A lot of people have been very vocal of their dislike for PlayStation Network’s Powers, and I have the nagging suspicion that it isn’t necessarily because the show is bad. On the contrary, there are certainly moments of brilliance wedged between the circular dialogue and somewhat tiresome exposition, which all attempt to try and explain the rules of this version of L.A. without appearing to be too convoluted and forced. It succeeds for the most part, if not solely due to the use of very safe world building techniques, like the “talking head” introduction via Mario Lopez.
One major problem lies in expectations. Sony outright saying “We went to House of Cards levels” regarding their budget sets a certain precedent for the show. They want to compete with Netflix, who have been dominating the space with the likes of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black? Honestly, if Powers had aired on FX like it was slated to in the first place, I imagine we would instead be hearing chatter to the tune of “What a neat new spin on the cop drama genre!” Instead we have an audience gripping their seats in anticipation for the next Frank Underwood.
Powers is surprisingly engaging. R-rated comic book adaptations aren’t necessarily a new thing (in Kick-Ass, unapologetic realism is one of the film’s greatest strengths) but the show manages to stray away from the traditional superhero circuit and gives us a fairly convincing police procedural with a superhero backdrop. Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley) is certainly not the brawny linebacker-esque Walker of the comics, but still retains some of his noir qualities and demeanor. Other than his somewhat painful American accent, Copley convincingly dons his suit and badge as if it were his new mask while being relentlessly reminded that he was once powerful. Walker is visibly broken, and seems to only do what he does to remain close to what made him feel alive.
Overall, the premise of Powers is high concept enough to attract a certain crowd, while still remaining formulaic enough to remain relevant and accessible. It has a solid enough foundation to create something great.