It’s hilarious to watch the Powers Division be so incompetent in a show that’s supposed to be all about them. But to tell you the truth, since the first three-episode binge last week, most of the cops are very, very boring. The best thing they did in “Devil in a Garbage Bag” was get torn apart by Wolfe, who’s loose in the Shaft and growing in power.
Even someone with the acting chops of Sharlto Copley can’t really save the more human side of this show. He barely gets by with the tortured cop bit he’s forced to play, offering raspy, noir-ish exposition throughout the episodes. Like when he explains how Powers don’t get by on just having superpowers. It’s usually the endorsements that help them make ends meet. Copley’s Chris Walker, for example, endorsed Trojan condoms towards the end of his superhero career. This look into the way this society works is interesting. Whatever this show can do to make its world look and feel distinctly different from ours is a plus.
But as much as the show wants to be about Copley’s struggle with his duties as a cop and the loss of his abilities, this show really is all about the Powers. When Johnny and Wolfe step into the show, none of the other characters really matter or come across as interesting. Least of all anyone in the Powers Division. They’re the pawns at the Johnny and Wolfe’s disposal most of the time.
I can’t stress enough how often Johnny Royale saves this show for me. Yes, he is ridiculous, and perhaps even a little over-acted (it kinda hurts to watch sometimes), but at least there’s some depth to his character. Is he a bad guy? Kinda. Is a good guy? Kinda…He’s selling Sway on the streets and is the reason Wolfe gets loose inside the Shaft. But he’s also watching over the very naive Calista (who’s also fantastic and fun to watch) like a big brother. And there’s no bad intentions there (not yet, at least). He simply loves her the way he loves Wolfe.
Speaking of Johnny’s relationship to Wolfe, it’s kind of great to see the direct consequence of sparing Wolfe’s life so many years before the events of the show. Wolfe, who was a mentor to Johnny and Chris, begged both of them to kill him in a moment of clarity during a killing spree, but they both refuse. Which means that they can live to regret it their entire lives. That said, it’s a great bit of character development when Chris tells Deena during the hunt for Wolfe in the Shaft that he spared Wolfe’s life because “killers can’t be heroes.” He spared Wolfe for the fame. And so he’s the one undone by his choices, and he suffers the worst of the consequences. At least Johnny still visits.
Meanwhile, Calista, Krispin, and Zora are the next generation. It’s great watching these different youths slowly grow into who they’re going to be on this show. Krispin is a villain in the making, although he’s good at heart. But he’s also very angry about his father’s murder. I have a feeling he’ll end up clashing with Johnny over Calista at some point.
Calista’s motivations for wanting powers extend beyond being famous, and that’s perfect. So far, it seemed that she was extremely fame-obsessed. But she has a bit of wrath waiting to be unleashed. Someone’s going to have to talk her off a ledge again (perhaps this time a metaphorical one).
Zora, who is the definition of fame-obsessed. She’s one of the members of her generation of Powers that are being shaped for superstardom. A manager advises her on her every move. How can Zora get the most exposure? She seems to think she should go stop Wolfe. I’m really excited to watch her run for her life next week.
Last but not least, we have to talk a little bit about the big setpiece of the episode: the labyrinthian hunt for Wolfe inside the Shaft. The show almost stepped into the realm of horror (although I don’t think that’s the intention here?) with the dark hallways and monster on the loose. Very slasher. Unfortunately, we see most of this from the eyes of the cops, who awkwardly flesh out their own backstories while searching for Wolfe. They just proceed to have these really loud conversations about their love lives and how close to retirement they are. It’s quite awful. Luckily, we have Johnny and Wolfe to carry the episode into way more interesting territory.