So, you’ve got superpowers. You can walk through walls. Trouble is, your butt’s still stuck on the other side — and you’re not wearing any underwear.
Created by Emma Moran, Extraordinary shares a narrative set-up with Disney’s Encanto, but on a global, cynical, grown-up scale. When people turn 18 in this reality, they receive a superpower. Oftentimes it’s hereditary, meaning you might get the same power as one of your parents, but it can also be random. Alas, our protagonist
Mirabel Jen (Máiréad Tyers) hasn’t discovered her power yet, despite seven years of trying.
However, she’s not the only one having trouble — the superpowered around her seem to be quite crap at figuring out their abilities too. As Mashable’s Caitlin Welsh writes in her review, “The powers in this world aren’t a grand metaphor, just another thing people have to deal with now…They’re a gift for some people, a burden for others, and a complicated cocktail of both for most, in the same way IRL ‘superpowers’ like being incredibly smart or conventionally attractive or super tall can be.”
And it’s this level of flawed humanity that makes this unconventional superhero show truly extraordinary.
‘Extraordinary’ is a smart, sweary sitcom that just happens to have superpowers
Extraordinary makes superpowered humans as inept as regular humans.
Classic superpowers like flying, super strength, telekinesis, and time-bending are covered in the series, but there’s also some more niche, inconvenient powers in the mix. But the trouble is, unlike Encanto‘s Family Madrigal — who are instantly able to have deep conversations with all animals, make perfect flowers bloom, and lift a heap of unexpecting donkeys upon receiving their powers — in Extraordinary most people seem to be quite rubbish at using their superpowers. And it’s gloriously human.
Invisible muggers make way too much noise. Ade’s (Abraham Popoola) unreliable ability to phase through solid walls gets him stuck with his naked butt protruding onto main street and causing a fuss. (“Someone thought I was a Banksy,” he says angrily.) Sebastian (Sam Haygarth) can summon sea creatures, but not control them, meaning fish uselessly flop around on the floor after being called. One superhuman is intermittently magnetic; another spurts ink like a squid when she’s startled.
Jen’s stepdad Ian (Robbie Gee) has a cousin who can freeze anything, but as Ian explains, “Of course, he’s got a freezer that he mainly uses, but it’s the knowledge.” Jizzlord (Luke Rollason) was stuck as a cat for three years before he managed to shapeshift out of it. That’s some bad magic.
Three years stuck as a cat. Not the best shapeshifter?
Best of all, Jen’s mum Mary (the hilarious Siobhán McSweeney from Derry Girls) can control technology with a flick of the wrist… but because she doesn’t really understand it, ends up exasperatedly waving her magic hands at the TV and over smartphones with extremely funny relatability.
“Being able to control technology is only useful if you know how technology works,” Jen scolds.
Inheriting superpowers in Extraordinary doesn’t make you any more human than those without them, in fact, it’s hard work, especially when your emotions and sense of self limit them. But you can still be a shitty friend, an absent boyfriend, a lacklustre employee, while figuring out how to fly. This is the core of Extraordinary, the imperfections and flaws that make us wonderfully human, whether we have superpowers or not.
Jen’s mum, played by Siobhán McSweeney, has to upskill her powers.
Extraordinary reminds us that being superpowered can suck.
To some, powers are a real burden without proper control or training, like Jen’s super strong sister Andy (Safia Oakley-Green), who both fails to get into a prestigious music academy after breaking her violin and breaks her girlfriend’s pelvis during an unfortunate sex accident. Some powers are out of your control; Gordon (Eros Vlahos) involuntarily gives anyone he touches an orgasm and it becomes as awkward as it sounds.
There are also moments when people’s superpowers fail them — Luke’s (Ned Porteous) ability to fly falters when he’s not the centre of female attention. In episode 6, a man simply spins above Jen’s apartment, unable to control his flying ability. For those who can fly, it only really works if your sense of self is solid — think less Wonder Woman’s cheesy, self-taught flying lesson in 1984, more Mark Grayson’s horrendous flying training with his dad Omni-Man in Invincible. It’s tough and painful stuff.
But Extraordinary makes it clear that powers are something that you can work on, if you dedicate time to practicing and upskilling. Jen’s mum takes IT classes to improve her tech-focused abilities: “I know what all the bits are for now,” she says. It’s the show’s focus on people’s skill level within their superpowers that makes it so relatable — and frankly, easier for Jen to exist as someone without them (despite what she might say). Jen’s roommates have the most advanced powers of the show — Kash’s (Bilal Hasna) time-rewinding abilities and Carrie’s (Sofia Oxenham) powers as a medium — but both of them use them for pretty small fry things, like work, to make people in their lives happy, or to satisfy their own needs. And they’re both miserable.
Instead of a uniquely talented group of superheroes using their exceptional talents for good (The Avengers) or evil (The Boys) among the plebs, the superpowered in Extraordinary enjoy the newfound advantages of their talents in everyday life while still struggling with the trials and tribulations of being a regular human: dating, sex, family, work, identity. Just because you can walk through walls doesn’t mean you’ll totally avoid public humiliation.
Extraordinary Season 1 is now streaming on Hulu in the U.S.(opens in a new tab), and Disney+ in the UK, Australia, and other territories.(opens in a new tab)
#Extraordinary #proves #superpowers #doesnt #youre #good