Saturday, 29 October 2016

Powers - Season 1

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Susan Heyward, Noah Taylor, Eddie Izzard, and Michelle Forbes

Creators: Brian Bendis and Charlie Huston

437 minutes (18) 2015
Widescreen ratio 16:9
Sony DVD Region 2

Rating: 8/10
Review by Steven Hampton

“Killers can’t be heroes.” High concept, but fairly low-budget, this sci-fi/ fantasy TV series ponders the question what if Heroes (2006-10) was a cop show instead of a soap opera? A superhero named Diamond lost his powers and became police detective Walker (a hero who can’t fly!) so there is an aspect of metaphorical disability to this drama where abilities are just as much a curse as a gift. Michelle Forbes is great as the super-glam Retro Girl, a veteran of the disbanded team Powers United, and still an inspirational role model to a new generation of wannabe heroes like the powerless Calista (Olesya Rulin).

Frequently annoying teleporter Johnny Royalle (Noah Taylor) deals booster-drug Sway from his own night-club, and has a secret bunker lair with no doors. Eddie Izzard plays crazy convict Wolfe, an indestructible but not invulnerable mass-murderer who eats people (his attempted prison breakout brings all the intense horrors of hellish pits to an underground cell-block), and took away Diamond’s powers. Young costumed types of the Powerz Kidz, like fashionable Zora (Logan Browning), are usually more interested in publicity stunts and egotistical branding for their celebrity profiles than doing the right thing.

There are tragic mistakes on both sides of the law, and police loyalties and responsibilities are tested to every limit, particularly for Walker’s new partner Deena (Susan Heyward). The show embraces witty and complex themes for its contemporary fantasy lore (including some flashbacks to 1990s origins of older characters), and the changing social mores of a manipulative and parasitical culture that inevitably results in a killer, self-tagged as Kaotic Chic, who targets heroes in killings “Staged for the pleasure of the ignorant masses.”

“Pull your self together,” says Walker to an instant-clone copy of multiplying henchman Simons. “I’m stuck inside myself,” he complains in custody when cops lock him up in a coffin-sized cell. Apocalyptic menace of extreme possibilities in the mooted Black Swan scenario concerns the LAPD’s resident cyborg. Walker regains his powers only briefly. Co-creator Brian Bendis has significantly good form in comics (advancing the ret-con makeover cause of Marvel’s Ultimates series), and his work brings cynical vibes and redemptive tones, as popularised by film noir (“Life is a wearying endeavour”), so that this show seems much closer to Warren Ellis’ inventive genre-bending than anything inspired by the more obvious touchstone of Alan Moore’s Top 10 comics. 

Powers: Season 1 is great TV entertainment about both the morals of justice and the motives of criminality. It’s a terrific show that skilfully combines costumed superhero action scenes with compelling dramas of lost identity and rediscovering a purpose in life.  

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