Powers Ep. 1-3 Review – A Gritty Super-Powered Story
Exclusive TV series are quite popular right now, with networks dedicating resources to housing incredible original content such as Netflix’s own House of Cards, among a variety of others. So it’s no wonder that Sony wanted to give original TV content a home on PlayStation with the new comic turned TV series, Powers. Unlike the ‘all-in-one’ release for each House of Cards‘ season however, we are getting the first three episodes of Powers this week, with a new episode to follow each Tuesday until the conclusion of the season.
Powers could easily be dismissed as another superhero drama, or a darker version of Heroes, and while that may not be entirely false, it still retains something special that makes it its own. While I haven’t fully read the Powers comics, I know the general gist of the story, which does vary from the story that the PlayStation series is telling.
The Power of the Cast
The first three episodes of the series introduce you to the main cast. Sharlto Copley easily steals the show as Detective Christian Walker, a former power who lost his abilities and is now working for law enforcement’s Powers Division. He’s conflicted between where he belongs; not quite a power, but something more than human. Copley’s performance consistently shows how hard he is trying to get by in a world where being a power makes you a celebrity, and he used to be one of them. He plays the part wonderfully, from his practiced manner in dealing with other powers, to his snapping when things are out of control.
Deena Pilgrim is Walker’s new partner, played by Susan Heyward, and coming onto the scene after Walker loses his original partner to an attack by a power in the opening minutes of the show. She plays the role very well, both playing the apprentice as a new face in Powers Division, but also taking control when Walker begins to sink into darkness of his own past and personal history with the rest of the powers. Michelle Forbes, Noah Taylor, and Eddie Izzard round out the primary cast as Retro Girl, Johnny Royalle, and Wolfe, respectively.
In the first three episodes we see a dark plot begin to take shape, as powers begin dying and they show telltale signs of involvement by Johnny Royalle, who was assumed dead. The linking character between each of the story threads and plot points is Calista, a human who wants desperately to have powers, known as a ‘wannabe.’ Though the overall narrative is intriguing and tells of a dark world where those with powers are both feared and revered, but also out of general control, the character of Calista begins the series feeling like little more than a game piece to move the plot forward and get characters to different areas. Her consistent presence across the first three episodes feels unnecessary and I question where they are taking her story arc, because she felt more like a distraction than a legitimate player.
Hold the Exposition
The opening episodes of Powers are also very exposition heavy. Instead of relying on the fantastic visuals and excellent cinematography to tell the story, the writers felt the need to have characters spell out exactly what’s going on at all times. I would have preferred some level of mystery, or even just allowing the viewer to gain a sense of what was going on from what was happening on screen. The rushed exposition leaves little room to care about the characters and their past relationships, and how the past is now affecting the current situation, as the show whisks the viewer along. When everything is on the table, it ruins the ability to have characters surprise you, or to keep you ruminating on the mysteries until the next episode comes around.
Regardless of these missteps, Powers presents viewers with a strong foundation and a window into a R-rated world full of powers and the normal people who don’t quite know how to deal with it. Powers takes the fantastical elements of super abilities and grounds them in a dark reality. It feels like an odd cross between Heroes and Watchmen, with a dash of Fables thrown in for good measure, as Walker is strongly reminiscent of Bigby Wolf. The excellent acting of the main cast and great visual composition are hindered only by the exposition heavy writing, but if future episodes can offer more mystery and let the visuals tell the story, Sony could have a real heavy hitter on their hands with the PlayStation’s exclusive series, Powers.
Powers first season is available free to PlayStation Plus members. The pilot episode is free for anyone to watch either here or on PSN. Episodes 1-3 are currently available, with new episodes through episode 10 scheduled to air each Tuesday.