Powers: Season 1 Review
May 6, 2015
Warning: Full spoilers for Powers’ first season follow…
Sony’s adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers — first developed for FX (with a pilot even shot starring Jason Patric and Lucy Punch) — was to be PlayStation Network’s first original series. Ditching the comic’s noir aspects and reshuffling many of the characters and arcs to create sort of a “blue skies” remix of the original source, Powers was “bare bones” on the adaptation front. It left a lot of the original quirk and charm behind in exchange for a much less gratifying saga of super-powered humans living among normals.
Distractingly wonky American accents (from lead Sharlto Copley and co-star Noah Taylor) and budget CGI kept viewers at arm’s length while the tumultuous tale of ex-Power Christian Walker unfolded. Instead of feeling sympathy for Detective Walker, whose powers were inexplicably consumed by his old mentor, we cringed as he constantly fell into a sniveling, confessional heap in front of his new, hot-headed partner, Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward).
Newcomer Heyward made for a fine Pilgrim, though regretfully Walker was almost always too caught up in his old life drama for the show to ever be able to focus on the molding of their relationship as partners. He’d just pop back into the precinct every so often so that she could chastise and/or scold him for not being around/going off book. Hopefully their relationship is something the series can focus on more in its second season.
Actor/comedian Eddie Izzard is utterly watchable, even when he’s given jumbled rhetoric to speak. So the series ticked up whenever he was on screen. The guy’s custom-built for philosophy and intimidation so he made great Wolfe, though Wolfe’s own skill set/ability profile was, in itself, a point of major confusion on the show. I don’t need a series to spell everything out for me, but I also don’t want a player to fold after playing his cards so close to the vest. I want to see the hand.
Nevertheless, Wolfe was always either on the verge of, or in the midst of, breaking out of prison and that’s when the show was able to provide us with superhero “BAM!”s and “POW!”s. Walker and others would have to gear up and suit up to take down Wolfe, making for Powers’ most exciting moments – even if things got a bit murky when it came to how and why Walker felt like he could somehow absorb his powers back from Wolfe.
People would get punched through walls, sent flying into cars, and turned into puddles of bloody glop as Wolfe acted like a one-man wrecking crew. And the show was so hyper-aware that business picked up whenever Wolfe was on screen that it basically ran through the same story twice. He tried to escape in episode 4 and then was back to give it another go in episode 9. Wolfe’s rampages filled up both the mid-point and the finale.
The element I like the most about this series though was the overall idea of powered people being our new celebrities. Even Walker, when we visited his initial capture of Wolfe via flashback, took a shortcut to fame when he saw that his surrogate father was vulnerable. The distinction between a “Power” and a “Hero” was notable. And so I also enjoyed Zora’s rise to fame – and subsequent brutal fall from grace. She took advantage of a misunderstanding to become famous but then left the season in a condition where she had to really want to be a hero in order to motivate herself through arduous physical rehabilitation. I thought it was interesting to see what truly motivated people to do good with their powers when they’d probably find fame either way.
Michelle Forbes’ Retro Girl was another highlight of the season. I wasn’t a fan of most of the page-to-screen changes made (though I’m well aware of why changes need to happen) but I did thoroughly enjoy getting to see Retro. The comics begin with her murder (the end point of the TV season), so getting to know here really helped us invest in her as a character before she was taken away.
It was a smart move, and smart casting. Forbes, like Izzard, is a “get.” She just has a certain presence about her that helps steal whatever scene she’s in. I wish there’d been a bit more interaction between her and Zora (story permitting, that should have been Retro in the hospital room at the end) but as it was, Retro added more to the season than most of the other players.
Over on the opposite end, Calista was an off-putting mess and Royalle’s “Sway” plot/ploy didn’t feel big or important enough to warrant his return “from the dead” after decade. At the heart of this particular faltering was the rather uninteresting backstory between Royalle, Walker, and Wolfe. The world of Powers is inherently interesting, but these characters, this story, didn’t quite cut it.
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