With only three episodes left in the season, Powers is certainly an odd little show. Available exclusively over the PSN, free for PS Plus subscribers, but still releasing only one episode a week instead of a full season dump, a la Netflix, it bucks normal trends and classifications. Staying away from any one defined genre, it does much the same thing with narrative expectations, each episode having its own unique feel. This week for instance, Powers returned to the crime show, cop drama dynamic we haven’t seen much since the pilot, and for the most part it worked pretty well.
As I spoke about in my review of last week’s episode, Powers has made a habit recently of setting up highly focused chapters of narrative, a single event propelling the action and the center of attention, everything else simply happening at the same time. Returning to the investigative format of a show about cops however, “You Are Not It,” opens things up. While no single plot thread had the significant weight and gravitas of being that one core focus, nothing felt tacked on, or secondary, something that was starting to hurt side characters like Calista and Zora.
What makes episode 7 important however, comes down to one thing: Powers is finally starting to answer questions. “You Are Not It,” sees pretty much every character sitting down and saying ‘Okay, what exactly is going on here?’ a valid question following all the sway-induced glowing eyes and power swapping. As Walker and Pilgrim try to investigate Royalle’s involvement in things, Royalle pushes to get in to see Wolfe, hoping to ask questions of his own. And what does it all get us? Answers.
While a fun show, spoofing common conceptions of the superhero genre, Powers was starting to sag under the weight of its own vagueness, particularly when it comes to the essence of superpowers and the effects of sway. While the first point is still somewhat up in the air, it is made far more tolerable by the new understanding and clarification of just what Royalle’s little red drug is and does. Without spoiling anything, the explanation of sway is intriguing, but also made satisfying and logical as a scene between Royalle and Wolfe works well to establish Royalle’s own character faults as the reason he never understood sway. His fear following the final realization sold the scene more than anything else.
At the same time, in an eloquent monologue, we finally get a peek at just what makes Wolfe tick. Why he is what he is, a ravenous person-eater and all, has so far seemed just to be a given. Hearing an in depth description of just what it is that Wolfe feels however, casts new light on his actions, adding more depth to his character than what we had simply been told thus far.
All of this takes place as we are treated to some fun, if limited, scenes of Walker trying to make things up to Pilgrim, and a look at the dark side of being a power as Retro Girl and Zora meet up at a sponsor’s office.
The awkwardness between Walker and Pilgrim is very well done, the jokes between the two a solid step towards the partner dynamic we never really saw established in the first half of the season. Pilgrim in particular cracks a number of jokes and, overall, manages to feel like a much lighter character, a welcome change of pace, making her a bit more likable.
And as for Retro Girl and Zora, though I have said it following every episode of the series so far, I will say it again: Powers will live and die based on how well it can play with the audience’s expectations when it comes to superheroes, and this week, that was all of the shoulders of these two women. Following Zora’s new-found fame in the wake of the events at the shaft, basically, her agent wants to capitalize by pairing her with Retro Girl, producing some surprisingly good scenes focused on the publicity and marketing of being a superhero. While aspects of it did dip a bit too far towards the cliché of famous people complaining about being famous, certain scenes, such as Retro Girl explaining her intense hatred of photo shoots, walked the line and managed a nice impact without seeming melodramatic.
Sadly however, “You Are Not It,” still has its faults. While budget restrictions still present a problem, the flying special effects still looking particularly cheap, the episode’s weakest point actually surrounds Calista and Krispin. One lingering issues is that I am still not sure whether I should root for or against Calista, a choice made even harder as one of the most interesting leads from last week’s episode, Calista finding out that Krispin participated in doctoring a video to show a power killing innocent people, is completely ignored throughout this week’s. When the confrontation does come, it turns out Calista is much more upset about Krispin talking to another girl, a shallow conflict that feels like a missed opportunity to tackle something much bigger and relatable to the rest of the show. With a violent revolution brewing against powers, being asked to care about an argument that would be more at place if conducted next to a high school locker just seems to be a stretch. That said, the fallout from Krispin and Calista’s argument is definitely exciting, setting up things that I can’t wait to see unfold next week.
Powers is at its strongest when it shows people with powers to be just that, people who happen to have crazy powers, something “You Are Not It,” does well throughout, a great scene where Walker and Retro Girl just have a nice conversation over the phone being a standout example. Though less focused than previous chapters of the story, episode 7 managed to be a solid entry, showcasing more of the world, moving the plot along, and letting the characters each do their own thing. Most importantly however, it can’t be stressed enough how good it feels to now have some of my questions answered. More than at any point in the series so far, I feel as if I have a grasp of what is going on and the danger I should be looking out for, and that is an incredible thing. “You Are Not It,” didn’t have any mind-blowingly awesome scenes, no blood-pumping fights, or show-stealing moments, but it did take the time to fix some of the show’s weakest aspects, getting rid of the vague, what-does-sway-even-do questions, and moving forward to bigger, more engaging things.