And the award goes to… Powers, for finally having an episode which doesn’t poop itself and collapse on stage! Yes, this week we actually get a taste of what the series could be. It doesn’t delve into the world building that intrigued me originally, but a classic double agent story elevates this one out of the muck of the rest of the season. How’d the penultimate episode fare, exactly…?
Episode Title: Level 13
Original Airdate: 4-22-2015
Johnny wants to break into prison and kill off Wolfe. The cops want to catch Johnny in the act. Christian’s caught in the middle and playing both sides against the other; Johnny knows Christian told the cops about it and the cops know he told Johnny. Where do Christian’s true allegiances lie? What will happen when he finally comes face to face with Wolfe? The script actually lives up to this premise, keeping the audience guessing just as much as the characters are guessing.
It’s convoluted and involves a lot of back-and-forth jumps with flashbacks, but the story’s solid, especially compared to recent outings of this series. Johnny’s dry annoyance at the situation, playing along despite knowing he’s being played, makes it all worthwhile; seeing each little wrinkle as it develops and where those wrinkles lead is just fascinating.
So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that this is the next-to-last episode of the series and it’s too late for a turnaround. One well written tale does not make the whole run of eight episodes up to this point worthwhile. And woven around the parts that work are the parts that continue NOT to work.
Deena continues to be the only sane voice in the room, constantly naysaying and throwing a wet blanket over everything, but unwilling to actually step in the way of Christian’s insane plans. The writers are trying to use her as a stable rock in the chaos, but they obviously love the chaos, because Deena is perpetually rendered ineffective. Whenever she actually could get in the way of something, she’s put out of the way — shoved in a jail cell during the breakout, for instance, and gone for a full episode. Whenever they can’t just shove her aside, she steps aside on her own, whether it makes sense for her character or not.
Crispin and Calista (how many characters starting with C do we need?) continue to be uninteresting, although it’s an interesting uninterestingness. Crispin’s mom died as a result of collateral damage during a Powers fight, and he’s angry about it! Except… Crispin’s dad died as a result of collateral damage during a Powers fight too, and that wasn’t written well enough to really motivate him, so the writers decided to pull the same trick twice and see if it sticks this time. Sloppy, very sloppy.
Finally, there’s the Black Swan, which gets more ominous and vague warnings. Now at least we know it’s not just a computer simulation, it’s a computer simulation which specifically says one day there’ll be a Power so powerful he can destroy the world. Uh. Okay? And that’s… Wolfe? How, exactly? He eats people with huge Mortal Kombat style blood splats. That’s hardly a Keter class event.
Call this one an accidental home run. Powers is still Powers; still clumsy, still awkward, still relying heavily on narrative conveniences. Just because they hit one good idea doesn’t save the rest.
Next week we’ll see the end of the Wolfe storyline and the hopeful begging of the production company for a second season. Odds are they’ll get it; the numbers are actually good and Sony’s desperate to push Playstation as video brand ala HBO or Showtime. I can think of much better uses of your money and theirs, but there you have it.