Sony Playstation became the newest original series provider today with POWERS, its hour-long drama about people with superhuman abilities. Based on the comic of the same name, POWERS takes place in a world that, while not common, superpowers are present in a number of the population and have been for some time. With a new generation taking for granted their strengths, a grizzled former costumed crime fighter helps an underfunded unit control the baddies.
Our lead character is Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley, District 9), who was once known as Diamond. Christian is a complex character who regrets losing his powers and would do almost anything to get them back – except the one thing he knows that will. He’s still got the heart of a hero, but his skills to back that up are considerably reduced. He’s a brooding, unfulfilled man, and POWERS will surely be about him overcoming obstacles to return to his former glory, with or without special abilities.
Christian’s world is a very dark one. A single wrong move in handling a captured villain gets his partner killed in the line of duty, an event we’re told is not uncommon in this work. The public needs Christian and the rest of the department, led by Captain Cross (Adam Godley, A Young Doctor’s Notebook), but they won’t provide them with the resources to be effective, instead counting on other superheroes to do a job that they just aren’t doing as well as they used to.
The problem with the youth of today who should be out saving the city is a familiar problem often seen in stereotypical portrayals of teens now. They are addicted to social media and technology, and obsessed with achieving fame with little or no effort. They want to make their names on YouTube, not by saving lives. It’s regrettable, to say the least.
This is one of POWERS’ largest issues: the flat way in which characters or situations are introduced. Not everything in the pilot happens exactly as expected, but a great deal of it does. The primary bad guy, Johnny Royalle (Noah Taylor, Game of Thrones), is talked up too much to be frightening. The dialogue is frequently boring and trite, and large parts of the main plot are superficial. This applies even when Christian is on screen, and on paper Christian looks to be a very fascinating individual.
The reason I’m not ready to write off the show, though, is because of the potential here. Because Christian is intriguing on paper, POWERS could do a lot to make him come to life. His mentor-turned-arch nemesis, Wolfe (Eddie Izzard, Hannibal), is equally compelling, and viewers are sure to empathize with the girl who desperately wants to be like her heroes, Calista (Olesya Rulin, Greek). We also have yet to catch more than a glimpse of Retro Girl (Michelle Forbes, The Killing), Christian’s ex who is still in the game. Even if there’s nothing original about Christian’s new partner, Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward, The Following), and the up-and-comer with a crush on him, Zora (Logan Browning, Meet the Browns), is kind of creepy, POWERS may still go somewhere.
The biggest problem Playstation will have with POWERS, though, is probably going to be the lack of availability. The first episode is free on YouTube (in a terrible version of HD), but you are required to sign up for a Playstation account in order to buy the rest, which cost additional money. Other TV series are offered through this service, but this is the only original show, so I don’t see a lot of people going to the effort and expense of doing this. Worse, it is not available on other Sony platforms, such as a blu-ray player, even though other Sony devices have the same video service (though it can be watched on a computer). Those who have Playstations likely make up a lot of the target audience, but there are plenty of other viewers who would watch if it were easier to do so. This release is pretty poorly handled.
POWERS has made the first three episodes available today, with an additional seven coming in the first season. Check it out if you want to, but be prepared to pay if you want to keep watching past the pilot.