While certainly better overall when compared to the first season, the second season of Powers has had its fair share of stumbles. But for every stumble, there are high points, and Slain Dragons is one of the high points. Excellently written, delivering on all the absurdist, dark humor of which the Powers universe is capable, the penultimate episode of season two not only sets up an interesting finale, but effectively moves beyond the struggles of the past few weeks.
Slain Dragons sees Brian Michael Bendis, the creator of the original comic, once again step in as writer. And as is the case with just about every episode he pens of the show, there is a certain wit and darkness to the world Powers that he alone seems to truly know how to tease out. But more than that, the majority of the episode simply has a greater amount of energy and drive behind it than its predecessors.
Everything moves along at a brisk pace, especially throughout the beginning. Collecting the tail ends of the separate storylines that characterized last week’s episode, there’s a lot of moving pieces syncing together, and a lot characters playing catch-up. Far from devolving into summary or merely skipping over it all however, Slain Dragons takes the time to have fun with the different reveals.
Even after what happened to Kutter, seeing Walker and Pilgrim argue over whether Morrison, “The Ghost,” actually exists is good for a laugh. While Pilgrim works through the anger and uncertainty following Kutter’s stabbing, none of her scenes ever get bogged down in it. Instead, interactions like her argument with Walker and a couple standout moments with Fuller, the Powers Division computer expert, allow those emotions to still sit at center stage without derailing the episode.
More than that though, everyone finding out Krispin is back leads to some of the funniest moments in the series so far. Not only are the reactions believable, but each is deeply rooted in the over-the-top, peculiar take on super powers that helps Powers standout from the other superhero stories out there.
It’s during these scenes that (hopefully not) temporary coroner, Michelle Marrs, shines and dominates the screen. Introduced briefly back in episode six of the season, Marrs is the eager stand-in medical examiner while the usual coroner, Dr. Death, is away. Finally answering, or at least acknowledging, questions that have hovered over the series from the very beginning, Marrs gets a healthy amount of screen time and essentially serves as the ultimate fan-girl. A joyful standout amongst the darkening backdrop of Los Angeles, one can only hope she is a new addition to the larger reoccurring cast of the show.
Amongst all this, Slain Dragons is notable in the series as a whole for another reason as well: we finally see how Walker became a detective. Taking a page out of the same book as many of the other episodes this season, this week’s chapter includes flashbacks. But this time the focus is none other than Walker himself.
While last season gave us glimpses of Walker as a young man, during his time with Johnny Royalle and Wolfe, this episode showcases the time before and directly after Wolfe took his powers. It is the first concrete look at the events and decisions that led Walker to be the man he is today, and the episode doesn’t disappoint. Though his alter ego of Diamond is as cringe-worthy as ever, the small character insights into Walker, as well as Commander Cross, more than make up for it.
Despite its strengths, Slain Dragons does still have a couple of rough patches. As the episode goes on, Pilgrim starts what will likely be a new continuing storyline going forward. While it’s still too early to tell how the twist of events will turn out, the sudden new threat as the rest of the show still focuses on SuperShock and Morrison seems disconnected and unnecessary. That can obviously change in the finale and even on into a possible third season, but as of now there is little reason to add more on top of the conflicts already present.
That is only a minor gripe in comparison to Calista’s storyline however. To the episode’s credit, thankfully the awkward romance between Zora and Martinez is still kept out of the proceedings. Additionally, the conversations surrounding a ‘New Unity’ go out the window as all three young heroes simply suit up and brace themselves for the coming fight. Where the plotline struggles is in Calista’s emotional journey throughout the episode.
Completely ignoring the fact that she blew up her own father at the end of last week, Slain Dragons sees Calista dealing with another host of emotions entirely. After having a confrontation with SuperShock, she breaks down and looses all hope. It’s an extreme reaction that, admittedly, could be very warranted. But we only see a brief flash of the conflict, doing little to justify the severe response and leaving Calista to come of as more of a drama queen instead of the scared survivor she is meant to be.
Even with these sour notes, Powers’ ninth episode of the season stands as one of its best. Hilarious and dark, no one can write these characters quite like Bendis. Slain Dragons offers enticing new nuggets of information about the world of Powers, along with filling in gaps about some of the show’s central characters and mysteries. Calista is still the weak link for the show’s roster, but newer additions like Fuller and Marrs are given more to do in this episode, to fantastic effect. After struggling to find its groove in the second half of the season, Powers looks to have largely righted itself and is on excellent footing heading into the finale.