NBC’s Powerless altered its office environment to better tie it into the DC Universe, but a seemingly innocent relocation will change Bruce Wayne from a beloved billionaire into that Monorail guy from The Simpsons.
NBC recently announced that Powerless, the long-awaited series about ordinary people living in a world full of superheroes, will hit the small screen on February 2. The announcement came with a bit of plot tweaking. Instead of being set at RetCon, an insurance agency protecting people from super-powered collateral damage, Powerless now takes place at Wayne Security, part of Wayne Enterprises. According to the plot description, the subsidiary develops products that protect ordinary people from collateral damage.
While it’s smart to directly tie the show into the DC Universe, given the success of DC’s shows on The CW, the change in scenery comes with a moral price tag: Bruce Wayne is now making money to protect people from himself.
In a world where humanity must cope with the collateral damage of Super Heroes and Super-Villains, Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) begins her first day as Director of Research & Development for Wayne Security, a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises that specializes in products that make defenseless bystanders feel a little safer. Full of confidence and big ideas, Emily quickly learns that her expectations far exceed those of her new boss (Alan Tudyk) and officemates, so it will be up to her to lead the team toward their full potential and the realization that you don’t need superpowers to be a hero.
Think about it. Batman is a superhero, and superheroes break a lot of shit. Batman has demolished houses, skyscrapers, cars, prisons, and so much else in his efforts to combat baddies. He and the Man of Steel destroyed an entire section of a major city in Batman vs. Superman (I don’t care if it was “abandoned,” people owned property there and now they’re not going to get jack-all for it). Wayne Enterprises does insure the entire city of Gotham, but you can argue that it’s so Bruce can hold his company financially accountable when Batman goes too far.
In Powerless, Wayne Security is developing products to protect people from heroes and villains. A noble cause...except when your boss is secretly part of the super-crew, and therefore cashing in on all the stuff made to safeguard customers from him and his enemies. Sure, he’s keeping the city safe from evil, but doesn’t that basically amount to a protection racket? This isn’t the same as superhero insurance, where Bruce would be forced to pay out if things go wrong. This is a vaccine for a disease that Batman and his friends keep tossing in the drinking water.
Bruce Wayne probably won’t make an appearance on Powerless; he’s already on Gotham and the character is expensive to license. Still, like it or not, he’s on the show now, and his presence (whether physical or implied) breaks so much of what we admire about the character—even if NBC didn’t do it on purpose, which I don’t think they did. In the world of Powerless, Batman’s not a hero anymore: He’s a extortionist conning his city for protection money.