Powers 1.03: “Mickey Rooney Cries No More” Episode Review

With the third episode, Powers gets a little messy—the various character arcs are all contrived to get the players into one of the loud nightclubs that the series seems to love (Calista met Olympia in one in the first episode, Walker ran into Zora in a different one, and in a flashback, we learn that Walker met Retro Girl in one when he was still part of Wolfe's entourage).

But before we get to the nightclub, the episode opens with one of Walker's old teammates, Triphammer (Andrew Sensenig), in the prison where Wolfe and various other bad Powers are kept, known as the Shaft. Triphammer, frankly, is one of the weaker elements of the show, played by a dead-eyed actor with a monotone delivery in a terrible costume. He looks less like a super crime fighter and more like someone's dad who gave up on the Halloween outfit he was putting together halfway through to get started on another twelve-pack.

So Triphammer is working on something called a drainer—a green floodlight that robs Powers of their powers. And why is he doing this? Because Walker and Pilgrim's boss from the LAPD's Powers division Captain Cross (Adam Godley) is convinced that, if such a thing can't be built, the world is doomed—probably at the hands of Wolfe. Another allusion to the godlike nature of Wolfe and his abilities.

Calista (Olesya Rulin), having left Retro Girl's cool pad, goes back to Johnny Royalle, who tells the girl that idolizing a Power is a chump's game. Royalle also lets Calista know something of his own background—how he discovered his teleportation powers when he sought to escape a rough home life. Noah Taylor, the actor who plays Johnny, shows us human depths beneath Johnny's surface coat of sleaze and menace, and delivers what is easily the best performance of the episode.

Krispin (Max Fowler), still stunned by the death of his father in episode one, forms an online friendship with a girl who seems to go by the handle Kaotic Chic (Shelby Steel). Like Krispin, this girl doesn't like humanity's odds in a society where unnaturally strong, flying entities throw buildings at each other.

So then it’s off to Johnny's new nightclub: Walker and Deena head there because, after doing some legitimately impressive police work, they want to catch Johnny in the act of selling Sway; Retro Girl takes Calista (who's come back to her) to show her “how power really works”; and Krispin goes to start his graffiti war against Powers.

Retro Girl chats with Johnny; Walker looks for Calista; Deena meets a Power named Righteous Thunder (Will Blagrove); Calista runs into Krispin; Retro Girl finally gets tired of the paparazzi and knocks a fan to the ground; Calista goes off with Johnny and then with Krispin; and none of it seems to make much sense.

But the episode ends on a high note, and that high note once again goes by the name of Eddie Izzard.

Wolfe's pick-to-the-brain lobotomies aren't keeping up with his accelerating healing powers, and he soon breaks free, devouring a guard who erupts in a geyser of red syrup. Johnny, who gets to witness this, realizes that the Sway he's been creating, using fluids he's been stealing from Wolfe as an ingredient, has now allowed Wolfe to escape. We're doomed.

In addition to Taylor's fine performance, the episode reinforces the parallel between Powers in this world and celebrities. Like pop stars and cinema icons, Powers have their fans, their red carpet photo ops, their management, and their scandals. When Walker and Pilgrim question Zora (Logan Browning) about the death of a Powers kid, her management calls for the meeting in an office with a glass conference table; Retro Girl, arriving at Johnny's club, smiles and waves for the assembled photos; and even Walker admits to Pilgrim that, when he was a superhero, he shilled for his own line of sneakers.

The equation of superheroes to entertainment stars is so strong in this episode that it seems almost less about comic-book conventions and more about the modern nature of celebrity. But comparing costumed heroes to other things even darker and more frightening than celebrities is at the heart of the next episode.

See also: Powers 1.02: “Like a Power”

 


Hector DeJean can frequently be found in comic stores, bookshops, and the Eighties. His serialized story of a private detective who only solves food-related crimes is no longer online.

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