confused with Powerless, a limited series published by Marvel Comics. Compare to Damage Control.

Powerless provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: One of the pictures of Vance was altered to make him look like a pirate.
  • Adam Westing: The man himself shows up in the unaired penultimate episode. When he died, the episode was released on YouTube for a limited time.
  • Adaptational Badass: Crimson Fox is much more powerful than her comic book counterpart.note 
  • Alternate Continuity: This is in its own standalone universe, separate from the Arrowverse, Gotham or the DC Extended Universe.
  • Ascended Extra: Vanderveer "Van" Wayne started off as an obscure one-shot character that only appeared in the 1962 Batman comic, "The Joker's Greatest Triumph". Here, he's one of the main characters and the only member of the team that originated from the comics.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: All the inventions have some major flaw, such as only working once, being too expensive, causing beheadings...
  • The Cameo: The opening for the first episode is narrated by Adam West. Mark McClure ("Jimmy Olsen" in Superman: The Movie) plays Emily's father. Many DC characters make an appearance, especially the Global Guardians.
    • Episode 1: Starro, Crimson Fox, and Jack O'Lantern.note 
    • Episode 2: Prince Evillo.
    • Episode 3: Olympian.
    • Episode 5: Frostbitenote  and Crimson Fox; Captain Cold, Mr. Freeze and Killer Frost also get a mention.
    • Episode 6: Doctor Mist.
    • Episode 8note : Olympian and Green Fury.note 
    • Episode 9: Dr. Psycho.
    • Adam West also appeared in the unbroadcast episode "Win, Luthor, Draw", which was released online on June 16, 2017 as a tribute to West, who died the previous week. West's character even lampshades the fact that he's just a cameo.
  • Canon Foreigner: With the exception of Van Wayne, the show's primary characters are original creations, rather than being lifted from DC lore.
  • Carrying the Antidote: Wayne Security's flagship product before Emily gets there is an auto-injector of antidote to the Joker's laughing gas.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Van usually embodies this trope. For instance, when he expresses wanting to be the new Robin.
    Ron: You do know that at least two Robins have been rumored to have died.
    Van: Hmm... High turnover. I'm in.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: In Episode 4, when Emily introduces her new boyfriend Dan to her coworkers, they notice an unusual mark on his cheek:
    Dan: I fell off my bike and hit a rock.
    Teddy: A rock shaped like a Green Lantern ring?
  • Dating Catwoman: Since this is a Lower Deck Series, it gets the lower deck version in the aptly titled "Emily Dates a Henchman".
  • Destructive Savior: It's casually mentioned that the leading cause of deaths in a corporate environment is Superman crashing through a building during a big fight. While it might have been a joke, the fact that kryptonite-glass windows were considered for production suggests it's not that far from the truth.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Given that Superman crashing through windows is a common problem, one suggested solution was to have windows made of Kryptonite. Emily has to point out the obvious problem: if people on the other side of the windows needed Superman's help, they'd be out of luck.
  • Dramatic Irony: At the end of Episode 1, the primary characters wish that they could work for Batman after seeing a news report that Batman used a device that uses the same tech they just developed to capture the Joker.
  • Evil Gloating: Lampshaded. Reggie admits to Emily and Jackie that he and his crew are going to steal the indestructible cell phone cases so that The Riddler can make an indestructible tank to target Arkham Asylum. When questioned why they were telling them the Evil Plan, he shrugs and admits that it's just what they do.
  • Fantastic Racism: Lots of it comes up in "Sinking Day" towards Atlanteans, most of it accidental.
  • Flyover Country: Emily describes her hometown as being here, only she means that superheroes fly over.
  • For the Evulz: By all appearances, Jack O'Lantern terrorizes Charm City just to be an asshole.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: Done twice in "Win, Luthor, Draw" by Chairman West (played by Adam West), with the other characters wondering who he's talking to. In the second instance, West is talking to a potted plant.
  • Freak Lab Accident: In "Win, Luthor, Draw", Teddy and Ron watch a video of someone trying to get Super-Speed by recreating how The Flash got his powers, by dousing himself with chemicals and shocking himself. Teddy and Ron then tries the same on Van, who wants to get superpowers. In both cases, it fails. Then Jackie accidentally steps on a bucket of chemicals and gets struck by lightning, which gives her super speed.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-Universe, the Atlanteans revere Brendan Fraser.
  • Hero Insurance: The original concept and pilot were built around this. The second pilot and the show that actually aired abandoned that idea and instead focused on an R&D department creating products for ordinary people in a world where superpowered fights are an Unusually Uninteresting Sight.
  • Human Resources: "Win Luthor Draw". When our 'heroes' stumble upon the wormhole that caused an alien invasion in the basement of Lexcorp, Lexcorp thugs are sent to silence them, using a ray-beam-thing that reduces human beings to the consistency of cheese... which they pour on nachos and hand out as complimentary snacks.
  • I Am Spartacus: In "I'ma Friend You", Van accuses someone of using his private bathroom, and singles out Ron, Teddy and Wendy as the most likely culprits. All three decide to confess at once, which confuses Van.
    Van: So all three of you defecated on my toilet, simultaneously? You are some dirty birdies.
    Teddy: No, it's a gesture. We're sticking together? You want to punish one of us, you'll have to punish all of us? Didn't you ever see Spartacus?
    Van: Thank you for ruining Spartacus for me.
  • It's Always Spring: Played with in "Cold Season", where winter only really happens because of winter-themed baddies.
  • Kryptonite Is Everywhere:
    • Kryptonite is common enough that Kryptonite-plated window glass was considered a viable product. The idea was to keep Superman from crashing through buildings during big fights, but it would also prevent him from helping the people inside.
    • Lampshaded in "No Consequence Day" after Superman breaks out of a prison made from kryptonite:
    Ron: You know, for a rare metal that comes from a long destroyed planet, people sure do find a lot of this stuff.
  • Lopsided Dichotomy: Jackie tells Emily she's too busy to go to a self-defense class with her because "either I'm taking care of a child... [Van yells for Jackie] ... or I'm at home with my kid."
  • Lower-Deck Episode: The entire series is about normal people in the DC universe dealing with superpowers. Also, Wayne Security is the lower deck of Wayne Enterprises: kept well away from Gotham City headquarters, perpetually on the brink of being shut down, and headed by a cousin Bruce Wayne can't stand being in the vicinity of.
  • Meta Casting:
  • Missing Mom: Van points out that Emily never speaks about her mother, only her father.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Lex Luthor is the US president in this reality like he is sometimes in others.
    • At one point, Teddy jokes "Let me just summon a wizard. Shazam!" an obvious nod to the DC hero Shazam!.
    • Ace Chemicals is a client of Wayne Security in "Sinking Day."
    • Everyone drops their suspicions that their new co-worker is the Olympian after he gets whacked by a chair and drops to the floor. Which doesn't actually prove anything, as unknown to them, Olympian is powerless out of his suit.
    • In "Emily dates a Henchman", Van Wayne wears a rubber Robin costume reminiscent of the Burtonverse suit. Those who read the comic he appears in know he once pretended to be Robin.
    • The same episode mentions that two Robins have supposedly died on the job. In the comics, three Robins have died and come back - most famously Jason Todd, followed by Stephanie Brown and Damian Wayne.
  • Na´ve Newcomer: Emily is new to Charm City and is constantly amazed at seeing superheroes and supervillains, which the other citizens have gotten used to.
  • Nepotism: No matter how much Wayne Security fails, Van will not suffer from it because he is a Wayne. Surprisingly Van himself didn't realize this before the events of the pilot.
  • One-Word Title: Powerless
  • Person as Verb: On "I'ma Friend You", Jackie tells Emily not to "Emily this up", meaning she doesn't want her help. Emily takes it as a compliment anyway. Lampshaded later in the same episode:
    Wendy: Jackie is never going to take our money. She is crazy private.
    Emily: I have a pretty genius way around that.
    Teddy: So you're going to Teddy it.
    Emily: What's that?
    Wendy: [interrupting Teddy] That's when you try to use your name as a verb unsuccessfully.
    Ron: Oooh, you just got Wendied!
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: Van Wayne is an incompetent imbecile who couldn't care less about the well-being of his employees and basically expects Emily to do his job for him.
  • The Pollyanna: Emily Locke is unwaveringly optimistic and loves her job because it allows her to help people.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: This is how Van sees his position at Wayne Enterprises, being sent to what he calls a "taint" city instead of having a fancy office at the main headquarters in Gotham.
  • Retool: Prior to the series beginning airing, the pilot was re-written and re-shot to change the setting from an insurance company that dealt with claims related to metahuman battles, to the Wayne Security premise.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Ron believes that Bruce Wayne is secretly a hero is correct. His belief that Bruce is the Flash is not.
  • Sassy Secretary: Jackie makes no secret of her disdain at Van's assertions he can do anything without her help and that he's competent at anything other than breathing. And there are questions about that.
  • Seen It All: In the fantastical world of this show, superheroes and supervillains aren't seen as unusual
  • Shout-Out: Van calls himself The Closer and tells Kyra Sedgwick to move over.
  • Take That!:
    • The pilot episode features a headline that pokes fun at Donald Trump.
      "President-Elect Luthor Vows To Make Metropolis Super Again".
    • Episode 3 features an even more blatant swipe when Ron jokes that "losing the popular vote but somehow winning the election" is the greatest generator of supervillains aside from bad parenting.
    • Episode 10 features President Luthor insisting he will build a space wall and make aliens pay for it, in an all-caps tweet.
  • Terror Hero: Batman makes only one shadowy appearance in the series. But when a gang of minions is robbing Wayne Security, and Van happens to walk by in his authentic Robin costume:
    Minion: Robin! That means Batman must be here! Run! (They do.)
  • Track Trouble: In Episode 1, the Jack O'Lantern destroyed the elevated train track in his fight with the Crimson Fox.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Subverted in Episode 3. Emily and Van are under the impression that Atlanteans love tuna. And they do... as friends and allies. Emily has to hastily get rid of the freshly-cooked tuna before the Atlanteans see it.
  • Train Stopping: In Episode 1, the Crimson Fox catches the train car.
  • Tuckerization: There are some characters who are named after comic book writers.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: People in Charm City are so used to superhero battles that they ignore them. The opening sequence of the pilot has Emily be amazed at seeing Crimson Fox fighting Jack O' Lantern outside her train, while her fellow passengers act blasé, even as the train derails and is caught by Crimson Fox.
    Emily: You don't see that every day.
    Passenger: Actually, we do.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?:
    • In true DC fashion, Charm City is a fictional city somewhere in the United States. Based solely on the name, it's presumably based loosely on Baltimore.
    • Lampshaded heavily in regards to Atlantis.
      Emily: Remember how Atlantis got attacked? I called them! I didn't know when to call, though, because what time zone is Atlantis in? I mean, do they have daylight savings time? Do they even have daylight?
    • In "Cold Season" there's a shot of a series of clocks showing the time in different cities: it's 5:47 in Gotham and Metropolis, 6:47 in Atlantis, 10:47 in Themyskira and 3:47 in Charm City. Assuming Gotham and Metropolis are on the East Coast, that puts Charm City somewhere in the Mountain Time Zone, Atlantis just off the American East Coast, and Themyskira somewhere near Portugal or East Africa.

Alternative Title(s): Powerless 2016