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There are spoilers in this review. Duh.

I am a terrible geek, because I was not aware Powers was being made, let alone that it was already putting out episodes. Keep in mind that they were saying for years that Powers was coming, so eventually I shrugged it off as rumors. Plus since when did the PlayStation Network start doing shows? Are they trying to bet Netflix? Not that I’m complaining, it’s just surprising. Powers is one of my favorite comic book series, created by legend writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Michael Avon Oeming. It’s set in the world where superheroes are somewhat mundane; not everyone is a super hero, but there are enough of them around that it’s just typical every day to watch them swoop by. This is like if The Incredibles was in a grittier world with the main cast being the police dealing with the aftermath of superheroes. It’s somewhere between The Incredibles and Watchmen, in the sense that it’s a dark story, but it’s not that dark. There are still “good” guys and it’s not quite as cynical. Main character Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley) used to be a very powerful hero known as Diamond, but he lost his powers and started working as a cop in the Powers division. The division can’t do much other than try to clean up after powered people or take care of lower level ones whenever possible. Christian is coping with losing his power and trying to find a new purpose in life. He still has some level of celebrity, but some of the fascination is about how he stopped being a superhero. Many years before he took down supervillain Wolf (Eddie Izzard), who was a philosopher and teacher once that went crazy and killed most of Christian’s friends.

There’s built in history here, and I love that. This is a fully realized world. I don’t think people understand how difficult world building can really be, but they manage in this pilot extremely well. Christian loses his partner due to a violent powered person (They’re just called Powers in this, duh), and he gains a new one named Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward). Deena doesn’t even represent the audience in the way we expect from new characters. She doesn’t need exposition constantly flung at her or for the situation to be spelled out, because she knows this world. She was a fan of Diamond. I like that they throw you right into it. This might not be one of the most exciting pilots out there, but it doesn’t need to be. In any case, former superhero Olympia is found dead with a young scared girl Calista (Olesya RUlin) nearby. She believes strongly that she is a Power but has not found her abilities yet. She’s a Wannabe. The cops take her in and she bonds a little with Christian; he tells her that he learned about his powers by falling off a building and surviving. He also tells her about her favorite superhero RetroGirl (Michelle Forbes) and her favorite hang out space, because they used to date. However he gets twitchy when she pushes him about his lost powers, and then she is “rescued” by creepy Power Johnny Royale (Noah Taylor). Johnny and Christian have a bad history, since they were both disciples of Wolf, and Johnny is known to be the one who helped Wolf escape and kill all their friends. He’s been presumed dead since, but guess what, he’s not! His super power is to teleport anywhere.

gbgimxovfrnrpcqapvyeJohnny considers killing Calista, but instead he finds himself drawn to her when she insists she has powers. He takes her under his wing instead. Christian decides to go and see Wolf, who is in a prison and regularly lobotomized. The reason for this is linked to his powers, and they don’t come out and say exactly what they are here so I’m not going to either. I’ll wait for the show to explain them. What is clear is this: Wolf was super powerful, lethal, terrifying, psychotic, and Christian is the one who put him in jail. And he’s the one who took Christian’s powers. It’s interesting to see that Wolf is in Christian’s head, a hallucination, even before we see him in person. Strangely Wolf does not seem dismayed to see Christian; instead he feels sorry he took his powers. There’s a lot of history here and I can’t wait to see it unravel. Christian is clearly shaken after he leaves there and he’s determined to find Calista. Earlier in the episode he met lovely rising star Power Zora (Logan Browning) and she tries to get his attention by saying she knows where Calista is. Then she scares the girl off, and he verbally berates her. This is important mostly because Zora will be coming back and be a regular, so, keep her in mind!

Christian realizes after looking at RetroGirl’s special building – where the two of them used to meet up for romantic moments – that Calista’s gone there. He begs her not to jump, because she’s considering trying what he did, jumping and hoping for super powers. She doesn’t want to be ordinary, and he’s desperate for her to believe it’s okay to be ordinary. Maybe that’s because he’s still struggling with the reality of who he is now. For whatever reason he’s really connected to Calista, like saving her would mean something for how he’s seeing the world now. She jumps and he jumps after her. His powers aren’t there though, and RetroGirl does show up to save them both. She flies off with Calista, but not after being very, very angry at Christian. Again, there’s history between the two of them we’re only getting glimpses at here, so it’ll be interesting to see them in an actual scene. Already they set the stage for a lot of great stuff in this show. The special effects may not be amazing, I’m not sure Sony gave them a massive budget, but they have a big cast and a lot of love put into it. I’m interested in every character so far. What happened with Christian and Wolf? Where has Johnny been and what does he want? Does Calista have powers? Why is Deena in the department? How does someone get powers, are they just born that way?

I was hugely skeptical of Sharlto Copley as Christian. He doesn’t look much like the guy in the comics, who is supposed to look much more like Clark Kent. Copley plays him more like Constantine. Hopeless, strung out, sad, angry. You can sense that this is a man who had it all and lost it. I really appreciate Copley’s take. Christian is just barely holding it together. I am interested in Deena, because I think she was somewhat reserved in this episode, and I want to get more from her. Calista is the perfect line of annoying and sad, that naive and listless teenager. You want to shake her but also hope she survives. There’s so much more coming, and I can’t wait, because I want to see where they’re changing things, and what this means for the overall plot. If you want to read the comics, it comes highly recommended. I know this pilot didn’t win over a lot of people, and I think that’s a shame, because they accomplished a lot in this hour. It was all setting up the characters, world, and overall plot. It’s clear they’ll take off from here, so on we go!

 

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Comments
  1. justmyinput says:

    I flailed everywhere watching this shouting at the computer screen and waving hands. I liked it a lot, even as it was so different from the comics.

    Like

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