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Powers S1.03 "Mickey Rooney Cries No More" review

Splat.

And with one exploding head, Powers starts to look more interesting. The “promise of revelation” indeed.

But it’s not the sight of Blue Magma’s final eruption – a proper synapse sprayer that’d make Cronenberg proud – that promises much, but what causes it. The cold open sees Trip Hammer road test the Drainer, a Ronseal-titled bit of kit familiar to fans of the original comic.

Even more interestingly, Trip Hammer – the Powers analogy of Tony Stark - and Walker’s LAPD boss, Captain Cross, are in this grubby little secret together: a plan to develop a weapon that’ll strip the Powers of, well, what gives them their names. This little snippet of inside conspiracy is what the show needs to give it a Sway-like power-enhancement – a sense of narrative direction to sharpen up the messiness of the plotting so far.

Other things the show also needs more of: Deena Pilgrim, who’s slowly coming off the subs bench to provide foul-mouthed support for Walker (Susan Heyward’s sparkly f-you to Righteous Thunder is perfect). Her sharp-eyed cop skills and ability with a cuss word combined with Walker’s insight into Powers – his experience quickly solves how Levitation Boy has turned himself into a hood ornament – could make them a formidable partnership.

This episode sees the dynamic duo get closer to the designer superpower boosting drug Sway, leading to them making a "dis-f**king-creet" appearance at Johny Royalle’s swanky new drug club.

Also attending the via the red carpet – rather than B&Eing the back door – is the guys’ key witness, the "wannabe" Calista, under the wing of mega-celeb Retro Girl. The superhero legend is determined to show her number one fan what "real powers" are – using her fame to shut down Royalle’s operation, with Michelle Forbes again being landed with the episode’s most on-the-nose Lucas-esque dialogue: “You don’t need powers to be powerful.”

Death Of The Week

Got to be that opening head bang. Goodbye Blue Magma, your final eruption was a blast.

Meanwhile there’s Royalle himself, who’s developing his Sway empire although we still don’t know why he’s giving away his new product rather than demand a price for it. But he’s also looking to help street-rat Calista – from personal motives it emerges – with the show nudging him into a less-primary coloured shade with a greater degree of success than actor Noah Taylor has with his sandpaper accent.

Unfortunately the Here & Gone club is where Powers’ clunkiness makes a reappearance, and not just because nightclubs always look naff on TV. The action doesn’t pop, Retro Girl and Johnny Royalle’s face off is the dampest of squibs and the climactic three-way battle for the whiny Calista’s soul is a badly staged stand off: where it should be compelling, it’s all just a bit awkward instead.

Showrunner Charlie Huston and his team have put so much legwork into creating this big world of celebrity gods; his problem is that it’s still difficult to really care about some of the people in it. Calista’s big backstory moment with Retro Girl is proper am-dram, mirrored by Royalle’s flashback revealing of his own troubled family history at the end – if you’re not invested, this can all come off as uncompelling and soapy. As you approach the end credits, you’d be forgiven for thinking the whole thing’s gone off the boil…

…and then it grabs your attention again, bookending the episode with another splendid bit of splatter. As Royalle transports himself into jail to break out the cannibalistic Wolfe – who’s being brutally lobotomised on a regular basis - only to find that his old mentor is already halfway out the door and turning the guards into hors d'oeuvres.

This nifty - and timely - bit of ante-upping is why, just as Calista insists she is, Powers is latent with super-potential. Because once the stakes become bigger and the plot becomes more focused, this show and these characters could really start to blow minds.

And not just Blue Magma’s.

(As for that title, not a Scooby. Sorry. Answers on a postcard)

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Line Of The Week

“You used to be an asshole who could fly. Now you’re just an asshole.” Walker’s old agent remembers the good old days well.

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Superhero Memorabilia Of The Week

Walker’s superhero autobiography. He was in an episode of Baywatch, you know.

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Rubbish Puppet Of The Week

Figuring it’s a bad idea to stab Eddie Izzard in the eye, they’ve opted for a Wolfe maquette close up instead. It’s kind of terrible, but we loved it anyway.

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Having The Worst Week

ZeroTron X. The pilot saw him getting booked, episode two he was being arrested, now he’s having his powers removed in the Drainers’ first successful test. No more lightning riding for you.

Powers is available on Sony's PlayStation Network.

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