One of the most appealing aspects of Powers is how it leaps around between (at least) a half-dozen key characters, but here’s some amusing irony: the season’s penultimate episode is more or less all about one guy — and it might be the season’s best entry so far. Of course we have some essential moments from characters like Pilgrim, Royalle, Calista, and Janice — but episode 9 (aka “Level 13”) locks the spotlight firmly on our central hero (Walker, obviously) and then asks everybody — including the viewer — to question how much we actually trust this guy.
Episode 8 laid the groundwork for a tentative (and no doubt temporary) partnership between the heroic Christian Walker and the patently untrustworthy Johnny Royalle, and here’s where it starts to pay off: the duo plans to delve deep into “the shaft” and kill the potentially immortal Wolfe before he can escape and reign terror all over the world. The jailbreak premise is cool enough, and I do enjoy watching Walker and Royalle bicker as they teleport their way through the mega-maximum security prison, but this is also a cleverly-written episode — simply because we’re not quite sure whose side Walker is truly on.
Aside from a handful of subplot threads (Candace’s funeral scene, for example, offers some cool character beats; also Triphammer stops by to drop some ominous portents regarding something called “Black Swan”), episode 9 is rather refreshingly linear in its plot construction; we leap back and forth in the timeline, just to help keep Walker’s big plan a secret for as long as possible, but basically this is just a chess game with Walker (and his confused allies) on one side, and Royalle (and his deadly teleportation skills) on the other, with an uncontrollable, soul-sucking monster as the big prize.
The back-story between Walker and Royalle actually pays off for the viewer, simply because we don’t know if our hero still cares for his old friend — or if he’s just conning everyone in an effort to get his old powers back. And for those who’ve been waiting for a little dash of romance between Walker and Retro Girl / Janice, you’ll be happy to know that they manage to share a conversation that’s not peppered with jabs, quips and sarcasm.
“Level 13” closes, fittingly enough, with an unexpected demise, a couple of nifty little double-crosses, and a cliffhanger finale that promises all sorts of horrific Wolfe-related activities in the season finalé. Between Koatic Chic, Black Swan, the “swayed” generation, and Walker’s still-missing powers, it doesn’t look like Powers will be able to wrap everything up in the season finale — but we can probably expect a full-bore conflagration between Walker, Royalle, and Wolfe, and it will probably get a bit nasty.