If you’ve read my previous Powers reviews, you know that I have very mixed feelings on the show. While each of the pieces seems compelling, the show just isn’t putting itself together in a way that feels cohesive. The smattering of story, characters, and seemingly random events have barely crafted a viable arc to tie the whole season together. In Powers, stuff just kind of happens. It may or may not be referenced to later. Characters may or may not respond appropriately to situations. It just all feels haphazard.
I have to give You are Not It props for being the most well paced episode thus far. It focuses just enough time with each character and situation, and also advances each of their personal arcs in a more meaningful way than we’ve seen so far. Royalle wants to figure out more about Sway, and we discover the potential side effects that having dealt Sway across the world could have. Walker wants to be great again (as usual). Calista wants to feel like she belongs with the Powers. Krispin wants to destroy all powers. All of these narrative points are followed up on — some more than others — and this episode felt like a meaningful step forward for the characters and their stories. The biggest problem is that it’s taken seven episodes to stop going around in circles.
Sway is the Key
Johnny Royalle’s little experiments with Sway are revealed to have potentially devastating effects on the world, and Walker’s own experience with it is hinted to giving him abilities that he doesn’t know he has. The Sway storyline is definitely (maybe?) the central story, as Walker is on it, Calista now has her own experience with it, and Wolfe seems to think that he can use Sway as some sort of conduit to anyone who’s ever taken it. Is this ‘Black Swan,’ the mysterious, seemingly apocalyptic force that was mentioned drunkenly last episode and then given no mention this time around? Probably not.
There’s also the arc with Krispin and Khaotic Chic, which leads to the episode’s final scene. Krispin is escalating his rebellion from simple vandalism, though the catalyst for this moment is an argument in which Calista is mad that he’s talking to another girl. It’s childish, and makes no sense why she would even have had a thing for Krispin to begin with, knowing all along that he hates powers. It also leads to Calista taking drastic measures to prove which side she’s ultimately on. Again, these are the kinds of moments we’ve been waiting for all season, but they seem to be coming too late and through poor execution.
And then there’s Simons, Royalle’s partner who can make multiple copies of himself. He receives a huge dose of character development this week, as well as a huge dose of green light from a drainer. What happens when a man who can make multiple copies of himself loses his powers with his copies still out there? We find that out, but it just feels like another random happening — another happenstance of information to give to the viewer — and doesn’t make meaningful strides in advancing the story arc aside from conveniently giving Royalle an excuse to go see Wolfe.
A Tale of Convenience
Convenient is perhaps the best way to describe the events that happen in Powers. As somebody who has studied screenwriting, convenience and coincidence are two elements that you want to avoid where possible in storytelling. It doesn’t help develop characters. It doesn’t meaningfully develop the narrative. It simply gives a convenient shuttle to move the players and narrative pieces around. I have a bad feeling that the final moments of the show are going to hinge on coincidences like the drainer losing power conveniently. It’s not a compelling way to present a story. Use your characters to move the story forward, not the other way around.
You are Not It does a lot of things right in its pacing and advancement of stagnant story arcs, but can’t seem to fix the series’ biggest problem of being a random mish-mash of elements that are expected to come together in a meaningful way, but fail to make that impact. I’m a little afraid that the following episodes will simply undo the advances that this episode made through random conveniences that move things in a different direction. Is it too little, too late? Probably, but we’ve got three episodes until the conclusion, and I’m still mildly curious to see where they decide to take it. I’m just glad it’s free with PS Plus.