Every revolution begins with a spark. Based on Naomi Alderman’s science-fiction novel of the same name, The Power is an expansion of Alderman’s novel through a series on Prime Video. Boasting an all-female writers room for this project, this drama begins in a world dominated by the patriarchy (in societal, familial and professional manners) that is suddenly flipped on its head when a shocking discovery is made that makes teenage girls all around the world the most destructive and threatening force to oppose a male-dominated world.
6 months ago, the world changed when without warning, teenage girls all over the world developed the power to electrocute people at will. One of those girls is Allie (Halle Bush), a young Black woman, whose adoptive parents that reside in a southern American religious community, believe Allie has severe behavioural problems that conflict with the idea of their desire for a perfect child. However, Allie’s issues have stemmed from a recent, distinct voice inside of her head (voiced by Adina Porter), who seems to be mentally preparing Allie for a power she is about to bestow that will change the world forever.
Jos (Auli’i Cravalho) who after electrocuting her laptop while leaving anonymous, hateful comments on her politician-mother’s (Toni Collette) social media posts, discovers that her powers are only just at their genesis, and only seem to occur when she is angered or upset. Across the other side of the world in the United Kingdom, Roxy is slowly discovering her powers amidst dealing with her own familial problems surrounding her volatile, mob-boss father (played by Eddie Marsden) on the night of an important family wedding. These three girls become the subject of interest for Tunde (Toheeb Jimoh), a journalist in Lagos with a growing social media following, who is determined to pursue his passion of being a respected writer, despite the disapproval of his father.
The series opens with a montage of what’s to come throughout the show. Flashes of scenes involving peril, violence, heightened-emotions and even potential death are accompanied by a speech from Margot Cleary-Lopez (Collette) addressing this new phenomena that no one expected or imagined happening, but that the effect that is has had on the world shifted the power dynamic in a way that has allowed for the strength of women to persevere over the corruption and toxicity of masculinity.
For its premiere episode, The Power does a reasonably decent job at establishing three unique characters who are in the midst of discovering their powers. The show drops the audience in the story at a place where Allie, Roxy and Jos have already in some ways figured out there is something different about them, and that they slowly discover more about their new found powers as their own personal issues develop based on the growing emotions surrounding their situations.
Being a show catered towards the YA-novel crowd, the drama itself can feel surface level. While the female-empowerment themes never feel diminished by the ‘basic drama’, the events feel quite stock standard in order to act as a vehicle for these young women to showcase their powers. The abusive religious family, the mob family who only knows how to communicate through violence or yelling, and the activist daughter who rebels against her ‘capitalist’ mother. The emotional reasoning behind these relationships aren’t established or investigated enough to be engaged by the characters, but more so the shock of the acts that happen to these women take the forefront of the drama, leaving a desire for just a bit more substance within this world to grab on to.
There is a set formula that is noticeable with how the episode bounces around each character. That formula for each character is: establish personal drama, show first instance of using power, increase dramatic tension, then use newfound power to kill someone. The formula is basic, and while it sets the pace of the show to move at an engaging enough speed, it can feel a bit repetitive and more predictable.
Tonally, The Power has the feeling of a mystery-thriller right from the get go, and does a great job of holding the tension throughout. However, there are moments and scenes that stick out like a sore-thumb as to their necessity not just in the show, but also for the YA-audience. A scene that takes place within the first 10 minutes involves Roxy’s mobster dad (Eddie Marsden) berating the cake-makers at the wedding for making a green cake. After asking if the cake makers think his wife is a “fucking Irish c**t”, he proceeds to take 30 seconds to roll up his sleeves and punch the cake. Establishing this character as a violent, volatile and angry mobster feels overdone here when that C-bomb cuts through the air like a sharp blade, only to be followed by a humorous shot of a cake getting punched in slow motion. The show is littered with little scenes like this that don’t add levity, but also don’t add it in a story that doesn’t require it.
Director of the first episode, Logan Kibens, visually creates an aesthetic that creates more energy on the screen than the story itself. The use of a fish-eye-like lens when Allie hears the Voice in her head feels interesting and immersive. And the choice to predominantly utilise hand-held cameras does enough to keep the action feeling alive and moving. While there are only sprinkles of the powers of these teenagers on display, the effects seen already showcase solid CGI that feels like it will keep up with the growing powers as the story goes on.
The Power doesn’t venture too far outside of a formulaic, YA-novel adaptation. However, the unique feeling of the characters despite the surface level drama, along with the foundations of an interesting take of the inversion of power dynamics stemming from a cool sci-fi concept, feels like a fresh enough take to be a decent binge-watch for fans of this genre.
The Power premieres it’s first three episodes, with the remaining episodes releasing weekly, only on Prime Video.
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