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So while trying to find the pilot for the ill-conceived Supergirl show, I found another pilot for another ill-conceived show: Wonder Woman. This would be NBC’s 2011 attempt at a Wonder Woman show spearheaded by David E. Kelly, the guy who made Boston Legal. Yeah.
So I gave it a watch and you know what? I 200% understand why it wasn’t picked up. I actually prefer watching CBS’ Supergirl. I wish I could say that Wonder Woman made me mad, or sad, or at least made me laugh. It did none of these things. At most it made me groan and at worst it made me confused.
So since we’re getting the first ever film version of Wonder Woman next year in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the character will soon be relevant again, I thought I’d explain to you exactly why this crashed and burned so hard.
2011’s Wonder Woman reinvents the entire character’s story, turning it from a heroic, almost-mythological tale, into a pastiche of What Was Popular At The Time. Diana Prince, as Diana Themyscira (we’ll get into it), runs Themyscira Industries as some kind of powerful, devil-may-care business woman. Think a taller, leggier, far more boring Tony Stark.
As an aside, we never really learn what the company does. It’s called Themyscira Industries, which implies that there are multiple industries she dabbles in. Yet the only thing we hear being made are Wonder Woman action figures and other merchandise. I’m no toy magnate, but that can’t possibly be enough to fund multiple jets, costumes, legal fees, a giant building, and what seems to be thousands of employees. And it certainly doesn’t explain the ‘Industries’ label. OH, and she built this all in two years, by the way. No Wonder Woman to WONDER WOMAN MEGACORP in just two short years.
When she’s not running the business, or having her sassy friend do it, she’s out chasing your generic crime and beating people up. Except this isn’t your dad’s boring, more popular Wonder Woman! This is an edgy IN-YOUR-FACE Wonder Woman, so she’s torturing people in their hospital beds and running afoul of officers who think she’s just some crazy vigilante! Think a less dynamic, far more boring Batman.
However, the pilot makes it a point to say she’s also a role model. Something for young girls to look up to. There’s a horrifically artificial sounding speech halfway through where she decries Wonder Woman (herself) for having to be “perfect” and an unreasonable expectation to live up to. Also the tits (her words not mine, seriously watch it) are too big on the action figures! She’s standing up for the rights of those who can’t fight for themselves! Think a more confusing, less inspiring Superman.
As I mentioned before, the world knows that Wonder Woman is, in reality, Diana Themyscira: businesswoman. What they don’t know is that Diana Themyscira is really Diana Prince: wine drinking cat owner (seriously).
Why? Really, why though? How was this going to work? What is Diana Prince supposed to do in her life? Does she have a job? She must disappear for hours upon hours, maybe even days. She can’t possibly have a life with two other freaking alter egos. How do you explain Diana Themyscira’s nightly disappearances? She’s incredibly famous, there are gossip segments dedicated to her on the news, and yet she doesn’t think people will notice her not having any hobbies or vacations? The world thinks Diana Themyscira is a businesswoman, I’m sure that comes with a lot of networking. How is she supposed to do that when she’s also trying to be a second person? Why tack on another life if you’re willing to make an alter ego public anyway? It makes zero sense!
Also, just want to point it out, her Diana Prince disguise is just her with her hair pulled back and glasses on. At home. It’s not like a Clark Kent situation where he changes his wardrobe and acts different for work. She puts on a sad disguise (“that tall, unnaturally gorgeous woman who looks exactly like Wonder Woman has glasses and a pony tail so she can’t possibly be Wonder Woman”) and goes home. To her cat. We never see her interact with anyone else as Diana Prince. It’s the most useless alter ego ever conceived.
You know how a pilot is your way to hook people into your show? You set up a really cool mystery, or an intriguing twist, or at least have a really cool episode that makes your viewers want to come back for more. Well here’s the thing: Wonder Woman didn’t know that.
The episode’s villain is another supermodel business woman (this world must be jam-packed with them) who was using performance enhancing drugs to make super-soldiers. I think? She was testing them on kids… and also soldiers? And it’s illegal? Also she has sex with a lot of Congressmen and Senators, so she can make them do what she wants. No, really. She almost makes the government shut down Themyscira Industries, and even though Wonder Woman’s sassy friend is pretty worried about it, I don’t think that’s really a thing that the government is able to do.
Anyway, most of the episode is a rotating cast of people talking about the episode’s conflict and in the last ten minutes or so Wonder Woman storms the bad guy’s warehouse/lab (?), murders bodybuilders (?) and security guards (we’ll get to it), and then knocks out our main bad lady.
No mention of an over-arching conspiracy. No big bad. No twist, no mystery. Nothing set up for the future. Our last shot is of Diana Prince, glass of wine and cat by her side, staring sadly at the lack of friends she has on Facebook. REALLY.
WAIT! Did I mention that a weird, waifish Steve Trevor is a thing? Because he is! We get treated to two scenes of he and one of the Dianas, I’m not sure which version, having a heated argument during a fancy dinner. Turns out, Diana is leaving for LA to start her WONDER WOMAN MEGACORP and for some reason Steve can’t come?
Anyway, we don’t care about this. Not even a bit. It’s seen in flashbacks in an attempt to make us sympathize with Diana for a few minutes before moving on. We don’t see their relationship before this argument or any reason why breaking up is so tragic. They mention living together for a few years, but there’s this old saying in screenwriting: SHOW DON’T TELL. Because just telling us things is ineffective and BOOOORING.
Oh, we’re not done. At the end, who shows up? Steve Trevor! He’s the government’s choice to inspect Themyscira Industries (conflict of interest isn’t a thing, I guess) and with an implied wink he says he sees nothing wrong with the company (CONFLICT OF INTEREST ISN’T A THING, I GUESS). Oh, and he’s married, but we don’t really care because of the reasons mentioned earlier. That doesn’t matter, though, because he SHOULD have seen something wrong. Why? Well:
Wonder Woman straight up murders people! She tortures, sure, but she also straight up murders people. When she raids the bad guy’s place she starts with your typical punching and kicking and heads straight into strangling, neck breaking, crushing dudes with a shipping container, and throwing a pipe through a security guard’s throat.
Now don’t get me wrong, Wonder Woman in the comics has killed people on occasion. Most of the time, it’s monsters or some kind of robot. One time she killed a human and it was a pretty big deal. She had to earn back the trust of her friends. And that guy was going to commit genocide! Here she gruesomely kills a security guard for shooting at her. Which, by the way, was his job. She was the superpowered maniac trespassing and murdering employees. He probably had a family, was trying to put his kids through college. Now the mom’s going to have to work two jobs because Wonder Woman decided that’s the night she was going hand out layoffs. Permanently.
And Wonder Woman gets away with it! The authorities arrest the Bad Businesswoman and Wonder Woman comes back to her corporate headquarters to the applause of hundreds. It feels… false. Superheroes rarely kill, because then it’s hard to not see them as dangerous vigilantes who make themselves judge, jury, and executioner. The Punisher works because he’s a villain, just one we root for. NBC and David E. Kelley thought they could make Wonder Woman into a kind of Punisher. They couldn’t.
If you haven’t seen this pilot, I can’t recommend it. It’s kinda boring and convoluted and very low on action. If any of this has intrigued you, go watch it. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below.