Thanks to the rise in popularity of superheroes on the big screen, comic book adaptations have become even more pervasive on television in recent years. All the major broadcast networks have dipped their toes in the superhero pool – to varying levels of success – while streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are tackling comic book properties of their own. However, NBC broke new ground recently with the first half-hour comedy set in a world of comic book superheroes: Powerless.
Set in a world full of DC Comics superheroes brought to life – although most of the big names operate off screen – Powerless follows the employees of Wayne Security, a division of Wayne Enterprises overseen by Van Wayne (Alan Tudyk) – cousin to that Bruce Wayne. In its series premiere, Powerless included plenty of DC Comics Easter eggs, in addition to all the obvious references to the show’s source material. Now, new photos from an upcoming episode of Powerless take Van’s connection to Batman a step further.
EW released two new photos from the fourth episode of Powerless, titled ‘Emily Dates a Henchman’, that will air next week on NBC. The episode will see Van don a replica suit of Robin, Batman’s most well-known sidekick, on a mission with Ron (Ron Funches) and Teddy (Danny Pudi) to discover the secret identity of the Caped Crusader – who, of course, Van is completely unaware is his cousin. Meanwhile, Emily (Vanessa Hudgens) tries to start dating, but unknowingly sets her sights on one of the Riddler’s henchmen, played by iZombie‘s Robert Buckley. Take a look at the images of Van suited up as Robin:
When it was first announced, Powerless was initially set at an insurance company called Retcon that dealt with the claims of those affected by superhero battles and villain attacks. However, after the departure of showrunner Ben Queen (A to Z), the series was restructured and relocated to Wayne Security with the pilot episode needing to be redone. These changes help to more fully integrate Powerless within a world of DC Comics superheroes – with Van’s connection to Bruce Wayne offering a direct connection between one of the show’s stars and one of the most iconic superheroes in pop culture.
Of course, Powerless hasn’t been afraid to poke fun at superheroes – it is a comedy, after all. And Van’s latest antics in dressing up as Robin certainly seem to be riffing on the long-running joke among comic fans that the sidekick is a less efficient and capable version of Batman (just as Van is a less efficient and capable boss than Bruce). Certainly, Powerless has leaned into the idea of striking a balance between referencing DC’s lineup of heroes and poking fun at those same characters – though whether the show has been successful is up to the viewers.
Still, Powerless isn’t the typical superhero drama or comic-book-turned-procedural series that have increased exponentially in recent years. Whether it finds an audience interested in the series’ balance of workplace comedy and superhero references remains to be seen. But, given these photos of Van dressed up as Robin, it’s clear Powerless isn’t shying away from its comic book connections.
Powerless continues Thursday February 23 with ‘Emily Dates A Henchman’ at 8:30pm on NBC.