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Powers S1.02 "Like A Power" review

Superpowers. Some people have them, some people want them and some people had them.

A step up on the pilot, “Like A Power” sees its characters though a super-prism, defined by their relationship to the heroes that send shockwaves through their lives – and not just as sonic booms as they fly overhead. Thankfully the super action is kept to a minimum – a lot more cop than hero – meaning that the episode’s tone is more consistent even if it’s still too clunky to deliver the dramatic impact it needs to.

LAPD Powers Division cop Christian Walker had powers. He was on the A-list, taking down the baddies, knocking glossy boots with the goodies and beloved by the citizens he protected. And now he’s a has-been, somehow stripped of his abilities and constantly reminded of his glory days by everyone and everything around him – the caretaker who used to give Diamond and Retro Girl private moments, his new partner, his inability to do up a goddamn tie.

And now even Walker’s latest case – the suspicious death of his former super compadre Olympia and his frustrated search for key witness Calista – just seems to make the chasm between what he had once and his bitter present even bigger, bringing him back into contact with blasts from the past.

So he plays ground-swallowing answerphone tennis with his ex, Retro Girl, who’s harbouring superfan Calista after halting her "Pilot" plummet, before finally making an official house call – these gawkily awkward moments put actor Sharlto Copley on much more solid ground than the grim-faced, balcony brooding that hopefully won’t define Walker.

Heavy Metal In-Joke Of The Week

“You can’t ride the lightning.” Someone on set is obviously a Metallica fan, as electric eyed Zerotron X lets rip with his sparks.

Another steady improvement is the relationship between Walker and his cool-if-intrigued new partner Deena Pilgrim. With the fan favourite starting to come off the subs bench a little more – and into the field, in the cold opening – this crucial, bantering pairing are showing signs of finding their rhythm.

But Walker’s not the only one looking up at the sky this week. Looking for stars of a different sort are Calista and Krispin, the latter coping with his grief – following his cop dad’s death at the hands of the rogue Iron Impact – by fantasising about beating the Powers. These small moments are actually the series’ most effective – when gods bestride the planet, the people who remain on its surface can only feel smaller, more helpless and more insignificant.

Little lost Calista, meanwhile, is attempting to indulge in her own fan-girl fantasies this week, “hanging out” with her red-and-white idol Retro Girl. Well, they say never meet your heroes: Calista gets a blunt reality check and a lesson in responsibility, which is why the sardonic Retro Girl dobs the girl in to Walker – and also partly out of sentiment for her old beau – indirectly sending the “betrayed” runaway back into the dubious custody of Johnny Royalle.

Because some people do have powers and Episode 2 shows the sad reality of being gifted and the celebrity that comes with it. Jaded after a lifetime of responsibility and being pursued in one form or another, Retro Girl is isolated – with Michelle Forbes’ imposing bone structure being put to good use, even if she’s lumped with some of the episode’s clunkiest dialogue; Olympia, we find out from his amusingly shockproof widow, spent a lifetime stuck in arrested development, “a 16-year-old in a man’s body,” chasing younger ass and better highs.

And of course there’s villainous transporter Johnny Royalle, who announces his return from the dead with a perfectly managed media shitstorm. Walker and Pilgrim might have cottoned on to him being the source of the Sway – the diabolical designer drug behind Olympia’s death – but his well-publicised experience of their "police brutality" will keep them off his back for the time being.

Unfortunately, as played by Noah Taylor in full Nick Cave regalia, Royalle’s ridiculous rasping Bale-Batman voice is really distracting – giving Taylor the “Powers rubbish accent award” handed to Copley in Episode 1 - and the transporting FX looks cheap. It takes the edge off what should be a fascinating nemesis for Walker, especially when you contrast those scheming, dealing, decapitating tendencies with his tender treatment of Calista – what is his seemingly benign interest in the vagrant fan-girl?

Because being the guy with the masterplan, who knows the secrets and can keep everyone second guessing – whether it’s Calista, Walker or the audience – means Royalle’s the guy currently making all the calls.

And that’s real power.

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Line Of The Week

“If he died licking coke off the tits of a groupie while her friend gave him a rim job, then yes, that was nothing new for my husband.” Olympia’s wistful widow knows her deceased husband – and likely scenario of death – only too well.

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Super-Memorabilia Of The Week

Admiring Retro Girl’s old PR shots, fan Calista points out her all-time favourite costume. Unfortunately, the rather chest-tight item wasn’t practical for regular hero duty – a wardrobe malfunction duly earned her the nickname, “Supertits”.

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Lessons From Dr Death

Our favourite part of each episode so far is the regular stop off to the mortuary and Dr Death – played by Breaking Bad alumni David Ury – for a heavy dose of furious, sweary cynicism.

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Too Old For This Shizzle

Some nice cop movie in-jokes about the soon to be retired cop being most likely candidate for death. “Might as well be wearing a crosshairs”.

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Dance Move Of The Week

“Tell you what Noah, why don’t you spin about a bit by that green screen and we’ll cut and paste you randomly into the picture. No, of course it’ll look great...”

Powers is available on Sony's PlayStation Network.

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