“Extraordinary” proves that superpowers don’t mean good use of them

So you have super powers. You can walk through walls. The problem is that your butt is still on the other side – and you’re not wearing any underwear.

Created by Emma Moran, Extraordinary shares a narrative structure with that of Disney Encanto, but on a global, cynical, adult scale. When people turn 18 in this reality, they gain a superpower. It’s often hereditary, meaning you may be given the same power as either of your parents, but it can also be accidental. Ah, our protagonist Mirabel Jen (Máiréad Tyers) hasn’t discovered her power yet, despite trying for seven years.

She’s not the only one having trouble though – the superpowers around her also seem pretty bad at figuring out her abilities. As Mashable’s Caitlin Welsh writes in her review, “The forces of power in this world aren’t much of a metaphor, just another thing for people to deal with now… They’re a gift to some people, a burden to others, and a . . for most a complicated cocktail of both, just as IRL ‘super powers’ can be as incredibly smart or conventionally attractive or super tall.”

And it’s that level of flawed humanity that makes this unconventional superhero show truly exceptional.


Extraordinary is a smart, swearing sitcom that just so happens to have superpowers

Extraordinary makes people with superpowers as incapable as normal people.

Classic superpowers like flight, super strength, telekinesis, and time warp are covered in the series, but there are also some uncomfortable niche powers in the mix. But the problem is different Encanto‘s Family Madrigal – who are instantly capable of deep conversations with all animals, making perfect flowers bloom and picking up a bunch of unexpected donkeys after receiving their powers – in Extraordinary Most people seem pretty bad at using their superpowers. And it’s wonderfully human.

Invisible muggers make way too much noise. Ade’s (Abraham Popoola) unreliable ability to maneuver through solid walls leaves him stuck with his bare butt sticking out onto the main street, causing a commotion. (“Someone thought I was a Banksy,” he says angrily.) Sebastian (Sam Haygarth) can summon but not control sea creatures, which means fish will frolic uselessly on the floor after being summoned. A superman is magnetic at times; another squirts ink like a squid when startled.

Jen’s stepdad Ian (Robbie Gee) has a cousin who can freeze anything but as Ian explains: ‘Of course he has a freezer which he uses mostly but that’s it Knowledge.” Jizzlord (Luke Rollason) was stuck like a cat 3 years before he managed to transform from it. This is bad magic.

A man in a colorful outfit sits in a veterinary practice and is examined.

Stuck as a cat for three years. Not the best shapeshifter?
Photo credit: Disney

Best of all, Jen’s mother Mary (the hilarious Siobhán McSweeney from Derry girls) can control the technology with a flick of the wrist…but because she doesn’t really get it, she ends up angrily waving her magic hands in front of TVs and across smartphones with hilarious reproducibility.

“Being able to master technology is only useful if you know how technology works‘ Jens scolds.

Superpowers inherit 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 crappy friend, an absent friend, a lackluster employee while you figure out how to fly. This is the gist of Extraordinarythe imperfections and flaws that make us wonderful people, whether we have superpowers or not.

Three women are standing in an apartment in the middle of a party and look shocked.

Jen’s mother, played by Siobhán McSweeney, needs to improve her powers.
Photo credit: Disney

Extraordinary reminds us that superpowers suck.

For some, powers without proper control or training are a real liability, like Jen’s super-strong sister Andy (Safia Oakley-Green), both of whom fail to get into a prestigious music academy after their violin breaks and breaks her friend’s pelvis in an unfortunate sex accident. Some powers are beyond your control; Gordon (Eros Vlahos) involuntarily induces orgasm in anyone he touches, and it becomes as embarrassing as it sounds.

There are also moments when people’s superpowers fail – Luke’s (Ned Porteous) ability to fly dwindles when he’s not the center of female attention. In Episode 6, a man simply trundles over Jen’s apartment, unable to control his ability to fly. For those who can fly, it only really works if your self-esteem is solid – think less of Wonder Woman’s cheesy, self-taught flying lesson 1984more Mark Grayson’s terrible flight training with his father Omni-Man Invincible. It’s hard and painful stuff.

but Extraordinary makes clear that powers are something you can work on if you put in the time to practice and educate yourself. Jen’s mother takes IT courses to improve her tech-oriented skills: “Now I know what all the bits are for,” she says. It’s the show’s focus on people’s ability levels within their superpowers that makes them so relatable — and honestly, easier for Jen to exist as someone without them (despite what she may say). Jen’s roommates have the show’s most advanced powers — Kash’s (Bilal Hasna) time-rewind abilities and Carrie’s (Sofia Oxenham) mediumistic powers — but they both use them for pretty small things, like work, getting people to make their lives happy, or to satisfy their own needs. And they are both unhappy.

Instead of a uniquely talented group of superheroes using their extraordinary talents for good (The Avengers) or evil (The young) among the plebs, the superpowers Extraordinary enjoy the newfound benefits of their talents in everyday life while still struggling with the trials and tribulations of a normal person: dating, sex, family, work, identity. Just because you can walk through walls doesn’t mean you’ll avoid public humiliation entirely.

Extraordinary Season 1 is now streaming on Hulu in the US(opens in a new tab)and Disney+ in the UK, Australia and other territories.(opens in a new tab)

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