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SERIES PREMIERE REVIEW: Powers 1×01 “Pilot”

Written by Scott Swartz

Ok, new series, new standards, new network, I mean if you can technically call the Playstation Network a true honest to goodness network. I mean If you look at Powers from only a storytelling standpoint it has the skeletal structure of the original comic, which I have not read and will love to see the overall differences between the two stories. Originally a Brian Michael Bendis comic, Powers has a very simple plot structure on the surface: it’s a world filled with people with super powers, our hero lost his and is now an angry cop, and he is also seemingly a very good cop. Granted nothing we see about him leans his characterization one way or the other, but we are only in the “Pilot” which has a lot of groundwork to cover. There are glimpses of potential in the same way that the first episode of 12 Monkeys was slightly disjointed, but at the same time the bad moments shine like diamonds.

The first rule of writing a story is typically show don’t tell and unfortunately despite being in a compelling world filled with mostly interesting characters there is truly a lot of telling going on. Take for example Walker’s entire backstory, we find out everything we seemingly need to know about him in the first five minutes, rather than drop breadcrumbs and develop a truly unique mystery over the course of a few episodes if not the entire season is just dropped on us in weak exposition. Everyone seems to know everything about Walker, who he is/was, how his powers were lost, and all of the different types of trauma that he has gone through. I would have rather had all of this information parsed out over the course of a few weeks rather than all at one. I am just left hoping that this info dump is not the structure of the entire show, I mean mystery are so much more fun when there are open ended questions.

Despite the disappointment in the overall plotting of the first episode there were some surprisingly fun ideas and characters. The idea of wannabes and the powers division are intriguing and it builds a mentality of cult worship and lesser men/women struggling against gods. I mean Calista on the whole could have come of as annoying but there were some great moments between her and Walker, especially when speaking to how she wants to be destined for greatness. That drive gave her a layer of complexity that a lot of the other characters were missing in the pilot, especially the cops who came off as either ignorant or just plain sadistic. I mean in the span of the episode we had a cop cheating on his wife, a general d-bag cop who apparently has never heard of compassion, and the worst offenders of all the cops who were guarding Wolfe.

Speaking of Wolfe despite the minimal amount of screen time that he was presented with in the pilot, it was easy to feel his presence reigning over the entire show. Eddie Izzard killed it in the big scene where he was slowly coming to and it is easy to see that under all of the madness and hair is a true super villain. The writers went to great lengths to demonstrate just how terrifying Wolfe really is as even the idea of him getting his memories back was enough to terrify all of the sadistic guards who were watching him. I can’t tell if the torture scene was supposed to evoke empathy for Wolfe or just be a clear demonstration of just how dangerous he really is. Either way I am definitely looking forward to more of Izzard’s performance as his chemistry with Sharlto Copley’s Walker was really strong.

You may have noticed that I really haven’t talked much about Copley’s performance as Walker and I have a perfectly good reason for that, I just don’t quite know what to make of him. I love all of the films that Copley has been in and his performances are always top notch, but it just feels like there is really nothing beneath Walker’s skin. There are the briefest of moments, Walker talking with Calista, Walker enraged at Wolfe’s taunt, Walker risking his life to save Calista, where it feels as if Walker is a much deeper character than we have seen in the pilot. However, all of those great moments are covered up by a guy who seemingly doesn’t know what to make of himself despite being an accomplished detective and hero at one point in his life. If Walker is supposed to be brooding that is fine, but those moments where he actually shows real honest emotion are the best of the entire pilot because it made me care for him as a person.

Overall it was really just a start so I hope that we will see real improvement in the story moving forward.

Final Grade C-

+Strong characters are there

+Interesting world

-Lot of info dumping

-Not sure about our hero being interesting enough

-Some of the visuals were really low quality

-Some of the worst cops ever

Extra Thoughts

-Pilgrim needs to be fleshed out and fast if I am going to care about her at all.

-No one at all helps Walker’s partner put Hard Impact in his cage, that felt like a really stupid move

-Why does Walker’s ex partner’s wife think he would be so neglectful at his job that he would leave evidence in order to create a vigilante? I really hope that is explained.

About the author

Scott Swartz