Powers

TV review by
Polly Conway, Common Sense Media
Powers TV Poster Image
Violent superhero crime mystery has the power to entertain.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Both powers and civilians try to keep their city safe, but their means and motivations aren't always appropriate.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The show's characters, even the good guys, are conflicted and often struggle with right and wrong. 

Violence

Exploding heads, beheadings, ice-pick lobotomies, dead bodies being autopsied, shootings, tasings, physical altercations between powers and civilians.

Sex

Couples are seen making out. Oral sex implied but not graphically depicted. Lots of sexual discussion. Mention of a "rim job." A man is nude but genitals are not shown.

Language

Near-constant use of unbleeped profanity, including "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole."

Consumerism

The show is based on a comics series and can only be viewed on a PlayStation video game console or by PlayStation owners online. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A fictional drug, "sway," is distributed and taken by a number of characters. Its manufacture and effects are a large part of the show's plot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Powers is a series that takes place in a world where some people have special, superhero-style powers. It contains heroes and villains, but protagonist Christian Walker (District 9's Sharlto Copley), former "power" turned detective, falls somewhere in between. This comic book-based show has both cartoonish and gruesome violence (one character is swiftly beheaded, while another gets an ice-pick lobotomy), and profanity flies fast and loose ("a--hole," "f--k," "s--t"). There's also frank discussion of oral sex, and a mysterious drug is infiltrating the power community. Overall, the show's a bit like Batman combined with a CSI-style crime procedural, but its unique premise, top-notch actors, and mode of delivery (a video game console!) may be enough to keep viewers coming back. Kids will probably be drawn to it, but it's definitely for mature teens only. 

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What's the story?

Now a police detective fighting against "powers," Christian Walker (formerly known as Diamond) once had his own, but they were stolen from him by the now-imprisoned big baddie Wolfe (Eddie Izzard). His longtime partner has just been replaced by the fresh-faced rookie Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward), and the Powers Division is buzzing with talk of the presumed-dead Royalle (Noah Taylor), a power who can teleport in the blink of an eye and is distributing a mysterious drug called "sway" that puts the powers' powers in danger. Between feeling tormented by the loss of his powers, the challenge of fighting against former allies and immature power "wannabes," plus the reappearance of old flame Retrogirl (Michelle Forbes), Walker has a full plate. Hopefully he and Pilgrim can work as a team to get to the bottom of Royalle's plans and keep the city safe. 

Is it any good?

True to its comic book roots, POWERS has a conflicted hero, a damsel in distress, some seriously disturbed bad guys, and more plot points than you can shake a stick at. There's a lot going on in this world, which, like ours, is obsessed with social media and celebrities but also has powers casually flying through the skies. It takes a while to get oriented, especially with the frustratingly slow pace and stilted, profanity-laden dialogue; it sometimes feels like the show was written by a tween who's just learned to swear. It's also hard to pin down what South African actor Copley is going for with Walker; as the wounded hero, his delivery is all over the place: one moment gruff and silent, the next spilling his guts to the eager, patient Pilgrim, who's likable enough but is essentially an exposition device. Taylor and Izzard fare much better as the bad guys; they seem to be having fun inhabiting their villainous characters (and chomping on the scenery just a bit).  

That said, the premise is interesting, and the powers' world is a skillful blend of the realistic and cartoonish, from Retrogirl's mod sanctuary to Royalle's seedy nightclub and lair. The ideas explored also have potential: What does it feel like to lose a power, supernatural or not? What would happen if superheroes were in the same tabloids as Jennifer Aniston? As Walker and Pilgrim peel back the onion to discover new clues, unexpected alliances, and more questions than answers, you'll find yourself ignoring the corny dialogue and getting sucked into the mystery. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about superpowers. Why do we love to see people with "powers" on tv and in movies? What kind of power would you choose to have? 

  • Families also can talk about violence. Why do you think this show is so graphic? Does it add or detract from the story? Why?

TV details

For kids who love superhero action

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