PlayStation premiered its first-ever scripted original series, Powers, this week. Powers is based on the comic book series of the same name by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. For fans of the series, this is a long-awaited premiere as there were two previous failed attempts to bring Powers to the small screen. For those who don’t know, the basic premise is that Christian Walker is a cop in the Powers Division who works to investigate Powers, what most of us know as superheroes and supervillains.
Note: Some spoilers ahead!
The show starts and dives right in introducing us to Christian Walker, the main protagonist, played by Sharlto Copley (he of the Blomkamp “Trilogy” – District 9, Elysium, and Chappie), his partner Shortley, and our first Power, a villain named IronImpact. IronImpact quickly breaks free–and people die. Suffice it to say that these deaths, and several more in the show, are very graphic and bloody and, coupled with the language and sexual content, make this far from a child-safe show.
The show does a really great quick background on some of the main heroes and villains by running an Extra clip hosted by Mario Lopez. We get to see the first glimpse of Walker as Diamond, his former Powers persona, Olympia, Triphammer, and Retro Girl, played by Michelle Forbes (who I’ve had a crush on since Ensign Ro). We are also introduced to the two main villains of the show, Johnny Royalle, played by Noah Taylor, and Wolfe, played by Eddie Izzard.
Returning to work the next day, Walker meets his new partner, Deena Pilgrim, played by Susan Heyward from The Following. I have to admit I was a little skeptical about this casting after Deena’s first conversation with Captain Cross, but as soon as Deena said, “Nice chin pubes” to Detective Kutter, my worries faded away.
Overall I think the show does a great job of capturing the feeling of the Powers comics without needing to follow the story line of the comics closely. I think The Walking Dead proved that a show can distance itself from the source material by a lot story-wise as long as the characters and feeling remain intact. So far, Powers is going a great job of it. I didn’t really expect anything less with Bendis actually taking part in the writing of the show.
One last thing before the spoilers begin. So far, Powers, unlike a lot of superhero shows on TV today, actually passes the Bechdel Test. We already have four named female characters – Deena, Calista, Zora, and Retro Girl, and though there are several conversations between them about a man, there are as many conversations between them that are not about a man.
The first episode is available now for free to everyone via PS3, PS4, or online. Episodes two and three are also available now for free to PlayStation Plus members or purchasable as single episodes or as a season pass in the PlayStation Store. New episodes will air every Tuesday until the finale on April 28th.
Spoilers and synopsis to follow – You have been warned!
Walker and Deena head to Stockley’s house to drop off his personal effects and we meet his son, who believes Powers should all be killed (except for those who are heroes like Christian used to be). This is the first real glimpse of how a lot of people feel about Powers. There is also a hint that something is going on between Christian and his dead partner’s widow.
Next up, we meet Olympia, who hangs out in clubs to pick up chicks. This is where we first meet Calista. She is handed a drug to bring to Olympia to get his attention. They head off to his bedroom where he takes the drug. Next thing we know Walker and Pilgrim are showing up to investigate his death. We learn that there are Powers “wannabes” who get temporary powers by “exchanging bodily fluids” with Powers. Calista believes she is a Power and is trying to “rendezvous” with Powers in an attempt to activate her own abilities. Walker and Pilgrim take her into custody.
Johnny Royalle, our next Powers villain, can teleport in and out of places. He teleports into a meeting with Bug, the drug dealer, and Simons (think Multiple Man). Bug is trying to promote “Sway,” a drug that boosts powers, and is the one who gave Calista the drug. When Johnny finds out that not only did Bug basically kill Olympia but that his accomplice is in police custody, he kills Bug for causing him so much grief. Everyone believes Johnny is dead and he’d like to keep it that way.
We cut back to Calista being interrogated by first Pilgrim, then Walker in the police station. Walker tells Calista the story of how he found out he had powers by being drunk and stupid and falling off a rig at the docks and how he can sometimes feel his powers, just like a phantom limb. Calista then asks to call her mom but instead tries to call Bug. Johnny answers and uses his powers to spring her from the police station.
Walker and Pilgrim head out to search for Calista and go to a Powers kid hangout. Walker explains to Pilgrim that in his youth, he and his Powers friends wanted to DO something and be heroes. This generation just stands around making videos they hope go viral. This is where we first meet Zora who is “into vintage Powers” and agrees to help Walker find Calista after a little mutual flirting.
Walker is starting to suspect Johnny Royalle is alive so he and Pilgrim head to the super max prison holding Wolfe, a villainous Power who supposedly killed Johnny. Wolfe tells Walker that if he frees him from prison, he will give him his powers back. Walker explains to Deena that Wolfe used to be his mentor but went crazy, killed all his friends, and then tried to eat Walker, which is how he lost his powers. Wolfe literally eats people and Powers and absorbs some of their strength. Somehow he ate and retained Walker’s powers.
Driving away, Pilgrim confesses to Walker that she asked for the Powers Division and to be his partner because he knows more than anyone else. She wants him to be a mentor to her and she believes they can make a great team against the Powers. Walker gives her attitude, kicks her out of the car and takes off.
Walker then calls up Zora, first asking if she has any leads on Calista, but then turning it a little more personal. She tells him to meet her at the Powers Crib, a place young Powers and wannabes hang out, but lies to him that she hasn’t seen Calista. As soon as she gets off the phone Zora insults Calista to get her to run away before Walker arrives. Walker arrives and Zora tries to seduce him but one of the other Powers kids rats her out and Walker leaves angry. Standing outside, he looks up at the tallest building in the city and realizes where Calista went.
On the roof, Calista stands on the ledge, planning to jump to test the Powers she believes she has just like Walker did when he was young. Walker tries to talk her down and explain that being a Power is nothing special. “They’re weak. Their powers make them weak. They stop growing, stop trying because they don’t have to.” But Calista doesn’t want to be normal, and she jumps. Walker jumps off after her, catches her and tries to will his powers back in to existence but fails.
Retro Girl swoops in at the last second and saves them both. She dumps Walker on the roof, gives him some choice words, and then flies off with Calista. Walker, more tortured than ever by his lack of powers, stands on the ledge again as the episode ends.