Powers is weird. There’s no denying that. Even setting aside that it’s a PlayStation Originals Show and only available through the PlayStation Store, it’s campy and a completely different take on superheroes than anything else on television. But the truth is, the show is never better than when it embraces that weirdness. Coming off of its solid three episode premiere, Powers does just that in its forth episode, but also lays in some great backstory, crazy reveals, and tense action.
Right from the beginning there is no doubt what “Stealing Fire” is setting out to do. With the immediate aftermath of Retro Girl’s murder now behind them, it’s time for the folks of Powers Division to start investigating the new threat and look to the future. It just so happens that the FBI is a large part of that.
“Stealing Fire” finally takes the opportunity to pull back the curtain on the two FBI agents that have been in the background since the season premiere. Not only do we see Schlag flex his considerable muscles (and appetite), we also begin to learn more about Special Agent Lange. And while there is plenty to love in Powers’ forth episode, Tricia Helfer steals the show, the scenes she shares with Sharlto Copley’s Walker forming the backbone of the entire episode.
From the moment she walked into the police department, it’s been obvious that there is a past between Lange and Walker. Though it’s simple to say that “Stealing Fire” confirms as much, that doesn’t give enough credit to just how well the episode handles the backstory. Subtle and spaced throughout the episode, each new nugget of information falls into place, layering one surprise after another. The slow build then culminates in a simultaneously sexy, terrifying, and hilarious scene well worth the wait.
Though the excellent writing needs to be credited, its Helfer herself that sells each little reveal. Managing to mix vulnerability with ferocity, it’s the range and scale of Lange’s emotions that showcase just how much more complex the character is than the show’s led us to believe so far. Needless to say, that complexity is on full display in “Stealing Fire” and sets up plenty of interesting dynamics for how she will continue to interact with Walker and the other Powers Division officers in the episodes ahead.
Elsewhere in the episode, while not quite as in the spotlight as Lange, other new characters get to stretch and show-off what they’ve got. Everyone from Triphammer’s new protégé Martinez to the now much more important PR Agent Craig Sherman are given more to do. Even Wil Wheaton’s character finally gets a reveal.
Couple this with the fact that Triphammer, Captain Ross, and Kutter are all given more material to work with, and the show’s cast begins to feels deeper and more rounded than ever before. A marked change from the first season, every character is legitimately interesting and actively engaged in what’s going on.
While the majority of the characters are landing, it’s true that not everything worked in the episode. At one point Sherman does have a bit of a breakdown in his office. It’s possible that the reasons behind the breakdown will become clear as the season goes on, and it will make more sense then. But, for now, the scene feels awkward and out of place in the course of the episode. Despite this, everything else he does afterwards keeps the scene from leaving too sour of a taste for long.
Though ultimately light on moving the overall narrative forward, “Stealing Fire” is a welcome and excellent breath of fresh air after the tension and chaos directly following Retro Girl’s murder. If the first three episodes were meant to transition the series into its second season, the forth episode boldly walks down that new path. Focusing on characters over action, the latest Powers episode is a solid foundation off of which for the rest of the season to build.