The first PlayStation Originals show, available over the PSN, free for PS Plus subscribers, Powers continues to be a fun, interesting run, especially as this week episode 8 knocks it out of the park, delivering one of the best episodes of the series so far. Last week’s episode, for which you can find the review right here, answered a lot of the questions that had been hanging over the show for far too long. And as a follow up, “Aha Shake Heartbreak,” took those answers, pushed forward with a new, straightforward, no nonsense approach to the story, and was in every way better for it.
Gone are the days of asking ‘what exactly is sway?’ and ‘what do the villains even want?’ Instead, those questions are answered right off the bat, erasing any and all confusion, and we get to see the conflict simply unfold. This, along with the return of the best elements of past episodes just makes “Aha Shake Heartbreak” feel like the cohesive whole some of those earlier episodes have struggled to be. As strange as it is, with only two episodes left in the season, Powers seems like it has now hit its stride.
Of course, a single particularly strong episode does not necessarily mean a ‘stride,’ but there were numerous aspects of “Aha Shake Heartbreak” that point to Powers finally finding a good footing. First and foremost, the most obvious piece of the puzzle, the characters of Powers, specifically Walker, Retro Girl, Triphammer, and Royalle, all these people we are told have these complicated relationships, really feel like it now. Throughout the episode we get scenes of each of them interacting with each other, Triphammer and Retro Girl’s bitter friendliness, Retro Girl and Walker’s quiet solidarity against the world, and, best of all, Walker and Royalle’s odd brotherhood all wonderfully unmistakable. Living so much in the past of these characters, Powers has suffered from the character dynamics not expressing these deeper connections. That is until now, those connections now being better realized and a simple joy to watch.
Likewise, the dynamic between Walker and Pilgrim, though still not the easy back-and-forth that is usually associated with cop shows, has improved dramatically. Their scenes have taken a turn for comedy, the two jabbing at each other, showing more of the partner relationship that has grown between them, a welcome development.
Ultimately, “Aha Shake Heartbreak” was about those exact character connections I was so impressed with. In the aftermath of the revelations from last week, Walker and Royalle are stuck trying to think of a solution. The two of them, once best friends, now struggling to come back together again is a solid half of the episode, introduced fantastically through a flashback of the pair. The use of flashbacks earlier in the series worked really well, letting us see the cocky teenage Walker and smooth-talking Wolfe before all the bloodshed that gave us the scarred, changed characters we have in the present. The flashback here of Royalle and Walker works much the same way, but cements the relationship between the two, the crazy, off the rails, brothers-to-the-end friendship a startling change from the hatred we’re used to seeing. The scene also really emphasizes how Royalle has changed over the years, a nice addition to his character. In short, the flashback does exactly what it is meant to do, and it does it well, informing current events and drawing deep connections between the characters where they were only vaguely referenced before.
As for the other half of the episode, from the very beginning it has been clear that Powers is good at one thing above all else, playing against common superhero stories, and in this, “Aha Shake Heartbreak” delivers in spades. Avoiding giving too much away, it starts with the idea of setting up a publicity stunt to launch Retro Girl’s new foundation (and Zora’s career). Powers then carries this through, touching on hiring a villain, and continues straight on to an intriguing, take-your-breath-away conclusion. Overall, it was well done, highlighting and encapsulating the most interesting parts of Powers’ strange world.
Sadly, not everything in the episode was a resounding success, however. While it was a relief to see the Krispin-Calista romance not make a return, the parts of the story surrounding them still were the weakest of the show, specifically that of Krispin and Chaotic Chick. We were told two weeks ago that the video of the car accident had been altered to show casualties. Upon seeing the video this week however, no such editing was present. And the murder of Jump Striker, while mentioned and discussed, didn’t really lead anywhere, operating more as a set piece than anything else. If Krispin was involved, it would have been better to at least give us hints to that involvement instead of just leaving it wide open. Through the course of the episode Krispin takes certain actions, alone, that seem odd given that Chaotic Chick, his ultimate partner in crime, is supposedly in the same city. Overall, it felt underdeveloped, Krispin, Chaotic Chick, and Jump Striker an afterthought in the course of the episode. This would of course be fine, if they hadn’t all been set up so thoroughly over the past few weeks.
The only other obvious flaw continues to be the evident budget restrictions, the flying and blood still coming across as a bit cheap. But again, this is a minor complaint, especially given how cool Zora’s light powers look.
With the return of flashbacks, improved character interactions, and an emphasis on one of the most interesting plays on superheroes that Powers has done so far, “Aha Shake Heartbreak” is a surprising, intense, and wonderfully put together episode, displaying the strength of Powers as a whole, if it continues to stick to what it is good at.