This Powers review contains spoilers.
Powers Season 2 Episodes 1-3
I said it last year: Powers is at its best when it’s not taking itself too seriously, when it’s poking fun at its increasingly ridiculous storylines and self-indulgent dialogue. Sharlto Copley’s Chris Walker might be the absolute worst cop on television, but I love watching that hurricane take shape, engulfing my screen with increasing force. With things as paper thin as the “cop shit” Walker and Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward) partake in, Powers is able to recover from its more serious moments, like the death of Retro Girl (Michelle Forbes), which fails to lend the show’s sophomore season any real gravitas in its first three episodes. But I don’t really care. I just love watching these characters muck things up.
Powers excells in showcasing a brand of heroism that isn’t very heroic at all. All of the superpowered subjects in this amazing experiment in self-parody are only interested in furthering their own agendas, their own images—as Zora (Logan Browning) points out to the new Retro Girl in training, young Calista (Olesya Rulin)—even if it means eventually being “misrepresented” by PR firms and the media. Even Michael Madsen, who guest stars as veteran hero SuperShock in season 2, is only interested in staying out of humanity’s affairs long enough for it to destroy itself. SuperShock, to the public eye at least, is a symbol of hope equivalent to the late Retro Girl, mind you. All of these so-called heroes are just so incredibly broken. And at the center of it all is Walker, who exists to jump from one obsession to the next, from getting his powers back from Wolfe (Eddie Izzard) to finding Retro Girl’s killer.
Copley is a lot more comfortable with this ex-superhero-turned-rogue cop the second time around, and he’s allowed to step away from the overwhelming amount of brooding he did in the first season for a more action-heavy portrayal of Walker. Our star detective seems to jump from one action setpiece to another. At one point, the show even allows Walker some time to beat a reporter with a microphone. It’s fantastic stuff.
The other major focus in the early part of the season are the young Calista and Zora, who are still trying to find their place in a media-obsessed superhero scene where even costumes are trademarked and superhero’s faces are put on billboards for stool softeners. Zora faces the uphill battle of regaining her identity and redeeming herself after the beating she suffered from Wolfe last season. It’s fun watching this character become a meme, seemingly on the same level as grumpy cat or apathetic Willy Wonka. But she’s earned some maturity as well, and it allows her to step into a sort of big sister role for Calista, who seriously needs some guidance.
Calista, who was one of the better characters in season 1—along with Noah Taylor’s fantastic Johnny Royalle, who seems to be completely missing after murdering Wolfe—doesn’t really get much to do in the latest crisis except look down at the city like she’s about to take action but never does. At one point, she even claims a rooftop as “her rooftop” to watch over Los Angeles. A lot of good that’s doing her since she’s pretty much not around for any major crime or takes too long to actually act. During one particular riot, she watches as the city tears itself apart for about half of the episode before joining the other characters and throwing about one punch. If the writers are indeed going to turn Calista into the new Retro Girl, they better offer up something captivating for her to do and soon.
In general, the LA of Powers season 2 has gone through a drastic change in the aftermath of Retro Girl’s murder. People have lost faith in Powers Division’s ability to keep order in a world full of superpowered thugs and delusional vigilantes. More and more, there’s this sense that the PD is a facade for humanity’s lack of control over those with powers. It seems that Retro Girl was the glue that held the delicate peace between those with powers and humanity together. But now that she’s gone, all hell is breaking loose.
Unfortunately, Powers fails to really deliver the widespread chaos the city is supposed to be undergoing. Under the veil of Powers‘ story is the inescapable sense that things on this show look so fake that it’s hard to immerse yourself in anything. More often than not, Walker and Pilgrim prance from one half-assed emergency to the next, stepping in between mobs of bad guys or, at one point, a really strange sex den. It doesn’t help that the visual effects on this show are still the worst that the superhero TV genre has to offer. Powers is leagues behind the visuals The Flash or Supergirl delivered each week this TV season. I really just want all the flying on this show to be done off-screen.
That said, I still can’t help but watch Powers with a sympathetic eye. It’s an entertaining B-movie superhero show that will one day be regarded as a cult classic. And even if it doesn’t earn that distinction, I’ll always think of Powers as the TV equivalent of an X-Men parody before there were any actual X-Men shows on television. For now, I’m looking forward to seeing how far Powers is willing to bury its legacy in its second season.