Thursday, September 22, 2016

REVIEW: 'Superstore' - The Cloud 9 Employees Take on Corporate to Get Glenn's Job Back in 'Strike'

NBC's Superstore - Episode 2.01 "Strike"

After employees walk out to protest Glenn's firing, Amy convinces her co-workers to turn the walkout into a strike. Jonah joins Amy in negotiating with corporate. Mateo regrets going on strike and sneaks back into the store to impress Jeff, the district manager sent to manage the store during the crisis. Dina is determined to impress Jeff as she tries to be renamed assistant manager. Garrett meets a beautiful woman on the picket line who proves too good to be true.

I offered a mea culpa to Superstore during its special Olympics preview episode a month ago. It was a series I didn't think much of in its first few episodes. Based on buzz from other critics, I finished the first season and became a full supporter of the series. It just took a couple more episodes to get used to the comedic rhythms and stylings of the show and the characters. That's perfectly alright. I'm just glad Superstore is enough of a hit on NBC that it allowed me to catch up on this wonderful gem. The Olympics episode wasn't completely the best showcase for the series. It highlighted the broad strokes of the characters and the stories in the hopes of attracting more viewers. But "Strike" is a strong way to start the season. It highlights the difficulties that come from trying to take on a corporate entity and how that battle may not be as easy or swift as it originally seems.

It's a continuous pick up from the end of the first season. Glenn has been fired because he gave Cheyenne a paid maternity leave. It was the right thing to do. It was a selfless action that showed just how tight this makeshift family really is. It's an action that unites most of them against the Cloud 9 corporation. For far too long, this company has been taking advantage of its workers. It was pretty funny last season when corporate went into panic mode whenever the work "strike" was mentioned. And now, the employees are actually doing it. All of corporate's fears are coming to fruition. Dina is the only employee who stays loyal to the company. Everyone else walks out to protest Glenn being fired. They aren't organized though. The only thing they are really protesting is how Glenn was fired. That's the only issue they have against corporate. The first season highlighted just how awful this company can be. The employees have just accepted that as a part of their jobs. Jonah is different because he wants to stand up and fight for what's right all the time. But everyone else is more reluctant to actually call this a strike.

Amy just wants to get Glenn back in charge. It's something that corporate is pretty open to happening too. They didn't like what he did. But they would bring him back if it means no one goes on strike. All they want in exchange is the employees signing an apology form for threatening the company in the first place in such a strike-filled way. It's a horrifying realization for Amy. Jonah wanted to fight for so much more. He wants to change the way the store is managed. Amy just wanted Glenn back. But an apology is just too ridiculous. The employees did nothing wrong. They have a right to unionize and take issue with the way corporate manages the store. The fact that they have to apologize afterwards is belittling and condescending. Corporate just wants to get everything back to how it used to be. But that's no longer good enough. A passionate fire has been lit. Amy and Jonah are united to fight against the company. It just becomes problematic because they don't really know what they're doing.

This isn't a long strike at all. It's an important issue for the show to tackle. But you can also get the feeling that the show doesn't want it to linger for too long throughout the season. It's great to see the characters rally against a united cause. They demand to get Glenn re-hired, to be paid for overtime hours and to vape in the store. But no one really knows how to organize this protest. At first, it seems like everything is going according to plan. Shirts are made. Signs of protest are apparent. Other people have joined the cause as well. And yet, not everything is as it seems. The employees are protesting to get fair workers' rights. The rest of the world doesn't know that. Jonah's tweet that brings more people to the parking lot is very vague. All he says is to protest the store. So, the world takes it as an opportunity to take about a sensitive and very topical issue: transgender rights. It's a surprising detail of this premiere. It's a big and important issue that is definitely in the spotlight right now. The employees realize just how bigoted some of these protestors really are and are horrified by what this demonstration has become. But it's also an issue that people are passionate about right now. No one especially cares about workers' rights because it seems like a battle that has already happened. It's hard to care about a corporation mistreating its employees. There isn't a single issue that can really ignite a massive protest against Cloud 9.

So ultimately, the employees have to accept the original deal that corporate presented to them. After just one day of being on strike (two if you ask Jonah), they fold and go back to their regular jobs. Glenn is back as store manager with Dina as his assistant manager. Everything is exactly the way it was at the start of the series. Only Amy and Jonah are left standing in the parking lot protesting the poor working conditions they are forced to endure. The fight seems over. They need to back down if they have any hope of supporting themselves. Two people simply can't change the way things are done in this store. They had their moment in the spotlight and lost it just as quickly. It's a loss for them. But giving in now doesn't mean they have to stop fighting corporate. Signing the apology note is humiliating for both of them. But it means they have their old jobs back and can continue to earn money to support their lives. They can still fight while on the inside. They know just how inconsiderate corporate really is. They succeeded in getting Glenn his job back. That's a major victory that should be celebrated. It is. They just got a little too excited with all the other demands they wanted. The store won't be the same as it was before. Yes, Amy will still just barely stand Jonah. But they can still change things from within. All they need to find is the passion and determination to get the job done. One strike couldn't solve all the problems with corporate. The employees still have an oppositional force to deal with this season. So, it should be exciting to see them continue to face resistance just because of this chain box store and the impersonal nature of the people in charge.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Strike" was written by Jackie Clarke and directed by Victor Nelli Jr.
  • Dina wants to prove to Jeff, the new face from corporate, that she deserves to be assistant manager. She hopes to do that by breaking up this strike. Hiring new employees does that more effectively than anything else. But Dina still faces a lot of frustration when the hose doesn't want to work the way she wants it to. She needs the power washer to break up the crowd and that's even more dangerous.
  • How will everyone act around Dina going forward? They were never all that close with her. She is often way too intense. But now, she may have burned all of those bridges because of her actions during the strike. Glenn will probably forgive her despite her destroying his car.
  • The montage of the protesters going through the store trying to run all of the customers out is fantastic. Garrett probably has the most success in that endeavor just because he knows how to use the intercom system to frighten people. Meanwhile, Glenn simply cannot destroy anything without feeling sorry about it two seconds later.
  • It's a running joke that Mateo can't commit to the strike. He wants to be in two places at once. He wants to impress Jeff at work but he also wants to take a stand with Amy and Jonah. It's just a little too broad to really work that well.
  • Garrett meets a woman at the protest who seems amazing and made for him. Too bad she's also against transgender rights. He plans on sleeping with her then not doing anything further as a way to show her that she's wrong. Yeah, that probably won't go so well.
  • Amy and Jonah's dress to impress looks were so on point. Ben Feldman looks good in a fedora no matter how silly Amy thought it was. And yes, Amy's outfit was really pink. But it looked stunning as well.