Máiréad Tyers in Extraordinary.
Watching Extraordinary felt like a breath of fresh air. In the slew of superhero content, it feels like an anomaly, a show about superpowers without it being about saving the day or without it taking itself too seriously. I found Extraordinary extremely funny but also an enjoyable watch that had me itching for the next episode. Reminding me of classic comedies like Derry Girls, The Mindy Project, Girls and even the BBC comedy from the 2000s, My Hero, it is a fun watch.
Extraordinary tells the story of Jen (Máiréad Tyers), a 25-year-old who lives in an alternate world where everyone gets a superpower in and around their 18th birthday. Jen is still waiting to receive her superpower. She lives with her best friend Carrie (Sofia Oxenham), who can summon the dead and Carrie’s boyfriend Kash (Bilal Hasna), who can go back in time. Jen is trying to find her purpose while feeling like she’s in a waiting room while everyone else seems to move on and grow up.
The wonderful thing about Jen’s world is that not all superpowers are created equal. It has to get a little weird in a world where everyone has a superpower. There are the obvious ones like super speed, super strength and invisibility. And then there are ones where one man’s bottom can basically 3D print anything, or another man can turn anything into a PDF, and another can summon sea creatures. But it is treated as pretty ordinary, no different than everyone having a calling or career. People use their gifts to make money, like those who fly, becoming like Ubers for hire, but for others, it’s a hindrance, like a vet who hears animals’ thoughts or the dentist that hears everyone’s personal soundtrack. It is also sometimes too on-the-nose, Jen’s mom Mary (played by Derry Girls’ Siobhán McSweeney), has the power to control electronics, but she does not know how to use electronics like most moms. Then there is Jen’s stepfather Ian (Robbie Gee), who has the power to feel what other people are feeling like an empath. The superpowers can also be seen as an allegory as some people have their lives sorted with a career, a relationship, a talent, and those who don’t feel as if they are missing an important part and are constantly searching for it.
Máiréad Tyers brings a sense of freshness to the role of Jen, who, frankly, we have seen before in the aforementioned comedies. The title character is lost and funny but is also kind of self-absorbed. Tyers makes us care about Jen. We watch as she deals with grief and how jealous she is over her over-achieving half-sister Andy (Safia Oakley-Green), who just happened to get her powers on her 18th birthday. Then her romantic life is also a mess. She is hung up on her booty call Luke (Ned Porteous), who literally flies out of her window when she is in the bathroom after sex. A lot of her character is very cleverly relayed to the audience at the beginning of the first episode when she is in an interview for a corporate job, and the HR rep has the power to make people tell the truth. Jen does not get that job and is stuck working at a party shop for a woman in her 50s who is stuck looking like a 12-year-old. Tyers easily adapts to each of these situations and brings raw comedy or a sense of sentimentality when the situation calls for it.
My favourite character easily was Carrie (Sofia Oxenham). Her sad-sack and passive approach with her friends and boyfriend is in such contrast to her aggressive power. Even though Carrie is a qualified lawyer, she spends most of her time at work channelling the spirits of the dead to settle estate disputes. But seeing Oxenham shift from being the timid best friend to feeling herself up as a misogynistic American country singer is a sight to be seen. One scene, in particular, has her flirting with herself as King Charles II, and it was hilarious. I felt like I needed more of Carrie in the show.
The women are joined by Carrie’s boyfriend, Kash, in the apartment. Being unemployed, Kash is trying to get a band of vigilantes together to ‘protect women’. This feels slightly redundant because if everyone has superpowers, people don’t really need to be saved. The group quickly learn this as they fail over and over again. It is also ironic as while Kash is out trying to save women, his own girlfriend is neglected at home. Although Hasna is equally hilarious in the role, the scenes of Kash’s escapades seemed to drag on at times. And the final member of the main cast is Jizzlord (Luke Rollason), who manages to stumble onto their home, and after he has amnesia, Jen takes him in and helps him discover how to be out in the world again. Rollason has such a wide-eyed approach to every scene that he is a very endearing character, even when he is doing annoying things.
Like all comedies, the jokes might not be for everyone. It leans towards being very broad and extremely crass at times. Some jokes are lazy, but the writer Emma Moran, who wrote the series as her master’s thesis at the University of Manchester, seems to be having fun in every episode, which just makes everything that much funnier. I also enjoyed the music in every episode, which ranged from 70s rock to 2020s hip hop. It added such a poignant element to each episode and helped to keep the light tone of the series.
Extraordinary does not sucker punch you with emotion like Fleabag, and at times Derry Girls did, but it does offer you a good time. The series has already been renewed for a second season, so even though it ends on a brilliant cliffhanger, there is still more to come. I binge-watched all eight episodes at once and was disappointed when it was over because I longed to have more. So my suggestion is to enjoy the series in little bits and savour it.
Where to watch: Disney+
Cast: Máiréad Tyers, Sofia Oxenham, Bilal Hasna, Luke Rollason
Our rating: 4/5 Stars
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: