With only a single episode to go in the season following tonight’s chapter, things in Powers are starting to definitely come to a head. Like every episode, tonight’s is available exclusively over the PSN, and is free for PS Plus subscribers. If you missed it, you can find the Gamespresso review for last week’s episode here.
Looking back at the nearly complete season, it is safe to say Powers has struggled a little bit to find its footing. But following last week’s great entry, the show held on to what worked, the off kilter interactions of the central characters, and just kept right on going. The original creator and writer of the comic on which Powers is based, Brian Michael Bendis, took the writing reigns this week, and his trademark snappy dialogue shined.
With Walker having agreed to help Royalle kill Wolfe, “Level 13” sees the pair, and everyone else, caught in an elaborate heist themed game of two-truths-and-a-lie that manages to strike a remarkable balance between being a serious plan to save the world and a comedy of errors. Multiple times throughout the episode I found myself laughing out loud, the quick play of crazy revelations and double crosses between Walker, Pilgrim, Triphammer, and Captain Cross keeping the pace up and the wackiness of the situation fresh, just under the surface.
“Level 13” bounces back and forth from the actual prison break-in to the preparations for the break-in beforehand, Walker playing Pilgrim, Triphammer, and the police captain against Royalle, and vise versa. The fact that we are never quite sure of what Walker is really up to adds an interesting dynamic to the episode as we are treated to twists and turns, the startling trust his friends have in him the only thing keeping the whole tower of lies from derailing the schemes. The scenes of the four ‘good guys’ planning together absolutely run away with the show, the scenes of Walker and Royalle doing the same coming in a close second.
On a character level, there is more going on in “Level 13” than we’ve seen in any other episode of the series so far. What does that mean in a practical narrative sense though? For one, we are treated to the first solid definite moment in which the partnership between Walker and Pilgrim is palpable and meaningful. Constantly butting heads throughout the episode, Pilgrim doubting the heist plans, there is a moment in which she finally gets onboard, marking the best Walker-Pilgrim scene in the series, moving the action forward and giving some deep, and well-delivered, insight into just how Pilgrim sees her former-superhero partner.
Working with the brother dynamic between Walker and Royalle that so dominated last week’s episode, “Level 13” strains their relationship and even manages to work in the father-son dynamic between them and Wolfe.
Overall, seeing all these characters running in circles around each other, constantly bouncing off one another, was just plain fun.
After a brief hiatus last week however, the Krispin-Calista pairing made an unfortunate return. Where “Level 13” stumbles is in one scene in particular, directly dealing with the fallout from the death of Krispin’s mother. The sudden, abrupt drop of all comedy and fun as we see a shattered Krispin fall apart, blaming powers in general for his mom’s death, screaming at a confused and overwhelmed Calista just seemed out of place. Again, in the wake of everything else going on, the fact that two teenagers can’t work things out seems too trivial to really latch onto and care about. To be fair, there was nothing particularly poorly done about the scene. Instead, it is much more likely that Powers has simply missed the opportunity to make the audience really connect with the two characters. Always operating relatively outside the core narrative, Krispin and Calista have never been given the focus to make them worthy of the emotional investment necessary for scenes like this to not feel detached and odd.
And again, after it was such a large point in previous episodes that Kaotic Chick was in the same city as Krispin, her total absence from the episode, even if Krispin was only in a single scene, made all the build up for her feel incomplete. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see if the Kaotic Chic story arc as a whole actually has a payoff in the season finale next week.
Brian Michael Bendis stepping in as writer, “Level 13” was a fast, fun heist set-up, great lines really letting the central characters pop against each other. All funneling to a surprisingly intense and enjoyable cliffhanger, there were few ways Powers could have better teed itself up for its finale. As good as it was however, the lingering plot threads and secondary characters that worked along the outside edges of the episode did still weigh it down.