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Review: PlayStation Original Series 'Powers' Makes A Strong First Impression

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Ever since Netflix jump-started the revolution, everyone's eager to get into the streaming television market.

The latest entrant might be an unexpected one: Sony's PlayStation Network (PSN), which has never before released original content before. Powers, based on the long-running comic book of the same name, tells of a world where many people have superpowers but the majority of them are selfish and seek only fame.

Set in Chicago, the story centers on two detectives in a specialized sector of the police force called Powers Division, which specializes in superhero and supervillain-related crimes.

A young detective named Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward) has just transferred to Powers Division, specifically requesting it despite its reputation among the police department as an embarrassment. She's paired up with an experienced detective, the grizzled and bitter Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley). Neither is terribly keen on discussing their pasts, and working together proves difficult, but it's Walker who carries the most secrets — and by far the most anger.

It's not much of a spoiler to reveal what comic fans already know and what the show reveals in its opening scene: Christian Walker used to be a Power named Diamond. But he lost his powers under mysterious circumstances, and now he works for the police, still trying to make a difference for good while pining for the glory days. Copley gives Walker plenty of pathos, generating sympathy from viewers for a man that could have easily been an unlikable jerk. The role is very much a metaphor for the stereotypical king who's fallen from the throne and wants nothing more than to sit there again.

Heyward, meanwhile, makes you fall in love with Deena Pilgrim the moment you meet her. She's spunky but not in a "perky aerobics instructor" kind of way. Pilgrim is smart, tough, and like many in her world, grew up worshiping heroes like the one Walker used to be. These days, she takes everything in behind a haze of confidence and a strong sense of self that's never shaken by anything she sees. Her grounded, even-keeled temperament serves as a great counterpoint for Walker's angry brooding. They're already demonstrating some nice chemistry, and it should be nice to watch them gel over the coming episodes.

The pilot features quite a lot of exposition by necessity, setting up the unique dynamics of this world, but it's never boring. That's tricky to pull off. Powers, originally created by celebrated duo Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, represents a unique take on the superhero genre that puts the action on the ground level, watching the big boys play from the sidelines and cleaning up their messes. Comic book readers know that the story's scope is going to get a lot bigger and crazier as it unfolds. For now, know that it's a very adult series with captivating drama, great characters, and some good action.

This first episode is uneven, making a few missteps, but it's nonetheless compelling. For example, the book features very stylized visuals which the series doesn't bother trying to match. And the techno score doesn't do the series any favors; Powers deserves something bigger and more epic. Fortunately, the writing is strong and the cast is stronger, including the supporting players, all of whom breathe life into their roles. Eddie Izzard in particular turns up as a chilling baddie cut from the Hannibal Lecter cloth, and it's clear that the actor is relishing his job.

For now, we want to see more style from Powers but the substance is enough to keep us watching. The first three episodes of Powers are available now for free to PlayStation Plus subscribers (anyone can watch the pilot for free on YouTube, PlayStation owner or not), with the subsequent seven eps coming once-a-week starting March 17.

Tech Times score:

★★★★☆


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