To read our reviews of episodes 1-3 of Powers season two, click here, episode 4 here, episodes 5-6 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 spoilers for episode seven.
Retro Girl’s killer has been caught. Conrad Moody is dead. For all intents and purposes, all of the major story arcs for Powers’ second season wrapped by the end of episode six. Since being pleasantly surprised at the start of season two, I’ve been waiting for Powers to trip up and fall back to some of the mistakes they made in season one. Episode seven, titled Origins, finally stumbles and breaks the great run that season two had going. That’s not to say that Origins is a bad episode, but its positioning in the latter half of season two feels awkwardly placed.
Ten episodes is not a lot. There are plenty of shows that draw related arcs over the course of 22 episode seasons, so creating a complete story arc for a ten episode season shouldn’t be a challenge at all. “Who killed Retro Girl?” was billed as the tagline for season two. Origins not only moves past that arc, but doesn’t evolve the resolutions into a new, related arc to up the stakes, at least not in any way that’s perceptible. It feels like an episode that would be much better situated as a season premiere.
Cutting Off Loose Ends
Heavy has been taken by the FBI, who are conspicuously absent, and suddenly the powers division is up and running again. I thought for sure that the mystery of Retro Girl’s killer would progressively evolve into a larger government conspiracy involving the FBI but that all seems to have been neatly cleaned up and swept away with this episode. Walker and Pilgrim are now tasked with tracking down the senator’s killer, which pans out to (so far) have no connection with the mystery presented in the first six episodes. Where’s Heavy? What motivated Moody? Was there anything more to it, or was it really as simple as “creepy obsessed dude hires killer to kill powers and increase stock prices?” Everything is too casually brushed away. I’m still not convinced we’ve heard the last of the FBI, even though Origins does it’s best to act like they never existed.
Pilgrim is wrestling with her moral compass after having watched Walker basically murder Conrad Moody by tossing him out of a window. Sure, he was a creep, and sure, he deserved it, but Deena is such a good person that she can’t imagine herself starting to hide these secrets and become what she sees as a corrupt cop. This gives us a chance to see Deena interact with her father in an attempt to understand how a corrupt cop can compartmentalize and move forward in life. It does create an interesting tension between her and Walker as well, but given that at the beginning of the episode, everybody was basically out of a job, and suddenly the whole department is running again, it seems awkwardly positioned. She hasn’t had enough time to really let it start eating at her yet, given her gung-ho, stand behind Walker attitude that she was showing in the last episode.
In Walker’s world, he is beginning to experience bad headaches, and it is called out quite obviously that he should have died when Heavy dropped the building on him earlier this season. It’s setting up for what I can only surmise will be a return of Walker’s own powers in some fashion, which is an arc I am really excited for. Though despite being obsessed with getting his powers back for all of the first season, they aren’t playing up the imminent return of his super abilities yet, and Walker certainly doesn’t seem to have his curiosity piqued at the fact that he’s once again surviving against impossible odds.
The Origin Story
Origins does refer to a specific origin story, notably that of Patrick — SuperShock — who discovers his abilities and Janice — Retro Girl — in World War I. We get to see why he hates being among the human race, whom he views as corrupt and inherently evil, and how he is only seeking peace, which makes using his powers to fight wars difficult for him. This whole subplot adds an interesting twist and allows us the opportunity to learn about characters on a deeper level, much like episode four did with Agent Lange. It also shows that there’s a big bad who has been lurking in the shadows for nearly a century, known as The Ghost, consistently seen perpetrating war and destruction.
Perhaps The Ghost will end up having been the brains behind the Moody/Heavy killer conglomerate, but right now there’s nothing pointing to any kind of connection at all. There’s no meaningful evolution of the mystery. There was only a hard cut, and then new narrative lines introduced. In fact, we had to go all the way back to WWI to get a hint at The Ghost, instead of finding a damning piece of evidence in Moody’s apartment or getting intel from Heavy. It’s awkward to shift gears so suddenly mid season for no apparent good reason
Then there’s Zora, Calista, and Martinez, who basically have nothing to do, so we get to see them sit around and talk about filling the power vacuum created by the recent hero deaths. Their scenes don’t feel like they serve any purpose besides letting us know that they are still there, so that they can have them come together by the final episode for a grand fight scene, most likely to take down this “Ghost” character that was so suddenly introduced. It just has a very different vibe than the first half of the season, where every scene felt like it had a place, and it all seemed like it was working towards something.
Origins is easily the weakest episode of season two so far, but not because it’s inherently a bad episode. Location, location, location. Position and timing are crucial, and Origins feels like it missed the mark on both, with its placement in the season lineup and the introduction of plot points that make little sense with how the rest of the season was building. There was too much of a hard cut between the resolutions of episode six, and the new revelations in episode seven. Maybe we’ll get everything tied together in a nice story arc and some of my hopes for something more coming out of the all-too-easily resolved FBI/Heavy/Moody situations will play out, but for now, with the complete shift in plot focus and change in overall tone, I stand firmly behind my belief that Origins would have made much more impact as a start to season three than as the lead in to season two’s final three episodes.
New episodes of Powers will be released each Tuesday free for PlayStation Plus members. Everybody can watch the first episode here.