To read our reviews of episodes 1-3 of Powers season two, click here. To check back on all of our Powers coverage, including reviews of season one, click here. The review below contains spoilers for the previous episodes of Powers, as well as some spoilers for episode four.
When we left Sharlto Copley’s Christian Walker at the end of episode three, he was buried underneath the rubble of a building, presumably by the charmingly sinister man in the wide brimmed hat that smiled and walked away moments after the structure’s collapse. His fate has been left hanging in our minds for the last week, or rather, we’ve all been wondering how he’s going to manage to survive, given that it’s unlikely for our main hero to die off so easily.
Stealing Fire begins with crews digging through the devastation to find him. Even though Walker is sure to survive, they still manage to kill someone underneath that rubble. The team quickly finds the severed arm of a female, indicating that Marigold — aka Khaotic Chic — is dead. Moments later, with some powered help from the strong arms of FBI agent Shlag, Walker is discovered to be barely alive, and his recovery sets episode four in motion.
Seeing Shlag lift the heavy piece of rubble is the first indication that we will finally get a little bit more of what the two mysterious FBI agents are all about, and though we barely get anymore information on the gray-skinned mute — aside from learning that he eats lettuce “like a woodchipper” — Stealing Fire focuses largely on Tricia Helfer’s Agent Lange and her past relationship with Walker. While the expectation was there, the confirmation that she is indeed a power helps to explain her motivations, and her rocky history with Walker both as Diamond and his powerless self creates a dramatic tension right up until the credits roll. The ultimate reveal of what her powers are is a little shocking at first, but delightful once it’s out of the bag.
The Power Formerly Known as Lynx
Helfer plays Lange brilliantly. Where I was unsure of her overall role in season two in the first three episodes, her development here completely changed my mind. The revelations about Lange and her potential involvement in something much larger than just FBI oversight make me eager to see where they take her character over the rest of the season. Of course, they could just unexpectedly kill her off Game of Thrones style. They’ve been doing that with a lot of characters — Krispin, Marigold, Retro Girl, that guy who’s face exploded. Even if they do, it was awesome to see her go from a minor annoyance to a true threat and proponent of the cliffhanger into episode five. This is the kind of character development missing from season one, and that season two keeps delivering on.
Also missing from season one was any real emotional connection to or between the characters. Everything felt forced and acted, for lack of a better term. Season two has proven change on this ground already, and in Stealing Fire it’s Susan Heyward’s turn to crank up the emotion as Deena Pilgrim blames herself for Walker’s injuries. Heyward is really good at selling Pilgrim as a woman with a tough and brash exterior, struggling to stay afloat in a world dominated by males. Season one played up this side of her too much, without offering a glimpse at the heart hiding behind this steel shell. As she is coming to be more accepted and bonded to the men around her, she is slowly letting down this guard and showing a bit more emotion.
Though there’s no crossover with the powers division and their story progression, Calista gets her own brief narrative advancement as her beaten father sells her identity out to the press and PR agency. Though he seems to question his actions early on, the wily and deceptive PR mogul Craig Sherman creates a situation that basically forces Calista to come to him for help and representation now that she has been outed as the “new” Retro Girl. This in turn gives us the post-credits scene where she is introduced to Wil Wheaton’s character, a bright and cheerful toy manufacturer who makes action figures of the different powers. While seeming innocent enough given Wheaton’s charm and smile, my gut says there’s much more to this guy than just making a buck or two on some new toys.
Another Tryst With Dr. Death
A few other characters get some moderate development, like Triphammer’s training of Martinez, though Zora is notably absent from episode four. It’s not a huge loss given the heaps of other character development that we get though, and honestly I’d rather them not try to force a character into an episode if they really don’t have much to do, so this seems to have been a wise choice for the overall flow and pacing. Dr. Death once again stands out in a short scene, this time with Captain Cross calling the mortician out on his “cryptic bullshit” as he talks circles around what he knows. We can only hope that they keep a steady flow of bodies and severed limbs so that we get to see more of David Ury’s brief but brilliant character.
Episode four was more proof that the creators of Powers learned from the shortcomings of the first season. I know that binge watching is big now, but I really enjoy how the week to week release schedule creates an environment where the creators must carefully craft each episode individually as well as being part of the whole. Stealing Fire is a wonderful example of this as it advanced not only the overall plot, but gave sufficient and believable character development without handing over so much that it doesn’t leave us begging for the next episode. And all the while we spend a week thinking about that crazy scene in the hotel room.
New episodes of Powers will be released each Tuesday free for PlayStation Plus members. Everybody can watch the first episode here.