A so-so pilot has set up a strong protagonist and a compelling world that’s more complicated than you’d think. Two more episodes might shed more light on the world and its developing plot, so we review episode 2 and 3 before tomorrow’s episode 4 premiere to see if it has righted the ship.
Editors note: Check out our review of the episode 1 here.
Powers: Season 1, Episode 2 “Like a Power” and Episode 3 “Mickey Rooney Cries No More” (Playstation Network)
It’s starting to become clear the show doesn’t quite know what tone it wants to go for. At times it’s campy and silly, giving the audience a wink and a nod to the silliness of a superhero world, but then out of nowhere it ramps up the swearing and vulgarities to remind us this is an adult show. In one scene for example, a character starts graphically talking about orgies and rimjobs when only a scene prior an innocent and silly moment about superhero photography plays like something straight out of The CW. The change in tone is a bit jarring (albeit still entertaining); it tends to take you out of the show. You keep wondering, should I laugh at the vulgarity or is it to be taken seriously as it represents the adult nature of the content? At the end of the day it’s not the best balance, but luckily its still written well enough to not completely turn the viewer off.
I didn’t mention this in my pilot review, but the forensics character is quite a lot of fun. He’s clearly overworked or simply not a nice person, as he’s rude, blunt and ultimately always good for a few laughs. There isn’t a lot of humor in this series so far, but he continues to add a pinch of humor for worthwhile entertainment value.
Could use a little work on the partner relationship.
Episode 2 fleshes out the partnership of Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward) and Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley) quite a bit and by episode’s end you can see their relationship is building to something. What that is remains to be seen, partly because she’s tough with Walker, but then moments later she’s almost mothering him.
The writers also give Pilgrim scenes where the audience isn’t sure she can be trusted as she appears to be hiding some ulterior motives. Either that or Heyward’s acting is so-so at best which tends to be a bit too loud and obvious at times, but maybe this is conveying the character’s unease in the division as she’s the new guy. Time will tell. Hell, it could be the show is still trying to get its bearings and even the directors aren’t sure what sort of acting they’re going for. It is obvious that the writers are building her character and have a direction for her though, as she gets the most asides of any character where we hold on her reactions. Episode 3 gives her and Walker more moments of mutual respect as they prove to each other they bring unique skills to the table.
A bit shoddy in execution is Pilgrim’s need to calm Walker down. We get it, he has a temper, but when Pilgrim soothes him and tells him it’s all going to be alright for the fifth time you wonder if the writers could show more and tell less. That tends to be a problem in this show so far.
Noah Taylor as Johnny Royalle gets most of the play time as far as plot development as he registers his powers at the precinct in episode 2. Of course Walker walks in while this occurs—probably not a coincidence&mdahs;which creates a scuffle and predictably a media relations issue when footage ends up on TV. Royalle is a hard character to get a bead on as of yet, partly because his coming and going appears to be motivated simply by a want to do bad things and the motivation isn’t apparent. We do get a glimpse into his troubled past, but it does nothing to explain what he could be up to. He’s clearly doing bad things, yet we’re shown scenes that would make us empathize with him. Again, another imbalance that’s hard to figure.
The show’s unrevealed backstory isn’t helping matters, as there’s clearly a history that hasn’t yet been tapped into. This gives the viewer a sense of something bigger and more complicated laying in wait, but considering these episodes are 30 minutes long it’s hard to tell if we’ll ever get the whole story.
The younger characters continue to be the more intriguing pieces, possibly because there are no secret backstories and they’re easy to read. Callista, the blonde girl who Walker saved from killing herself in the pilot, just wants to have powers and keeps lying to herself that it will happen eventually. Sure, she’s a bit of your typical runaway teen character who desperately needs saving, but she allows the show to dip into the fanboy nature of young kids and superheroes. Meanwhile Krispin, Walker’s ex-partner’s son shows another side to regular people, the side that loathes those with superpowers and how people die every day because of it. Both these characters prove the series has a lot of storylines they can tap into, but the main McGuffin is taking up much of the screen time so far.
There are some promising developments however, and they mostly deal with Eddie Izzard’s villainous Wolfe. I won’t give anything away here, but he gets two key moments in episode 3 which make the viewer sympathize with him and then fear him. He’s a wildcard character for sure, and I’m getting some Hannibal Lector vibes from him, but at the same time he’s also a character that seems to hold a lot of secrets. It’ll be fun to see where they take him and ultimately Walker as he inevitably pursues him.
Two more episodes in and it feels like we’re a little closer to understanding the bigger picture of the crime Walker is attempting to prevent. The show as a whole is still in baby step mode though, as the tone and acting is unbalanced throughout. Luckily a strong performance, with fun shock value, is coming from Eddie Izzard’s freakish Wolfe.