(lots of spoilers)
Now that I've finally had a chance to watch the first three episodes of the 10-episode 'Powers', which went online last Tuesday, let's see what it's like. If you're a fan of superhero shows, good luck seeing this one. You need a Playstation subscription, or you can buy the episodes ala carte for $1.99 each. Or you can find them out there on the Internet... somewhere. Or read the recaps and quotes here at TVRage.
But should you watch it? That's the question. And let's start answering it by telling you what it's about. It's the modern day... sort of. Super-types ("Powers") exist in the world. They're not wanted by the government, and they're not considered freaks. On the contrary, Powers are basically celebrities, promoting themselve, endorsing sneakers and power drinks, opening clubs, attending red-carpet events, and generally enjoying fame and fortune.
But 'Powers' isn't about that. At least not directly. It's focused on two non-Powers. The first is Christian Walker, a former Power named Diamond who lost his powers under undisclosed circumstances. Christian is now a police detective with the Powers Division, which handles criminal Powers as the need arises.
The second main character is Calista, a teenage "Wannabe" who is hanging out with Powers in the hopes that her own power--if she has one--will activate. Everyone seems inexplicably drawn to her, and she's the glue that ties everything together.
Floating around them is Christian's non-Power partner Deena Pilgrim; an old teleporter friend of Christian's named Johnny Royalle; Christian's ex-girlfriend Retro Girl; Krispin, the son of Christian's recently dead partner; and Wolfe, who is basically Wolverine if Wolverine were old, saggy, naked a great deal of the time, insane, and played by Eddy Izzard. Wolfe is Christian's former mentor and somehow stripped Christian of his powers. Apparently by eating them out of his spine.
Although they're tied to Christian, almost all of them are involved with Calista. Johnny wants to give Calista the home he never had. Retro Girl adopts her. Christian wants to save her from herself for awhile. As of the third episode, Krispin is romantically involved with her.
As of the third episode, there's one main plot: Johnny is distributing a drug called Sway, which is made from Wolfe's blood. It tends to be fatal, but it boosts a Power's power if it isn't. Calista gave the drug to a Power and it killed him. Christian and Deena want her so that they can bust Johnny.
Woven around that are a few other plots. Johnny seems to have some kind of political plan in motion on behalf of castoff Powers and non-Powers alike. He has a love-hate relationship with Christian, and seems to be using Wolfe. Christian's boss Cross is working with another of Christian's old friends, Triphammer, to create a power-negation drainer.
The main reviewer complaint I've read seems to be that 'Powers' is a low-budget 'net-based show. I'm not sure if that's a negative these days: a number of web shows have gotten big actors involved and have professional standards. 'Mortal Kombat: Legacy' comes to mind. Besides Izzard, Sharlto Copley ('District 9') plays Christian and Michelle Forbes ('Star Trek Next Generation', 'Battlestar Galactica') plays Retro Girl. In the background there a lot of the kind of actors you see on shows like 'Supernatural' and 'Sleepy Hollow' lurking in the end credits in small print.
So far I've been happy with what few special effects that they've had. One Power, Simons, can create clones of himself. Another one can summon indoor lightning storms. Johnny's teleporting is accomlished by simple camera lock-off. The flying effects are so-so, but they usually are in any show unless the producers want to invest big bucks. Since the show focuses on the non-Powers, they don't have to throw a lot of FX at us viewers. I wouldn't say it's any worse than 'Alphas'.
Unlike most superhero tales, we don't have to sit through a long boring origin. Powers have been around for decades, they're a part of the culture. There doesn't seem to be any big threat to discredit them or turn the non-Powers against them.
There's a lot of swearing and sex talk, if that isn't your thing. The only nudity is Eddy Izzard's, so make of that what you will.
As to the actors, Eddy Izzard doesn't have much to do so far except go feral, since they lobotomize Wolfe every day to keep him from going berserk. I've never been a big fan of Sharlto Copley or 'District 9', but he's okay here. Susan Heyward plays the spunky partner who doesn't back down from a Power even when she's clearly outclassed. Olesya Rulin as Calista is perky and annoying, but since that's what her character is, no harm, no foul.
Michelle Forbes is hard as brass tacks. The standout is Noah Taylor, who plays Johnny Royalle. Taylor is a British actor whose big claim to fame is playing Locke on 'Game of Thrones'. Here he plays a dissolute chain-smoker that is definitely underhanded, and will kill a man as soon as blink at him if they get in his way. By teleporting his head off. Ouch. But the actor walks the fine line of a character who is really an anti-hero. He's probably the most compelling character so far.
There's plenty of humor, whether it's Deena poking fun as Christian's hero-era merchandising, or the low-rent Powers that the police have to deal with. The plots a little slow and as of episode three, there are a lot of unanswered questions. So don't be expecting instant gratification or lots of FX-heavy fight scenes.
It's also a show with a lot of side characters. Most of whom are never referred to by name. But there are several amusing ones, from the over-caffeinated Dr. Death, the coroner; to Simons the clone generator ("His sexuality defies characterization"), to Righteous Thunder; an old friend of Christian's. But hey, if you need to identiy them then that's what you got TVRage for. :)
Overall, if you like superheroes and are tired of the DC and Marvel waves, there's probably enough here to keep your interest. If you can, check it out and see.