Comic Vine Review

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Powers #101 - Pilot

4

Detective Christian Walker is an ex-super-powered hero who lost his powers and is now a detective

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Note: We're keeping this pretty spoiler-free and skipping the recap for the opening episode of this new series.

Playstation Network's first attempt at jumping on the super-hero bandwagon is a noble one. If there's one thing that can be said about the vast majority of pilot episodes to a new series it's that they tend to be a sub-par look into what's coming down the line. Powers is a tad better than that though and is actually well-adjusted to suit the whims of both the fans of the comic book series and folks who have never heard of POWERS at all.

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The synopsis of show offers a pretty good insight into what the first episode tries to and successfully achieves in it's 51 minute run-time:

Powers, an edgy dramatic series, follows the lives of two homicide detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, who are assigned to investigate cases involving people with superhuman abilities, referred to as “Powers.” Set amidst today’s paparazzi culture, Powers asks the questions, what if the world was full of superheroes who aren’t actually heroic at all? What if all that power was just one more excuse for mischief, mayhem, murder, and endorsement deals?

Enter the men and women of the Powers Division, the brave people in charge of protecting humans like us and keeping the peace over commercialized, god-like men and women who glide through the sky imposing their power over the mortals who both worship and fear them.

Right off the bat, this show is edgy. It's violent but only when necessary and using real world language, which just so happens to be language network television doesn't like to use. The audience is introduced to the edgy part of the show right in the opening as a Powered human takes down a detective and Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley) shoots the person a good ten times in the chest to take him down. While that may literally seem like over-kill, Powers reminds the viewer, time and time again that just because this is similar to the real world that doesn't mean the rules apply here, like dying from being shot in the chest.

At the same time, the show brings the next scene back to reality by cutting to Mario Lopez hosting Extra and talking about the shooting within the police station. Sure, it's a tad cheesy and silly, but this scene is very important for a few reasons: it reestablishes the suspension of disbelief by connecting this world to ours and shows the viewer that there's fame within the world of super-powers. This is going to sound insane, but Mario Lopez and Extra offer credibility to this world.

This, like many other pilots, is where the viewer is barraged with an info-dump in order to explain the world they've just stepped into. While the smooth and serene sound of Mario Lopez's voice helps get the audience through it, the scene is what it is and it's pretty apparent.

More than anything else, the whole episode is really a preview into the Powers world moreso than into the Powers series, which is a good thing as well as a bad thing. The pilot really pushes the focus into the fanaticism some people have over these Powered heroes. On the flip-side of things, it also focuses heavily on Christian Walker's past: a man who lost his Powers.

One of the most important characters within the pilot is Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward), Walker's new partner, who, much like the audience, is an outsider to all of this and experiencing things for the first time. She's a character right in the passenger seat with the audience. Her reactions and the same one the audience is having, with an added dash of a detective playing everything by the book and taking some things a bit too seriously. She's the perfect match to Walker and Heyward and Copley play exceptionally well off each other.

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Aside from the crime-fighting aspects of this new world, the viewers are also treated to the seedy under-belly, which is the back and forth fumble of great moments and way over-the-top dramatic moments that don't make too much sense. In fact, all of those moments involve Johnny Royalle (Noah Taylor). Royalle is supposed to be the manipulative leader of some form of criminal element, and at times, that's nailed on the head, but during a few scenes, like where he's ripping up a playing card and naming the key players in the Powers scene, the viewer may be wondering what the heck he's doing and what the purpose of that is. All-in-all, he's good, but he's no Eddie Izzard.

He doesn't have too much screentime and pretty much bookends the pilot, but Eddie Izzard as Wolfe is the most memorable part of this pilot episode. The character is creepy and mysterious. The audience gets to know more and more about him through dialogue, but it's not until Wolfe is shown where the audience realizes that Izzard is all in on this show, and it's pretty freaking awesome. His off-screen dialogue in the opening is pretty fantastic and Izzard just has a fantastic way with words and letting the viewer know his intention through his tone. Wolfe and Izzard are what to look forward to in the upcoming weeks.

There are, however, some minor problems with the episode. The CGI is rough, at times. There's a shot with two powered beings fighting off in the distance and it looks cartoonish and not polished. Understandably, this show probably doesn't have to budget of The Flash, but it's pretty noticeable how off these effects look. There's also how the show is shot. There's plenty of times where Powers has the look and feel of a credit card commercial. The lighting is a little dim to invoke some grit or emotion, but the head on lighting on the characters is too much. It just doesn't feel like the production value is up to par with it's competitors. However, as far as pilot episodes go, Powers has the rest of them beat in the story department.

It's not the episode that will wow viewers, but it does a great job at reaching both fans of the comic, while keeping things friendly to those who aren't aware of its origins. In addition, Powers will grab the audience in for the next few episodes as well. It does what a pilot needs to do without feeling too much like it's dropping all the world's info on the viewers head. The show doesn't flat-out tell anyone where it is going because it's much more into establishing the world and its characters as well, which is a very good thing, since many pilots jump too quickly into long-form storytelling. All-in-all, this was a fine start to a new series.

Powers debuts on Playstation Network on March 10th.