There is always the same moment that occurs when I’m watching any comic book based movie. After the credits roll, I’m left wondering,
“What happened to the other people…the bystanders? How do the “heroes” move on from the collateral damage that they have caused?”
Don’t get me wrong, most of the time, I love watching these types of films because what person who has grown up watching these cartoons and reading these comics doesn’t want to see them portrayed onscreen? However, I would be remiss if I didn’t make mention the fact that there are better examples of superheroes in comics than just what Marvel or DC would have to offer. Powers is a perfect example of this (Sidenote: Marvel does own Icon, the distributer of the Powers comic series). While Marvel & Co. are a money-making machine, their story lines, despite how they want them to appear, only go so deep into the human experience. I’m here to tell you that there is a closer portrayal of just how heavy the head that wears the crown can get….and it’s in the form of Sony’s TV experiment, POWERS.
Powers follows Christian Walker, a police detective and former possessor of special abilities aka a “Power.” After the loss of his partner, Christian gains a new recruit by the name of Deena Pilgrim. Together they are tasked with investigating crimes committed involving Powers by a special police subset known as the Powers Division. From there, I could go into many subplots of where the story ventures off to, but I would rather let you experience it all for yourself.
What makes this adaptation different is that it is one of the most realistic portrayals of how actual people and the world at large would react and then adapt to those with special abilities. From various tiers of Powers (example: Retro Girl would be the equivalent of Superman while there are also just teenagers who have the ability to hover off the ground a couple of feet), to super groups, agents, publicists, brands and even endorsements, this world shows exactly how we as a culture would see this as not only an opportunity to do good (or bad) in the world, but also how to profit from it. What continually knocks me off my feet while watching this is how flawed and human-like these characters with abilities are. To paraphrase one of the characters trying to explain this;
We are just given abilities and not told how to use them. The human part of us doesn’t go away. If humans make a mistake, they can say they’re sorry and move on, but if we make a mistake, hundreds could die.
This is a sentiment that Powers captures perfectly by showing different levels of those with powers and not only how they handle having such a gift, often times failing, but also how they are able to function in society with that gift. Basically meaning that just because you can fly doesn’t mask the fact that you still could be a rapist, murderer or thief. With that idea in mind, you are able to better grasp the need for the Powers Division. What’s also interesting is the rich history of all of these characters share and how the show chooses to reveal it to the viewer. Everything from the formation of a large supergroup featuring Walker, Retro Girl, Johnny Royalle and others, their fallout and Walker and Royalle’s mentor and teacher-turned-criminal, all of whom are at the center of the central story. Powers chooses to let their stories collide with each other slowly hinting at former history and letting you fill in some of the blanks. It’s not until episode 5 that we actually get to see one of the major events that changes each of the main character’s paths. It’s one worth a second watch!
All of the aforementioned points are a small portion of the story with our main protagonist. Det. Walker was a former Power (aka Diamond) and lost his abilities in a battle with another Power (Wolf), but his daily struggle with normalcy is on the opposite side of the spectrum from the rest of the show, which is sometimes more fascinating than just watching super-people fight. He represents those left on the ground, those bystanders I mentioned at the beginning of this piece. What’s even more haunting is that often times it’s those left watching from the ground that are more rounded out human beings than those in the air or with abilities who have chosen to hide behind their powers.
The way the comic series has been laid out is that there is a major case for Walker and Pilgrim to solve each series. The TV show deviates slightly from this by taking several story lines of crime at once and weaving them together, plus choosing to keep certain characters alive in the show that have passed away in the comics. I’m not sure if that is because they weren’t certain how many episodes or seasons they would be given to tell their story or just because some of the major Powers are strong actors and it would be a waste to kill them off at this point. Needless to say, I am excited to see where this show is headed. Already at the halfway mark, Powers continues to impress with its incredible storytelling of how these flawed individuals aren’t even trying to become heroes or villains, but rather they are just trying to survive the choices they’ve made and be liked by those near to them.
Here’s the catch, it’s only available if you have a Playstation Plus subscription. Hint: If you are wondering what that is exactly, I’m wondering why you’ve even read this far. Fortunately, I have one of those subscriptions and have enjoyed watching all five episodes so far. BUT TAKE NOTE FOR THIS WILL BE ONE OF THE ONLY TIMES I ENDORSE THIS….I’m telling you that if you have not seen this show, do so by any means possible (yes, I mean that exactly how it sounds). I know I haven’t done this show a great service by trying to explain what it is that makes it tick, so I’m charging you to find out for yourselves. POWERS is not a show to be missed. Sure, it has some missteps, but what experimental endeavor doesn’t? It makes up for all of that with its rich immersion into a world that hasn’t been shown before involving people with powers.
POWERS is easily one of my favorite shows of this year and yes, I’m aware that we are only three months in, but there’s something marvelous to behold in the risks being taken by this show. As an avid fan of all things superheroes, it excites me to be able to watch a different representation of an oversold type of story. This perspective is a fresh take on an almost over saturated market and I pray it continues. Stay tuned to our site for more discussion and breakdown as future episodes rollout.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m reserving reading all of the comics until after the first season has finished.