A Raucous Foray Into Superpowers — or Lack Thereof
Jan 25, 2023
In a world where everyone has a superpower, what makes someone truly stand out? The new Hulu series Extraordinary asks this question, with some quite funny results. Jen (Máiréad Tyers) is a 25-year-old who’s trying to find her place in the world, and it doesn’t help that she’s the only person she knows who hasn’t developed their own power yet. Most people in the world of Extraordinary discover their power on their 18th birthday, and Jen’s been waiting more than six years to figure out what her power is. Her best friend and roommate, Carrie (Sofia Oxenham), can channel any dead person and speak using their voice. Carrie’s boyfriend/Jen’s other roommate Kash (Balil Hasna) has the power to go back in time and literally have do-overs. But Jen… she’s got nothing.
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We first meet Jen on the world’s worst job interview — made a hundred times more terrible since the potential employer’s power is to make people say whatever they’re thinking. Cue Jen spewing her worst fears and biggest worries about the job, admitting she only wants the position because she needs money, and wondering out loud if the interviewer’s eye patch hides a gross socket hole. Needless to say, she doesn’t get the position. It’s a promising, hilarious start to a series that never takes itself too seriously, no matter how crude and uncomfortable some of these powers may get.
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The unique thing about Extraordinary is that it doesn’t shy away from fully illustrating the drawbacks of having superpowers. For instance, in Episode 1, “Have Nots,” Jen has a date with Gordon, whose power it turns out is to cause someone to have an orgasm from a mere touch. This could have promise on a date, right? Well, not so much. Gordon wears a glove and avoids actually touching Jen at all costs. Plus, he tells the unfortunate story of how he discovered his powers — playing football with his dad — which was a proud moment that turned a little too proud for Gordon’s liking. Using one’s powers takes a lot of energy, too, and sometimes, Kash gives out after redoing events too many times. Another guy can move through walls — but uses so much energy that he gets stuck with his ass hanging from the wall for over 24 hours. (“Someone thought I was a Banksy!” he says.)
Oh, there’s also the fact that Jen feels overshadowed by how amazing her stepsister Andy (Safia Oakley-Green) is, even before her 18th birthday when she, of course, gets her power almost immediately. Jen’s mum, Mary (Derry Girls’ Siobhan McSweeney) doesn’t mean to favor Andy, but she’s clearly disappointed that Jen’s power has yet to manifest itself. Unfortunately, too, for Jen, her stepfather’s (Robbie Gee) power is to read people’s emotions. So, he always knows exactly what she’s feeling, even when she definitely doesn’t want anyone to know.
Consequences of power be damned, Jen wants nothing more than to discover what her power is, so she can be like everyone else. She tries everything, from eating spicy food to inducing stress by taking a much-feared visit to the dentist, but nothing works. There’s a clinic that helps people’s powers come out, but Jen can’t afford it. She spends much of the first season lamenting her lack of powers, and trying to get her sometime-booty call Luke (Ned Porteous) to see her as more of a girlfriend than just an on-again, off-again sex buddy.
In the first episode, Jen finds a cat and adopts it, taking it home and naming it, of all things, Jizzlord. However, we learn at the end of the episode that this is no mere cat when it turns into a man (Luke Rollason). A very naked, forlorn-looking man. It turns out that Jizzlord has been a cat for three years before he finally turns back into a human, and he has no memory of his previous life. He even has to learn how to be a man again, leading to some pretty funny, endearing gags.
Image via Hulu
Jizzlord rounds out the quartet of main characters, and the series mostly focuses on these young adults finding their way through a super-powered world. Carrie uses her power to speak for the dead as a lawyer, and Kash decides to use his powers for good by assembling a team of “vigilantes” to fight crime. Jen ends up helping Carrie with one job assignment in particular that has to do with a misogynistic country singer, and Jizzlord helps Kash with his vigilante group. There’s an easy camaraderie between the four main cast members, and you have no doubt that you’re seeing true friends portrayed on-screen. (Even the guy who used to be a cat!)
Where the show falters somewhat is that some of its gags are a little too predictable, and sometimes very cringey. Some of the jokes are truly hilarious; others, you know they’re supposed to be funny, but they just don’t get there. I wanted to laugh out loud more than I actually did, but the show is amusing at times — and Jizzlord, especially, is very endearing in his naïveté. The ultimate message behind the show is hammered home a little too heavy-handedly, with multiple characters telling Jen she needs to learn to accept herself as she is and stop worrying about why she doesn’t have a power yet. Of course, she doesn’t listen to them, and it’s debatable whether she actually learns to love herself by the end of the season.
Image via Hulu
The characters are all very flawed individuals, even the ones who seem to have it all together. That’s a strong aspect of the show — you do grow to care for these characters, even if sometimes, they do things you don’t like, and you want to pull them through the screen and shake some sense into them. This is never more evident than in Episode 5, “The Jen Show,” where Carrie begins to see that her best friend sometimes only thinks of herself. It’s possibly the best episode, with some laughs, but mostly some serious introspection for Carrie, who really shines.
It’s not entirely clear whether Jen ever realizes the error of her ways. After all, her main struggle is with her lack of powers. You have to wonder if her power would come to her if she just learned not only to love herself but also to appreciate the challenges others face and focus on someone else for a change. All in all, Extraordinary is an enjoyable comedy with some funny moments and an endearing story at its heart. Maybe you won’t laugh as much as you’d hoped, but you will have a fun ride regardless.
All eight episodes of Extraordinary will premiere January 25 on Hulu.
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