The ‘Wonder Woman’ pilot is hilariously awful (Part 2)

Posted: April 26, 2012 in comic books, Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , ,

Previously, on Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman stole a dude’s blood, scorned due process, got weepy watching The Notebook, publicly accused someone without any evidence to back up her claim, read her board the riot act after Wonder Woman dolls came back with boobs that were too big, and then I’m pretty sure Elizabeth Hurley made a fellatio pun. ONWARD!

Here we come to part two of “Wonder Woman’s Vigilante Reign of Terror,” where, after stopping in to check on the ill black teen, she pops over to another hall of the hospital, where the Perp From Act I is being kept under guard.

First, she threat-flirts with the tiny police officer. “Do you like my outfit, officer? This outfit opens doors for me.” I don’t even know what her goal is there.

Then she’s grudgingly let in to see the guy by a hilariously bedraggled (oh, how loosened in frustration his neck-tie is!) detective, who literally tells the little cop to “Beat it!” and gives Wonder Woman her “just ten minutes” with the bed-ridden, arrested Perp.

This is where shit goes from a 50/50 hilarious/awkward ratio to full-on 100% Are-You-Kidding-Me. 

Imagine the Batman-Joker interrogation scene from Dark Knight. Now imagine that instead of an interrogation room in a precinct, it’s a hospital room, and instead of a psychotic mastermind who’s been stonewalling the cops for hours, it’s a groggy bald guy handcuffed to a bed.

And instead of a quietly raging Batman, who ratchets things up only when he learns two lives are in immediate danger, it’s a tall, pretty girl in a shiny halter-top, and nothing is at stake. Okay, got all that? Let’s go!

She drops the magic lasso on his chest, and when he starts screaming for help, she grabs his wrist and tells him not to do that because, “It bugs me! Certain sounds? They bug me. A crying baby…the bark of a dog…a snapping wrist…”

OK, let’s stop one more time. Things that bug Wonder Woman, that are all on the same level, apparently:

  • The noises that signal the basic primal needs of infants and domesticated pets
  • Shouts of “help”
  • Shattering bones

Wonder Woman does not care for your bullshit human instincts.

When he points out that he has, indeed!, Lawyered Up, she leans in juuuust low enough that everyone can get a good look at her cleavage and then cut to the hospital hallway, where a BLOOD-CURDLING SCREAM comes from his room.

In the hospital. Where literally not a single scrub-wearing employee even bothers to look up, and the bedraggled detective merely puts his hand on his hip and shakes his head, as if to say, “Ohhh, DIANA…”

After the commercial break, Diana gives the bedraggled detective the required info, while the audience again wonders just how many times Adrianne Palicki’s crammed-in boobs popped out of that top, until we finally reach the rooftop where her mini-jet sits (and I like thinking that every building now has a tiny landing pad for Wonder Woman’s one-lady jets).

And THIS is when the detective points out that all the evidence Diana just tortured out of the guy would be “poisonous fruit,” AKA, “inadmissible in court,” which again, is borderline acceptable if it came from a shadowy urban legend like Batman, but maybe not so much if it came from the CEO of a toy company who can be sued and arrested.

But THEN! The cop points out that because he is a cop, and he can’t get a warrant to bust down the door of a secret lab with coerced information, this is what he’s going to do: “I will question [Perp From Act I] nice…see if I can get the information legally.”

The bedraggled detective is going to re-interview the tortured suspect but this time NOT torture him, to get the same information out of him “legally.” Which, apparently, will solve all the problems.

Next up, Wonder Woman (who is staring at herself in a mirror because DEEP) is beset upon by Cary Elwes, who has just realized that since Wonder Woman’s ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES are being publicly funded by her own toy company, they could be brought up on RICO charges.

Which…look, being that David E. Kelley has written at least five more legal-oriented TV shows than I have, so presumably he’d have some basic idea of how the law works, and I’m gonna have to give him the benefit of the doubt here. Or at least, accept that he never had to think about how vigilante justice would actually conflict with the American judicial system when he was writing Allie McBeal and this is all new ground for him too.

Moving on! Hey, it’s Lorelai Gilmore’s dad, who’s a senator or something. Whose granddaughter looks up to Wonder Woman for her “work with the LAPD and FBI,” though Diana points out that their work merely “overlaps sometimes.” Y’know, like legal and illegal things tend to do.

