‘Extraordinary’ series review: A superhero comedy about the perils of quarter-life crisis

In this painfully brash but captivating comedy, everyone gets a superpower to flaunt, but no one escapes the confusion of figuring out life in your 20s

Updated - February 08, 2023 03:55 pm IST

Published - February 08, 2023 01:14 pm IST

A still from ‘Extraordinary’

A still from ‘Extraordinary’ | Photo Credit: Disney+ Hotstar

Disney+’s new show, Extraordinary, provides an alternative to the narrative of the revered superhero that has been long established by Disney’s favourite child, Marvel. What if you were the only one in the world without superpowers? Jen (Máiréad Tyers) exists exactly like this in the exceedingly funny world of Extraordinary, where everyone gets a superpower on their 18th birthday.

It must be noted that while some powers will make the viewers envious (the ability to fly, shape-shift or teleport), others are just comically mundane (the ability to turn anything into a PDF).

Now in her 20s, and powerless, Jen lives with her best friend Carrie (who has the power to act as a conduit for the dead), and Carrie’s deadbeat boyfriend Kash (who can turn back time). Throughout the eight-episode run, Jen occupies herself with the process of wanting to discover her power, and the antics that ensue form the main plot.

While Extraordinary, could have taken a route of concerning itself too much with the hows and whys of superpower, it instead relegates this aspect almost non-existent. In her maiden series, Emma Moran is quick to wrap up the fascination that comes with being superhuman, in fact, the show packages the whole deal in refreshing normality. People hop on the back of others who serve as flying taxis and officegoers avoid the water splashed on by a car, by expertly manoeuvring it off-course. Carrie’s ability to channel the dead has little to do with the occult and is used more to settle deeds quickly at her job as a lawyer’s assistant, while Kash uses his gift to solely to erase his embarrassing moments or fix his mistakes.

Creator: Emma Moran
Cast: Máiréad Tyers, Sofia Oxenham, Bilal Hasna, Luke Rollason, Siobhán McSweeney, Safia Oakley-Green, and others
Episodes: 8
Storyline: In a world where everyone gets a superpower on their 18th birthday, a powerless Jen attempts to figure out her own powers.

Jen, meanwhile, exists on the periphery of this world. She is at odds with her younger stepsister Andy (who has super strength) and has a fraught relationship with her mother Mary (Siobhán McSweeney). Right at the beginning Jen also dismisses any notion of “the real power is just being yourself,” which reinforces the larger theme of the show where it seeks to focus on the human that resides in the superhuman.

Moran conveys this sentiment through the efficient characterisation of Jen, which may be taken as a subtle metaphor for being clueless in your 20s. We see her make terrible decisions, selfish choices, and be a less-than-ideal friend to Carrie. In a reality that renders Jen a supremely average human, she still manages to wheedle her way into being the main victim who is angry at everyone and lives in the belief that the world owes her. These traits don’t make Jen unlikable as much as they make her like any other lost 20-something who thinks her problems are the only ones worth pondering over. We have all done it, those in their 20s are still doing it.

While people move along figuring out their powers and careers, Jen feels perpetually left behind like she has missed a memo on how to be a functioning adult. By couching this narrative in a painfully brash but captivating comedy, Moran creates a show about a world — that despite having characters who can change their hair colour with a shake of the head — remains accessible to us.

Though her character may not have any powers, Tyres as Jen possesses an infectious energy that bubbles up on the screen, and the lack of it is felt when the plot veers to individual stories of the supporting cast. Tyres’ performance is only rivalled by Sofia Oxenham, who as Carrie shines in segments when she conjures the spirits of the dead.

What Moran does in Extraordinary is make a world awash with magically empowered people, who ultimately remain people that do not use their abilities beyond selfish and vain reasons. The show’s characters are only given superpowers, but they are not transformed into individuals with a sense of justice or benevolence. At the end of the day, humanity with or without superpowers is going to revert to the comfort of a complacent existence.

Drawing on the familiar themes of feeling like the only failing adult when everyone around you is expertly navigating life, Extraordinary doesn’t try to be more than what it is: a frankly silly comedy about being a young adult today. Where it does seek out depth, like the friendship between Jen and Carrie, it does so in sincere tones. With a second season already confirmed, we can only expect Jen’s imperfect quest for power to get sillier and more human.

Extraordinary is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

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