Extraordinary shows why we need stupidity in the superhero genre
When we think of the superhero genre, we associate it with epic CGI-filled battles and an action-packed plot. However, what if you really empowered ordinary people?
That’s answered in Extraordinary, a new comedy spin on the superhero genre coming to Disney+ today (you can sign up here). It is a world where each person acquires a new power at the age of 18. However, our protagonist Jen (played by star Máiréad Tyers) bucks this trend – still being impotent at the age of 25.
Jen is determined to discover her own power, going to hilarious extreme lengths to try and unearth hidden supernatural talent, from stressing herself out at the dentist to eating the hottest curry on the menu. What makes her mundane is her common insecurity, with her lack of powers frequently questioned by job interviewers and her own mother (Siobhan McSweeney).
The problem is that Jen stabs in the dark to “unlock” her power, if it even exists. How she should go about this remains a mystery, especially since the abilities featured in Extraordinary are a little… unusual.
Early detection shown to Technical Adviser featured a taxi driver who knows how people die (and seems far too eager to tell them), a 55-year-old party shop owner who’s trapped in the body of a child, and a man who can make an impression. 3D of her ass – yes, really.
From the outset, Extraordinary is not afraid of lewd and crude humor. In that sense, it’s reminiscent of Amazon’s The Boys, but it doesn’t have the same cynicism or shocking gore. Instead, it’s more like a roommate sitcom centered around a girl desperately trying to get her life together, and superpowers just happen to be the norm.
Her housemates Carrie (Sofia Oxenham) and Kash (Bilal Hasna) are her lifelong rocks, happy to help Jen with bizarre activities to unleash her power, but also there for her in times of desperation.
They also perfectly show how superpowers would create everyday problems. For example, Carrie can channel the dead and allow them to speak through her – but that alone doesn’t pay the bills. To earn a living, she opposes people who contest wills and does not make herself popular in the process.
Despite the bizarre and shocking powers, the show still feels grounded – and it’s all crafted by writer Emma Moran, a former stand-up and sketch comedienne. It may have been its first script, but it became the second UK-based Disney+ Original, and it’s already been green-lit for a second season.
In an interview after the screening, Emma explained how her Irish background inadvertently bled into Jen, and as such the main character’s inner thoughts and monologues sound hilarious. She often talks about the things everyone thinks but wouldn’t say if it wasn’t for a filter.
The East London setting also has such a strong identity in the show. This is probably helped by the days of Moran living in this region. She even wrote a script for this one at the local Genesis cinema, buying a coffee that she would nurse for hours.
Despite the show’s subject matter, it’s the antidote to any skeptics of the superhero genre. It can also be a breath of fresh air for those who burn out from these types of stories.
A Fandom survey (as reported by Variety) claims that around a third of Marvel fans feel fatigued from the endless series of movies and TV shows that have been pumped in, while the DC Universe is in tatters after numerous reboots and cancellations.
Maybe it’s because we repeatedly get the same cookie-cutter formula from Hollywood, where the hero has to deal with a world-shattering/universe-shattering threat, while dressed in a swish costume and spouting joke after joke. As such, relatability for many audiences is lost.
Extraordinary takes all that out of the equation and proves that you don’t need cool outfits and creepy villains for a successful superhero story. All you need is a hopeless protagonist (powers be damned), a setting with a strong identity, and side characters you just can’t take seriously – like the shapeshifting cat called Jizzlord.
All eight episodes of Extraordinary are now available Disney+. You can create an account from $10.99/£7.99 per month for ad-free viewing.
What I’m watching this week
HBO Max’s latest big hit is the post-apocalyptic game adaptation, The Last of Us. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay star as Joel and Ellie, two survivors who have been paired up – rather reluctantly. They must fight their way through the land, dodging infected grizzly bears and other threats along the way.
Fans of the game have praised its portrayal of the source material, but even if you’re not a gamer, this series is filled with suspense, drama, and tragedy. Episodes air weekly, so you have a lot to look forward to.
You can watch The Last of Us on HBO Max in the US and on Sky Atlantic/Now in the UK.
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