Though it started off particularly strong, the second season of Powers has suffered over the past few weeks as the show transitioned between its two main story arcs for the season. While a straightforward and calm episode in comparison, thankfully Chasing Ghosts delivers where it’s important, leaving a much better foundation for the weeks to come.
The previous episode, Origins, saw the introduction of a new villain called the Ghost. He just so happens to be deeply connected to SuperShock. As the title of this week’s episode suggests, the new villain is front and center. Tipped off by SuperShock, Walker has started to investigate the Ghost on his own. After another one of his crippling headaches however, Walker wakes to find SuperShock has taken him to a remote cabin, leaving Pilgrim and Kutter to wonder after him and begin looking into the Ghost as well.
In this way, Chasing Ghosts splits up its characters, telling a total of four separate stories at once. Focusing on smaller individual narratives comes as a nice change of pace, the brevity required of each managing to trim some of the fat that has accompanied recent episodes.
In the storyline surrounding Calista for instance, Powers wisely leaves Martinez entirely out of the episode, with Zora only appearing for a few lines. The three young superheroes have become a sore spot for the season. In this case however, the idea of them being a ‘New Unity’ is set aside as Calista again comes face-to-face with her father. Embracing the dark humor of Powers, the storyline is brief, but sets up interesting repercussions for the future.
Likewise, the second of the four narratives follows a surprise returning character. While there isn’t much to say in regards to the return, it is worth noting that it brings up a fundamental question still largely unaddressed in the series: where do powers come from? With the flashbacks to the emergence of powers almost a century ago in last week’s episode, the lack of a definitive answer can certainly be felt here. More than anything, the storyline is a tease that will hopefully play out in the coming weeks, but it’s interesting all the same.
And that leaves the two main through lines of the episode. The first follows Walker and SuperShock. As has subtly become clear throughout the season, the strength of Sharlto Copley’s Walker heavily depends on who he is given to play against in any given scene. Here, he and Michael Madsen’s SuperShock work surprisingly well together. Both washed-up superheroes that have hung up their capes for different reasons, Walker and SuperShock are just similar enough to provide plenty of material to dissect between the two of them.
It’s refreshing for Walker to not be the most cynical person on the screen. Seeing his mix of admiration, annoyance, and fear towards the aging hero adds a nice level of contrast to his usually prickly disposition.
As slivers of information come out in their conversations, some even contradicting the flashbacks of SuperShock’s past we saw last week, there is a lot of potential interest built up around the character. While these twists are certainly more than enough to raise a few eyebrows, Madsen doesn’t come off quite as imposing as SuperShock is likely meant to be. Because of this, Chasing Ghosts has a hard time building up the tension you might expect.
Overall, while engaging, the scenes between Walker and SuperShock fail to deliver a decided punch, instead leaving the climax of the storyline for next week. This isn’t helped much as the episode largely treats the question of Walker’s headaches the same way. Though SuperShock claims to know what’s causing them and even offers a cure, Walker never asks for more details, and SuperShock never offers them. It’s an odd move that comes across a bit too clearly as the show postponing any sort of reveal closer to the end of the season.
All that said, the strongest narrative in the episode surrounds Pilgrim and Kutter. With Walker missing, the pair finds themselves tracking him down and simultaneously looking into the Ghost. Though the backdrop of general police work is fairly standard, the chemistry between the two of them has never been better.
Kutter gets more screen-time than in any previous episode, finally shedding his characteristic repulsiveness. It’s a welcome change that immediately makes him more likable and pleasant to watch. The back and forth between him and Pilgrim is funny and light-hearted, but without ever sinking into the awkward pining and forced sexual tension that rears its head whenever Zora and Martinez are on screen. Simply put, it adds a touch of heart to the episode.
Trading in the massive reveals and sudden deaths that have cluttered the show of late, Chasing Ghosts is a standard episode, but does what it sets out to do. While the SuperShock storyline is still moving slowly, the rest of the episode offers a number of engaging character stories, all with definite implications for the season’s last two episodes. Layer in a handful of well-played twists, and Chasing Ghosts, at the very least, sees a return of the confidence the show exhibited earlier in the season.