Now halfway through its ten-episode season, it is safe to say Powers isn’t the best show ever made. It’s not revolutionary or mind blowing. But ultimately, it doesn’t need to be. The first PlayStation Originals show, available exclusively over the PSN, and free for PS Plus subscribers, Powers is a solid, intriguing show, giving an interesting spin on superheroes in a way not much else has. If you’ve missed out so far, you can check out the Gamespresso reviews of episodes 1-3 and episode 4, but without further ado, on to tonight’s episode.
Simply put, “Paint it Black,” is a solid, fun episode, equal parts world building, character development, and action. All that said however, it does have one pretty glaring misstep, at least in my opinion, which I’ll get too.
Before that however, “Paint it Black” gets pretty much everything right. Sticking with the strongest aspect of the show so far, this episode continues to play with the usual superhero tropes, turning them on their head. As the prison escape continues, more ‘powers’ show up to help, most importantly, reoccurring character, Zora. A scene in which her publicist and agent try to prepare her before going in front of the cameras is a definite point of interest. These scenes, and others, continue to show off the weird world of Powers, and that is mostly what has me coming back for more.
Like the previous episode, “Paint it Black” is a highly focused run through the developing situation of Wolfe’s escape. Freshening things up a bit though, we get treated to some superbly done flashback sequences along the way.
A first for the show so far, the flashbacks finally give us direct contact with Walker as a cocky teenager and Wolfe as the awesome smooth talker he was before the whole going nuts and getting needles shoved in his brain thing. For a show that is so much rooted and dependent on the past relationships of characters, the flashbacks worked wonders, showing sides of specifically Walker and Johnny’s relationship that just didn’t come through in the present.
More than anything though, this episode was about Walker and Wolfe. Exploring the father-son dynamic between the two of them, numerous scenes took place through the present and flashbacks, overlaying the two in a rather impressive feat of editing, playing with how their relationship has changed, and how some parts of it will never change. It builds quite a bit of tension, slipping back and forth from past to present, really highlighting the two characters. As the episode continues, both timelines build and build moving towards the inevitable confrontations in each.
And that’s where the glaring misstep comes in.
In the present, things get even more violent in the prison, leading to some intense fight scenes, other ‘powers’ even joining the fray. To be fair some of the flight effects seemed a bit cheaply down, especially compared to how the rest of the super powers in the show have been handled, but all in all, the fights were satisfying and brutal. The same satisfaction however doesn’t apply to the flashbacks.
The flashback segments of the episode all take place in 1994, in the nightclub we have already been told was the site of the first Wolfe massacre. Every so often we are given violent flashes of blood everywhere, alluding to the fact the slaughter is just moments away. We see Wolfe, sickeningly dignified and classy to a fault, just dominating the room from where he sits, spouting philosophy to the crowd around him. And then when it comes time for him to snap, for that one thing to set him off, for him to loose control and show the animal he is in a rage filled, inhuman transformation… well… they skip over that part. We are treated to the aftermath, which has, admittedly, some interesting surprises of its own, but the massacre itself, the violence we have been told totally defines this man for five episodes now, we simply don’t see at all.
Now understand, I have no interest in seeing people ripped apart. That’s not what I feel was robbed from the audience. What’s missing is Wolfe’s motivation, the trigger that caused the massacre. Every single villain in the history of narrative lives and dies by their motivations. Magneto isn’t a fan favorite just because people like his helmet, he is a favorite because we can understand what makes him tick, and even empathize with him. Even the Joker, a character built on not having a motivation for his actions, we love and get because, ultimately, not having a reason is his motivation. What makes people do the things they do is what makes people interesting. And so far, Wolfe hasn’t been made that interesting. Maybe his inner workings will be explained later, fine, but “Paint it Black” set up a perfect shot for it, a perfect chance to make me understand and care about Wolfe, and dropped the ball.
Instead of giving more depth to Wolfe, the episode showed a new side of Walker, defining his character in a new light. Where it progresses from here will certainly be a fun ride to watch.
And finally, there is the question of just what powers are. Without spoiling anything, a question is raised in the episode as to exactly what super powers are. While this is implicit in the through line of the show: If Walker lost his powers, what exactly was it that he lost? The ability? Something actually physical? But the rather large question reared its ugly head prominently in this episode, making it impossible to ignore, and now we are just left with questions. While I don’t hold this against Powers yet, there still being plenty of time to explain just what the heck is going on, it is a question, that if unanswered, could spell serious trouble as the season goes on.
As with each episode before it, “Paint it Black” has kept me more than interested to come back next week. The flashbacks worked great, adding some much needed depth to characters, better explaining relationships, giving a nice gloss of understanding when it comes to where these people come from. But in the end, I felt let down by the flashbacks not actually showing me the one thing I wanted to know most. That aside however, because I really did have fun watching the episode, “Paint it Black” was a strong chapter, some of the fighting being downright awesome, with quite a few nice twists to keep things interesting for next week.
- Missed opportunity with Wolfe
- Other than that, the flashbacks were great
- A couple delightfully brutal fights
- Some interesting character twists