Then he makes a veiled threat at her over her, y’know, superhuman vigilante thing, and what he should tell the proverbial “boys back in Washington,” to which she just digs deeeeep into David E. Kelley’s psyche and spews out:

“You could suggest that with the country in a double-war, facing a double-dip recession and double-digit unemployment, they might have more important things to do than probe my work habits.”

And somewhere, Aaron Sorkin pounds his fist at his desk, having to delete a whole page of his Moon Knight spec script. (Joking aside, I would kill to see a Sorkin Moon Knight script.)

Anyway, don’t worry about that, because the Hopeful Black Teen just died, and that means it’s time for Diana to go into VENGEANCE MODE. So zip up the boots, power up the mini-jet and let’s go bust down a secret lab!

Which…apparently the cops are also headed to. Diana even gets a phone call from bedraggled detective on his way to the scene, where he tells her – and I had to rewind this several times to make sure I heard it correctly:

“As soon as you enter, it becomes a crime scene. We can then legally move in.”

I’m not sure I understand laws at all anymore.

Except that now the Chief Beefcake Dude in charge of security at the secret lab tells his beefy minions that if Wonder Woman actually enters the facility, they can basically legally kill her.

I feel like I need to consult a lawyer who specializes in Secret Labs to see if this is actually kosher, but we’re getting near the end, so let’s just see how it all plays out.

Apparently when Wonder Woman really means business, she wears her bikini shorts. And in a pretty hilarious glitch, stiletto heels, for exactly one shot.

(I tease, because this is clearly an unfinished pilot – the following fight-scene didn’t bother to erase the wires or anything, though it’s still pretty solid fight choreography – but…at some point, they put the actress in those heels. What was the end-game, there?)

And then there is a fight. But lest you think this is Wonder Woman fighting, rather than some haphazardly-thought-up TV super-vigilante, she throws a night-stick through a security guard’s neck, pinning him to the door.

Aaaaand then she knocks down the door, with the guard still pinned to it. Jeeeeeez.

This is about when Veronica Cale lectures her on how everything about this whole “raid and murder thing” is grossly illegal and all on camera.

But then Wonder Woman wraps her up in the magic lasso and you’d THINK this would be the interesting turn of events, where the magic lasso forces Cale to say, on all those security cameras, how she lied, experimented on people etc., and ah-HA!, that’s the real power of the magic lasso –

Oh, no, she’s just going to punch Veronica Cale square in the jaw.

Suffice it to say, Cale goes to jail because Fuck It, Wonder Woman shows back up at Themyscira Industries to applause and “We love you Wonder Woman!” from her employees, and Cary Elwes tells her how proud he is to work with her, which…shit, that’s a nice moment.

And then he tells her the “lawyer from the justice department” is here to interview her, presumably about her grossly criminal activities. Cut to:

It’s Steve Trevor, and apparently it’s a surprise to Diana.

That was not cool, Etta and Cary Elwes. That was an incredibly dick move.


Finally, oh jesus, this is how we’re ending the pilot: Wonder Woman – in her Clark Kent/Diana Prince guise – filling out a Facebook profile, pointing out that her only friend is her cat.


Oh jesus this was awful.

Right, I should be more constructive than that.


The casting. Adrianne Palicki is actually a fantastic Wonder Woman, in theory. The idea to give the character two pragmatic supporting characters was great, and hell, even the Steve Trevor reveal is not bad.

It’s an utter misinterpretation of the character, and also law, which is kinda funny since those are the things that David E. Kelley is known for.

Put more plainly: Wonder Woman isn’t Batman. Hell, even Batman’s not Batman, the way this show would have it.

We’ve spent some time before talking about the problem with adapting Wonder Woman. She’s a hard character to get a handle on, because she doesn’t have the mission-clarity of the other Most Famous Superheroes.

But whatever your idea, hooo-boy, this was not it at all.

Wonder Woman’s not a vigilante. She’s a teacher, an ambassador, who happens to be a warrior. The whole point of her, based on Marston’s initial conception, was as an Ideal Woman, sent to teach mankind that there’s a better way of doing things.

If Themyscira Industries had instead been the Themysciran Embassy, they could’ve kept Etta Candy and Cary Elwes as chief of staff, and introduced the idea of Idealist Politics (which I know Kelley loves) and kept the same action-heroine stuff vs. modern gray areas, and that would’ve been a story. A warrior-woman who has to also be a modern-day diplomat.

