I was first introduced to Powers in either the summer between junior and senior year of high school or between high school and college, I can’t remember which. When I first opened the first trade paperback collected edition, I was struck by two things:
1) Writer Brian Michael Bendis can fit a crap ton of dialogue onto two pages.
2) How beautifully artist Michael Avon Oeming’s more cartoony style artwork fits in a book that is basically a police procedural.
For those of you who don’t know, which I’m sure is a majority of you, the basic question Powers asks is: how would normal police deal with people with superpowers? It’s a relatively simple concept that through character work gains a lot of hidden depth. So, when it was announced a few years ago that the creator-owned comic had been optioned for a TV series, I was skeptical. The original deal, which I believe was with FX, fell through. The show had to find a new home. It did just that last year when Sony, looking to get into the original TV show streaming service game, came calling. The Power’s Division’s most memorable cases would be adapted and produced for The PlayStation Network.
The show centers around Christian Walker, a former Power (what the show and comic call people with superpowers) who now works as a detective for the LAPD Powers Division. The fact that the show is set in LA is really the first problem I have with the adaptation, because it doesn’t stay true to the dark visual tone of the comic. This, of course, is a common hazard when adapting something from the printed page to the screen. I just wish that director David Slade (best known for Hannibal) had gone with a more visually dynamic style for the pilot. Overall, the visual style of the pilot is boring, a little bit cheap looking, and washed out.
The first time the audience sees Sharito Copley (District 9) as Christian Walker, it is immediately pointed out through dialogue that he is a former power. I know that I too pointed out the same thing at the very beginning of the review, so you’re probably wondering why I am angry that the show did it. The reason I find this irksome is because in the comic it took a few issues for Walker’s former superheroics to come to light. To throw that piece of backstory in right off the bat immediately makes the character more shallow. There’s such a direct explanation for his character’s motivations that I am afraid it doesn’t allow the character to be very nuanced.
Anyway, in the opening scene Walker’s partner is murdered as he takes a power into custody. Walker’s new partner is Deena Pilgrim, the series’ female lead. In the show, she is a second-generation powers cop; this is not true of the comic book’s Deena Pilgrim. (Yes, you do always have to say her full name. It’s like A Tribe Called Quest or A Pimp Named Slickback in that you say the whole thing.) Deena Pilgrim, in both versions of Powers, is meant to function as an audience POV character. She is the non-superpowered person in a room full of freaks with otherworldly abilities.
This brings me to my main complaint about the Powers pilot.THE CHARACTER’S ARE TOO NICE!!!! Comic book Christian Walker is a man of few words. But in the show he openly hits on girls and expresses worry. Basically, he cares too much. Comic Walker does care about things, but not to this extent. He is also missing an underlying current of anger that Bendis and Oeming give him in the book. Copley’s performance seems to have replaced that anger with a sadsack longing.Comic Deena Pilgrim is a tiny blonde fury engine that doesn’t take any shit from anybody EVER!!! In the pilot she is played by Susan Heyward (The Following) as a neutered and doe-eyed rookie. It’s not as engaging to watch.
Let’s run down the plot of the show real quick. Somebody’s going around killing Powers. In our first murder scene, one of Walker’s old friends named Olympia dies while having sex with an underage girl. His heart explodes inside his chest. The underage girl, Calista, is a traumatized Powers wannabe who is trying to use Olympia’s seed to jumpstart her supposed powers. She’s taken in for questioning. She then disappears from the interrogation room after a call to Johnny Royalle, who uses his teleportation powers to get her out of there before having to answer any questions. The kicker is that Johnny has been long thought dead by his former friend Christian Walker.* gasp* So, our intrepid detectives must go to the Power’s prison–which has a name that I’m forgetting, so it must be important–to see Walker’s former mentor Wolf.
Wolf, played by Eddie izzard, will probably end up being one of the saving graces of the show. Izzard knows how to command a scene with quiet menace. We find out that Wolf not only eats people, he is also the person that took Walker’s powers away from him. They find out that Johnny Royalle is alive and currently has Calista under his thumb. Walker gets angry and punches a car window. We see Johnny Royalle playing solitaire with Powers face cards. He agrees to make more of the Powers drug we saw at the beginning of the episode.
In summation, as a whole this pilot is pretty mediocre, but there are just enough interesting points to keep me watching and reviewing. If you are interested in the Powers comic book, please patronize your local comic book store.
P.S. Sorry about my Dragon Dictate window in the screenshots from this episode.
All other images were pulled from Google. I don’t own them.