Powers Ep. 6: The Raconteur of the Funeral Circuit Review – Identity Crisis

April 1, 2015 Written by Chandler Wood

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Powers is a show that I want to love, but I see so many problems with. On the one hand, the concept is great, but when it comes to execution, PlayStation’s exclusive show fumbles around far too much. Instead of weaving an incredible tapestry of interwoven story arcs, we get a raggedy blanket with loosely knit threads that can’t quite decide what it wants to be. Like it’s primary protagonist, Powers is going through an identity crisis, wanting to be both a comic and TV show, be not fully fitting into either world. At 60 percent of the way through the season, you shouldn’t have to continue to convince your audience. You should already have them hooked. 

The episode’s opening is phenomenal, showing a montage of characters getting ready for the wake in mourning of the powers division cops that were brutally destroyed in the last couple of episodes. The pacing and shot composition felt like a well done TV show, and not like a comic that wanted to be one of them fancy motion pictures. The solemnity of the occasion translated well to the screen and the accompanying music furthered the emotional tie. 

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The One About the Wake

For Walker, Pilgrim, and the other “protagonists,” the whole episode takes place at this wake. There’s a lot of talking and a lot of reminiscing about the past, continually beating into us who these characters were before the current events we are seeing. Powers does a lot of living in the past, and rather than doing it in a way that drives the mystery or attachment to the characters, it beats the same drum again and again, rarely really giving us any new information about the characters, and sounding like that washed up high school football star who can’t stop reliving his glory days. When you’ve only got 10 episodes to tell a story, you have to stop retreading the same paths. If this is Powers‘ way of doing character development, it’s not working for me. Give me something new. Move the narrative along at a better pace!

Black Swan! What’s that? It’s nothing, and yet, perhaps it is everything. It’s our random new mystery. It’s our convenient new narrative device that is meant to string the viewer along a bit more, and it is tossed into the episode by a drunken Triphammer, who somehow didn’t die after having his head bashed to paste in the last episode. It’s alluded that Captain Cross may know something about this ‘Black Swan’ thing as well, and when confronted, he seems angry and off-put by the whole thing. There’s all of five minutes that are even devoted to this topic the entire episode, and they feel out of place, slapping a new potential threat on our heroes with only four episodes to go and using a drunk character as the serviceable vehicle to deliver that development. Seeing the narrative development over the first half of the season, I’m not convinced they can bring an entirely new undeveloped element to fruition in time. 

Time for the Kryptonite

And there lies Powers‘ biggest weakness. Instead of building on previous events and allowing the narrative to form a complete picture naturally, it feels like a random hodge-podge of things that are happening but have little-to-no relation to other events. Black Swan, Sway, Khaotic Chic, Wolfe — Powers is trying to do too many things at once, and yet it still meanders, hardly advancing any of these threads more than a minute amount. Look at any other TV show and where they were at 60% of the way through their first season. Powers feels stuck in the mud by comparison, failing to meaningfully build new enactments on previous event structure.

As for Royalle and Calista, we get a couple of scenes involving them, but these serve to further hinder character development. Calista is helping Krispin in his anti-powers civil disruptiveness, but is then shocked to find him working with Khaotic Chic? It makes little sense. Johnny Royalle is panicking a bit about the Sway he’s passed around the world and wondering what sort of effect it will have after learning of it’s effects on Walker and the seemingly psychic connection that Walker and Wolfe shared. If anything the Sway plot point seems like it will be the one to take center stage for the climax, but the show’s effectiveness of building it to that stage has been lacking. 

Frayed Threads

The episode’s title seems to allude to Deena Pilgrim’s father, who likes to put on his hero face, but has skeletons in his closet. Yet another thread that barely ties into the rest of the narrative, and feels odd being added this starkly to the story this late in the game. And the episode’s penultimate cliffhanger ending left me wondering why that plot point was driven home so hard (not to mention the gaping plot hole where powers division is in charge of the shaft, yet somehow a news crew can do a surprise newscast while they are all at the wake).

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Powers is lost in its own identity. It’s trying to tell so many stories an get you attached to so many characters that it fails to make that link with any of them. It doesn’t give us the development that we need of individual characters and leaves them feeling like hollow game pieces that are moved around for the sake of the narrative. We got close to some real emotion with the end of last week’s episode and the start of this one, but Powers fell back into the same rut that has been leaving me feeling empty about the forced plot of the show overall. It’s an entertaining jaunt, and one that I’ll ride out until the end, but not one that I am feeling in any way emotionally attached to.