Is the writing on the wall for the powers? Or just for Powers?
The anti-superhero graffiti tags springing up around the LAPD building suggests that public opinion might be about to make life tricky for them… as does Trip Hammer’s second Drainer facility within the station.
This sort of potential conflict should make for really exciting TV. Instead, this sombre episode is another example of why Powers has been such a frustrating viewing experience: it looks amazing on paper – cool comic, cool story, cool cast - but underperforms on the pitch.
This is becoming more pronounced this episode as the show moves its pieces into place for the final half of the season. The most dramatic shift was saved for the cliffhanger – Wolfe’s televised plea for a mercy killing (though merciful for who?): Christian Walker certainly didn’t look like a guy who’d buy popcorn for that.
Meanwhile the increasingly tippled Trip Hammer is slurring his way through installing a second Drainer in the LAPD, to go with the stuttering version that’s (usually) keeping the Wolfe leashed at The Shaft. As Retro Girl clocked instantly, that green light is the real big bad of the show – and at some point Walker is going to have to work out which side of those cell doors he’s on. The hammered Trip also loose-lips something about a "Black Swan" looming doomily in the show’s background, and we don’t think there’s going to much ballet involved.
Then there’s the social media explosion of Calista and Krispin’s viciously edited anti-power video. Their "Chaotic Chic" graffiti offers a banner for the increasingly angry ordinaries to rally around – and start taking "affirmative" action against the gods that stalk the skies above them. The gradual shift of "Krispin: Master Of Secrets" into a greyer area has been one of the show’s defter touches – though comic fans will have a difficult call over whether it's him or the bitter Detective Kutter that will take the Chaotic Chic fury to its next and nastier level.
Operation Of The Week
One of the Simons gets his DNA tinkered with by his boss Johnny Royalle. Seriously Simons, you could get a better job than this.
So why isn’t Powers popping on screen?
Well, I think I can finally admit that Sharlto Copley is miscast, which knee-caps the central "Walker wants his powers back" story. Copley’s a funny, offbeat, likeable actor and he’s just not getting a chance to play those notes here - instead the show’s lead character is reduced to monotone whining about his lost superskills.
Susan Heyward is more a case of right actor, wrong character. The adaptation of fan-favourite Deena Pilgrim for TV now looks plain bizarre, stripping a vivacious role – which you suspect Heyward would chew up – of its spark. Unfortunately, this week’s introduction of her corrupt-cop daddy just looks like another moody cul-de-sac to steer her into.
Walker and Pilgrim should go together like drinking and cop wakes. Instead they’ve spent most of the series with a face on. They’re properly in danger of Britta-ing this up – dragging the series back like stroppy toddlers rather than driving it forwards to its full Sway-powered potential.
But if things are in danger of being a bit soapy at the LAPD funeral party, the Calista storyline is a proper bathful of Matey. Olesya Rulin has got a thankless storyline-linking role here and the "I know I have latent powers" story – and her relationship with Johnny Royalle and his accent – is just not building up to anything approaching convincing or compelling.
These misfiring dramatics keep Powers stuck under the Drainer’s green light, when it could be taking flight. It’s got all the elements it needs, but with just four episodes left it now it could just as easily wind up like Wolfe, begging to be put out of its misery.
Line Of The Week
Deena's dad – the Raconteur of the title – has some funny Powers stories: the one about “raining assholes” probably inches it.
Failed TV Pilot Of The Week
The Eternal Brotherhood of Assholes – Walker’s alternative title to the Saturday morning Powers United kids’ cartoon.
Failed TV Pilot Of The Week 2
The vengeful Det Kutter’s proposed “cutting off Wolfe’s skin, letting him heal, then set him on fire and piss on him” primetime special doesn’t sound like it's got much legs. Five US have just bought the rights though.
Powers is available on Sony's PlayStation Network.
For more on top sci-fi TV shows like Powers, subscribe to SFX
|Writers||Allison Moore, David Paul Francis|
|The one where||The cops hold a wake for their Wolfe-munched and Johnny Royalle runs some Sway tests|