Powers has brought a close to its second season. But while all of the elements are there for a great season finale, the execution just doesn’t quite measure up to the promise of the premise.
The later half of season 2 of Powers has centered on SuperShock. For lack of a better comparison, think Superman, if the decades of fighting evil slowly eroded his mental stability. Legacy sees the final confrontation between the detectives of Powers Division and the aging superhero, and there certainly is a confrontation. The final fight against SuperShock delivers in ways that few fight scenes in the series have before. But everything else just doesn’t come off as smoothly, the episode as a whole stuffed to its limits.
Coming into the finale, there are plenty of plot-threads worthy of impressive pay-offs, with complex, fascinating emotions at play for just about every character. Walker, having lost friends and colleagues throughout the season, has learned his mentors lied to him and is finally confronted with his own inadequacies as a hero and as a cop. Pilgrim, who hates powers, finds herself suddenly turning into one, all while Kutter was nearly killed. Krispin is then in a similar boat, while Calista struggles to reconcile with her own fear with being a superhero. And finally, in the center of it all, there’s the tragic figure of SuperShock himself.
All of these conflicts do play a role in the finale, but Legacy doesn’t devote enough time to any one of them in particular to allow the full impact to develop. Instead, the packed episode settles for a surface look at each storyline, wrapping up only a couple of primary loose threads left throughout the season.
Even as Walker makes a symbolic gesture, proving how much he’s changed following Janice’s death, my first reaction was actually confusion. The lack of set-up truncates the resolution of the emotional arc, making each of his decisions come off as sudden and haphazard. This comes as each decision is meant to be a deep, introspective moment for a man who has essentially lost his identity and, even years later, hasn’t come to terms with it.
In a similar way, Pilgrim’s ongoing turmoil feels hollow, almost as if it is happening in a vacuum. She continues to deal with the emotions surrounding what happened to Kutter, while also now dealing with her new powers. But at no point does she actually go visit Kutter. Though Legacy uses him as a central pillar for Pilgrim’s narrative, he’s completely absent.
Furthermore, Pilgrim receiving powers in last week’s episode felt disconnected from the rest of the narrative, and it is just as disconnect here as well. What would usually be a massive shake-up to the show lands as a muted side-note that no one has time to worry about just yet. While there is narrative potential in Pilgrim suffering through her changes and realizing that no one is noticing, again, Legacy just doesn’t take, or have, the time to develop it.
And finally, that lack of depth is felt most in regards to SuperShock. More than anything, the Powers season finale is about the villains. The recent few episodes have delved into the past of the Powers universe and the almost mythical, century long battle between the hero SuperShock and his arch-nemesis, Morrison, The Ghost. Legacy finally sees the two of them come face-to-face again, revealing just how unhinged, and how much like a villain, the hero really has become.
The truth is, conveying the simultaneous terrifying strength, regal facade, and heartbreaking vulnerability wrapped up in the character of SuperShock is a tall order for just about any actor, let the writers or director. In his portrayal, Michael Madsen has a handful of moments that shed light on the intricate undercurrents of the character’s tragedy. Adding in small touches, like the patches of dirt on his white uniform and having his voice literally reverberate in the air, showcases that complicated mix. But overall, the story of SuperShock never comes together to be as gut wrenching as it could have been, and a muddled final confrontation with Morrison robs their personal narrative of any real catharsis.
Despite these complaints however, there is still a lot to like about the season finale of Powers. Legacy is the best episode so far for the young heroes of New Unity. Finding the right note for their relationship that simply never appeared in season one, seeing Krispin and Calista back together is surprisingly fun. The fact they both now have powers adds an interesting wrinkle to their interactions that was never there before. As a result of Krispin’s new status quo, and the massive power imbalance between the two of them, Calista opens up to him in ways we haven’t seen. The subtle combination of cockiness and unease works well for her character. It’s true, the scenes in question might be a bit more touching if she were wearing a bra, but you take what you can get.
As the episode continues, the group splits up to figure out how to defeat SuperShock, and Martinez and Krispin receive some time to themselves. Even though it is only a short scene, the pair have an immediate chemistry. Neither has had an actual, non-romantic peer during their time on the show, and it’s a refreshing change of pace for both characters.
And on top of all of that, Legacy shocks and awes as just about any season finale should. Featuring some truly monumental events, Powers sets up more than one cliffhanger. With that in mind, combined with just how much promise the finale had overall, it’s hard not to wish the episode had only been 15-30 minutes longer, giving it time to explore the multitude of things going on. Despite its faults, Legacy sets up plenty of material ripe for a third season, and it would be a shame to not be able to see how it all plays out.