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 would happen if you really gave the everyday population powers?
This is answered in Extraordinary, a new comedy twist on the superhero genre that arrives on Disney+ today (you can sign up here). This is a world where every single person gains a new power at the age of 18. However, our protagonist Jen (played by breakout star Máiréad Tyers) bucks that trend – still being powerless at the age of 25.
Jen is determined to discover her own power, going to extreme and hilarious lengths to try an unearth a hidden supernatural talent, from stressing herself out at the dentist, to eating the spiciest curry on the menu. What makes her unremarkable is a common insecurity of hers, with her lack of powers frequently questioned by both job interviewers and her own mother (Siobhan McSweeney).
The problem is that Jen is stabbing in the dark to ‘unlock’ her power, if it even exists. How she should go about it remains a mystery, especially considering that the abilities shown off in Extraordinary are a bit on the… unusual side.
The early screening shown to Tech Advisor featured a taxi driver who has foresight about how people die (and seems far too eager to tell them), a potty-mouthed 55-year old party-shop owner who is trapped in the body of a child, and a man who can do 3D printing out of his arse – yes, really.
From the get-go, Extraordinary doesn’t shy away from lewd and rude humour. In that sense it is reminiscent of Amazon’s The Boys, but it doesn’t have the same cynicism or shocking gore. Instead, this feels rather like a flat share sitcom centred around a girl who is desperately trying to get her life together, and superpowers just happen to be the norm.
Her flatmates Carrie (Sofia Oxenham) and Kash (Bilal Hasna) are her rocks throughout, happy to help Jen in bizarre activities to unlock her power, but equally there for her in moments of despair.
They also showcase perfectly 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 counters people who are contesting wills, and doesn’t make herself popular in the process.
Despite the bizarre and shocking powers, the show still feels grounded – and that’s all crafted by writer Emma Moran, a former stand-up and sketch comedian. This may be her first script, but it’s become the second ever UK-based Disney+ original, and it has already been green lit for a second season.
In an interview after the screening, Emma talked about how her Irish background inadvertently bled into Jen, and as such the inner thoughts and monologues of the main character feel hilariously real. She often speaks the things that everyone is thinking but wouldn’t say if weren’t for a filter.
The East London setting also has such a strong identity in the show. This is likely helped by Moran’s days living around this area. She even penned script for it in the local Genesis cinema, buying one coffee which she would nurse for hours on end.
Despite the subject of the series, this is the antidote to any superhero genre sceptics. It may also be a breath of fresh air for those that are getting burnt out from these types of stories.
Perhaps that’s because we’re getting the same cookie-cutter formula from Hollywood repeatedly, where the hero must deal with a world-shattering/universe-shattering threat, all the while dressed in a swish suit and spouting quip after quip. As such, the relatability for many audiences is lost.
Extraordinary takes all that out the equation and proves that you don’t need cool outfits and scary villains for a superhero story to succeed. All you need is a hopeless protagonist (powers be damned), a setting with a strong identity, and side-characters that you just can’t take seriously – like the shapeshifting cat called Jizzlord.
All eight episodes of Extraordinary are out now on Disney+. You can sign up for 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 adaptation of the post-apocalyptic game, The Last of Us. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay star as Joel and Ellie, two survivors who have been paired together – rather unwillingly. They must make their way across the country, avoiding the grizzly infected 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 are rolling out weekly, so you’ve got plenty to look forward to.
You can catch The Last of Us on HBO Max in the US, and on Sky Atlantic/Now in the UK.