There is an overabundance of superhero shows on television right now. It is exhausting to keep up with every superpowered hero, villain, and antihero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But bear with me. Extraordinary is worth your time and commitment. The series is unique because it is a traditional hangout sitcom masquerading as a superhero show. Instead of focusing on an overtly complex story that only diehard fans will understand, the Disney+ series takes the genre down a peg by following the hilarious hijinks of its four terrific leads. If anything, these characters’ superpowers are just icing on the cake.
Extraordinary takes place in a world where nearly everyone receives a superpower on their 18th birthday, except for our dear protagonist Jen (Máiréad Tyers). As she reaches her 25th birthday, Jen begins to worry that she will never gain her powers. For her, having a unique ability means she can finally quit her terrible job, get Luke (Ned Porteous) to finally see her for more than a quick fling, and, most important, win her family’s love and praise. Yet, Jen needs to fork over $9,500 to a clinic that helps young adults find their untapped powers. Unfortunately, Jen is too broke to pay for these services. Thankfully, the powerless woman has her flatmates in East London to help develop various hair-brained schemes.
Jen’s delightful friends include her long-term bestie Carrie (Sofia Oxenham). Though the lawyer appears to have her life together, Carrie is going through a quarter-life crisis like her misguided friend. The young woman has the incredible quirk to commune with the dead, but no one, including her bestie, sees Carrie beyond her special abilities. The career woman must also manage her dopey boyfriend Kash (Ned Porteous), a time traveler who spends most of his time forming a vigilante group than wooing his woman. Rounding out the quartet is Jizzlord (an outstanding performance by Luke Rollason), Jen’s stray cat turned shapeshifting human with amnesia.
Extraordinary asks the simple question: “What if Deku from My Hero Academia never got his powers from All Might?” Like the anime’s protagonist, Jen is one of the few humans without a superpower in her world. Unlike the boy hero, Jen makes herself a victim of her circumstances. Rather than rising to the occasion, Jen spends most of the series moping around, self-sabotaging opportunities, and resenting people with powers. For instance, when Jen discovers that her brilliant but bratty younger sister did not get into a competitive musical conservatory in Episode 5, she forces the vulnerable teen to read an embarrassing speech in front of her classmates. This moment may present the protagonist as a villain, but it also shows that Jen’s personality is the problem—not her lack of powers.
Despite her foibles, it is still easy to root for Jen. As with many twentysomethings, Jen’s life is adrift. She truly believes her adulthood will not begin until she gains a power. This internal conflict is believable since Extraordinary treats superpowers as a metaphor for specific milestones in adulthood. In this brilliantly crafted world, receiving a superpower is like finding a dream job or a romantic partner. Fortunately, Jen’s friend and, to a lesser extent, her family are there to hold the poor woman accountable for her actions. Jen’s journey may start on the wrong foot, but she soon realizes she can be a good person without having the capacity to fly or read minds.
Along with its likable but wholly messy protagonist, Extraordinary works as a series because it turns the superhero genre on its head. The comedy does not treat superpowers as magnificent feats but as mundane traits. Of course, some characters can pick up objects twice their size or run at top speed. Yet, most characters feature bizarre skills like the ability to turn anything into a PDF document. Extraordinary proves that having a power does not necessarily mean your life gets better. For many of the characters, their life gets spectacularly worst. One notable example is the vigilante Ade (Abraham Popoola). He has the power to go through solid objects, but only if he is nude. Let’s just say his “behind” gets stuck between a brick wall for all to see.
However, what will hook you into the series is Extradionary’s near-perfect comedic timing. Emma Moran and her team provide some of the most hilariously funny lines, such as “There’s only three things I need to know. Is beer still cold? Are guns still cool? And is Jesus still white?” It also helps the show that the leads deliver some of the best physical comedy since the premiere of Abbott Elementary. Take Jizzlord’s (My God, that name) return to the human world. His attempt at opening a tuna can in Episode 3 will have you laughing on the floor. No matter how hard he tries—and boy, does Rollason go for it—Jizzlord fails at completing the basic human task.
I am a little burnt out from watching superhero shows. But it is great to see Moran adding something fresh to the genre. The series’ visual effects may not be at Marvel levels, but its humor and heart outweigh anything the movie studio currently has to offer in its current slate. Perhaps it is a little too early to declare, but Extraordinary is one of the best comedies of 2023.
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