Powers Ep. 5: Paint It Black Review – There are No Heroes

I’ll admit that Powers has been making me nervous. I want to care, but between the rocky pacing and loose story arcs, I’ve felt more like an observer than someone that’s been truly invested in the characters and the situation going on. If you want to read my reviews of episodes one through three and episode four, you can check out those links to see my thoughts as each of those released. Episode five seems to finally bring me what I have been craving for the last few weeks: a reason to care. 

The Power of Choice

In Paint it Black we are finally treated to some flashbacks as the battle of physical prowess and wills comes to a head between Walker and Wolfe. The episode opens in 1994 as a band plays in a club that we soon learn is the Sanction Lounge, the venue for Wolfe’s mass murder that led to his capture. A young Christian Walker and Johnny Royalle are seen interacting as friends while sitting with Wolfe, who plays a mentor role. It’s a story that we’ve heard already, but it means so much more to see it play out in front of you, though I’m a bit disappointed in the actors chosen to portray the younger Walker and Royalle. Early on it felt more like they were simply reading lines than truly ‘being’ the characters. 

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As Walker gazes at Retro Girl, he muses on her being a hero. “There are no heroes,” is Wolfe’s reply, and the theme is made clear throughout the episode. We’ve always divided people with abilities into categories of either hero or villain (and sometimes anti-hero). But in Powers, people are people, and abilities are just a trait they happen to have. “There are no heroes” is a line that rings true, as is the opposite, that there are not necessarily any villains. There are misunderstandings and choices in how people choose to use their abilities, but the choices are not black and white, as Walker discovers when he has to make a choice on whether to truly save the future through a bad act, or be lauded and recognized as a hero that doesn’t kill.  

The idea of one person being able to be labeled a hero leads into the most emotionally charged scene in the series so far, an excellent conversation between Walker and Retro Girl that humanizes those with abilities and shows just how heavy the burden of being a power really is. It is a scene that I have been waiting for, a moment that brought an emotional spark to the characters and could be the key to starting a blaze that will finish out the rest of the season. 

The Struggle Continues

The present day struggle between Walker and Wolfe provide some excellent reveals, showing us at least some of the effects that Sway is having on Walker, as well as giving a little taste of Walker as Diamond. While there are some great moments, the number of shots that are repeated in Paint it Black feels a little excessive. How many times do we need to see the same shot of Walker in the field with Wolfe? How often do Wolfe and Walker need to grapple each other, break apart, and repeat? It often felt too drawn out. In fact, with proper pacing between the last episode and this, they could have easily fit all of the story elements within one slightly longer episode (I am of the opinion that the sub-45 minute episodes hurt the series more than they help it, and throw the pacing off, either drawing things out too long as they hold story back for later episodes, or causing things to be compressed and rushed as they force out narrative and events).

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Outside of this main story arc, we are presented with some scenes involving a present day Royalle, as well as Calista and the power-hating son of Walker’s old partner. These moments feel added in for the sake of reminding the viewer that these characters are still around and hold no significant bearing over the main Wolfe-Walker contention that the episode focuses on, though they at least follow the theme of ‘there are no heroes.’

Powers fifth episode, Paint it Black, is an emotional charge that PlayStation’s exclusive show has been missing from the beginning. It held some of my favorite moments so far in the series, and Michelle Forbes easily takes top spot for best acting this week, showing us a vulnerable side to Retro Girl and changing the dynamic of her and Walker’s relationship. With the season now halfway over, Powers is prepping us with some harsh realities that could make for a powerful and dark closing over the next five weeks.