And hey, she’d get that sweet sweet diplomatic immunity we all learned about in Lethal Weapon 2, which would basically erase a lot of the “But what you’re doing is illegal!” from this pilot.

But when your story is “CEO wears hot-chick gear so she can market herself as a toy while pummeling dudes, but also having sensitive lady-feelings” as a means of accessing vigilante behavior vs. the letter of the law AND being audience-accessible, you get into the problem with introducing super-hero behavior to real-life legality, which is utterly destructive to the super-hero narrative.

Nobody in their right mind thinks having superheroes would work in actual reality. Nolan’s Batman movies are specifically focused on that problem! In The Dark Knight, the people LOVE Batman until they DON’T. And when they DON’T, the cops turn on him and he can’t do the job properly without their ethical complicity and that’s what we’re going to see followed up on in The Dark Knight Rises.

And he’s a mysterious dude in armor and a cape, rather than a statuesque brunette in a halter-top who sells toys of herself.

What really gets me is that this is all Shitty-First-Draft Problems. There’s nothing in here that another pass at the script might not have fixed. But somehow, between David E. Kelley’s name recognition, Wonder Woman’s brand recognition, and NBC’s desperate need for a hit all coming into play, this whole thing happened well before it was actually ready to be filmed.

That said, this was 42 minutes of hilarious awfulness I’d totally watch again. And probably will, because Megan fell asleep before the really terrible parts kicked up.

And now I kinda want to do this with that horrendous Justice League pilot. I only watched 10 minutes before deciding life was too short, but now…

  1. braak says:

    Oh, man, if by “another pass at the script” you mean, “throwing the entire script out and starting it over from the ground up,” then maybe.

    Tell us again about the scene where Wonder Woman — who has a magic lasso that compels people to tell the truth — tortures a guy in a public hospital to get the location of the Base?

  2. braak says:

    Incidentally, some of the law stuff here is not completely insane. Or, it is completely insane, but is also, in its dumb, comic-book-written-for-a-teenager-way, correct. It is true that the cops could not just bust into the Base on their own, because they don’t have a warrant — but if Wonder Woman illegally kills a man and kicks down the door, then the cops can come in because they now have probable cause to believe that a crime is in progress.

    The problem, of course, is the probable cause is, “Wonder Woman is breaking in entering, assaulting, and murdering,” so no matter what kind of evil steroid chemicals they found in there, they’d still have to arrest her.

    It’s also true that if Wonder Woman was using her CEO moneys to illegally fund her vigilante activities, that conspiracy charges could be brought against her employees like Cary Elwes, assuming they were somehow involved with, or had knowledge of, Wonder Woman’s many assaults and murders, but this is actually the opposite of what the RICO act is for — RICO is designed to bring criminal and civil charges against the leaders of a criminal organization, so you’d use it (for instance) to prosecute Wonder Woman if she’d ordered Cary Elwes to commit an assault.

    I guess, theoretically, if Cary Elwes was ordering subordinates to cover up the spree of violence that Wonder Woman was on, but wasn’t specifically doing it himself, then maybe RICO would apply? But probably not, because the people in his company already work for him, so he’s already culpable if he orders them to commit a crime.

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    I suppose I do mean, “This first draft is bad and you should feel bad, now go and try it again.”

    Also, the mere fact that every other scene carries with it a question about whether or not what Wonder Woman’s doing is legal, which in almost every case is NO IT IS NOT, is probably an indicator that you shouldn’t put quite so much focus on it in the pilot episode.

    Except it’s David Kelley and I guess he thinks that kind of thing is expected of him now?

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    I’d also like to call just a little more attention to the fact that not only does she have the magic truth-compelling lasso but never once uses it for the magic truth-compelling, and only once refers to herself as an Amazon and even then it’s only to point out that Amazons are well-endowed and have nice teeth.

    So in the absence of the things that make Wonder Woman Wonder Woman, she really is just a woman who dresses up garishly so that she can sell toys, the money from which she uses to go beat up anyone she wants.

    And also that Wonder Woman straight-up gruesomely murders a dude. And not even one of the body-builder stunt-men who attack her. A uniformed security guard.

    This is really an astonishing case of what-the-fuckery.

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