On March 10, the first three episodes of PlayStation’s first (and so far only) original scripted series, “Powers,” debuted on PlayStation Network, free to stream for anyone with a PlayStation system (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Vita) and a PlayStation Plus subscription. New episodes of “Powers,” based on the comic book series of the same name by Brian Michael Bendis, will release every Tuesday starting March 17.
At its most basic form, “Powers” is a cop procedural in a comic book-type fantasy world. In the world of “Powers,” superheroes exist, are called ‘Powers’ for their abilities, although the nature of how the abilities manifest and work seems to be an inexact science at best (Note; I have not read the comic series). Many of the Powers have developed rock star personas thanks to their gifts and heroism, which is often pretty good for their bank accounts, too.
Secret identities are for suckers in “Powers.” In this world, there are people without powers but who want them, called “wannabes,” who hang around those with abilities, hoping to get a taste. Despite the existence of wannabes, Powers are still looked upon with some distrust and scorn, and the show makes it clear early on that even though there are superheroes in this world, none of the Powers are perfect. It’s a tad confusing at first, but the characters in “Powers” don’t seem to understand how things work in their world any better than we do as viewers, so it’s best to let some of the details go and get swept up in the mystery.
The series’ lead, Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley from “District 9” fame), used to be known as Diamond, one of the more-celebrated Powers, but lost his abilities somehow after a clash with Wolfe (British comedy icon Eddie Izzard), an especially deadly (and hungry) Power. Walker now works for the Los Angeles Police Department, in the Powers division, and the show’s first scene gives the viewer a glimpse at how unstable some of these abilities can be, with Walker’s partner killed by a Power and replaced quickly with Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward), who serves as our intro and window into how life works when some of the population has superpowers.
When a famous Power turns up dead in a hotel room with a young girl, Walker and Pilgrim are on the case, and it leads to a few names from Walker’s past as a Power. We’re bombarded with a lot of this information early on, but the world in “Powers” is just as interesting as the characters that inhabit it.
That said, all throughout the first three episodes of “Powers,” I couldn’t help but think this was a bit of a risky gamble for Sony’s PlayStation brand, which has released original (unscripted) programming in the past, but all of that had been video game related, and largely ignored. No, “Powers” isn’t a brand-new property, as it was first published in 2000, but even though Bendis might be a well-known name in comics today (he was one of the main architects of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe), this isn’t some beloved comic you grew up with as a child. A comic series such as Powers doesn’t have the built-in fanbase of a lesser character such as Daredevil (and Netflix has an upcoming series featuring Marvel’s man without fear), so there will probably be a few viewers going in blind (like I did).