Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Powers, Archer, and Girls!
Dominic Griffin is Watching…
Season 1, Episode 1
Tuesdays, PSN on demand
We now live in a world where comic book series are being adapted into television shows that air on video game systems, which is all well and good. Content is content, and if it’s worthwhile, it shouldn’t matter if you’re streaming it from the Taco Bell app, so long as the stories are interesting and the program is watchable. Unfortunately, Powers, the second attempt at bringing Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s superpowered police procedural to the screen (after FX passed on a Jason Patric-starring pilot) seriously misses the mark on what has made the source material work for so long.
On paper, Powers was basically NYPD Blue but with capes, and it was so fascinating because of how much of the world building happened in the background, with engrossing crime fiction stories about the modern nature of celebrity taking center stage. The series wants so badly to sell you on the subculture of individuals with superpowers (and ancillary characters repeating the word “powers” with no less than seven different definitions, like the way The Smurfs use the word “smurf”) that they miss the boat on what could be the perfect vehicle to modernize what we expect from a cop show. Instead of crafting intriguing mysteries or letting us watch a few cases being closed while the mythology builds up in between plot beats, the main thrust of the show (cops solving superpowered murders) gets sidetracked almost immediately in lieu of the grating hard sell of hackneyed backstory.
That all of the mythology seems needlessly remixed from its pretty straightforward source material is very frustrating. Television is obviously a different medium than comics, but very few of the changes made, whether to plot, character or motivation, seem to help the show in any way. The Walking Dead has had to veer away from the books on a regular basis, but they didn’t need to make Rick a fundamentally different character to do so.
The show’s relative failure is not for a lack of talent. Tapping Sharlto Copley as Detective Christian Walker, former superhero Diamond, was an inspired choice, and Copley seems to be having fun playing the stubbly noir hero who misses being able to fly, but his obsession with former glory is too grating to engender any real sympathy. Racebending Deena Pilgrim by casting the excellent Susan Heyward would be a bigger draw if they gave on screen Deena half as much to work with as her comic book counterpart. Hannibal helmer David Slade directing the first two episodes should have been a slam dunk, but instead we’re left with a series wasting too much of its budget on trying to convince us superpowers are believable and not enough on making the show look better than your average episode of Baywatch: Nights. Discounting Noah Taylor’s cloying Gary Oldman impersonation and an unnecessary amount of naked Eddie Izzard, Powers has stuck a lot of talented, engaging people involved on a show that can’t make good on a premise as simple as “Law & Order with superheroes.”
If this show is going to succeed, it needs to focus on letting the detectives work cases to completion (in three episodes they’ve yet to legitimately solve one single murder) and let the mythology stuff come naturally on its own. Everyone involved deserves better than what we’ve got on our hands so far.
Episode Highlight: The moment in the pilot in which Walker slams his fist through a car window when he realizes just what has happened to his old superpowers is great, if only for its significance as the dividing point between TV Walker, who listlessly stares at the sky missing fighting dudes with laser vision, and Comics Walker, who grew tired of the cape and just wanted to do some good as a man.
David Lebovitz is watching…
Season 6, Episode 10: “Reignition Sequence”
Thursdays, 10PM EST
Many people still have understandable reservations about Archer after Archer Vice, but this season has been an absolute return to form in both plot and consistent quality. “Reignition Sequence” is a classic Archer episode full of classic Archer elements, yet it also manages to change and progress the series’ overall story.
Archer and Lana are officially a couple again, and they’re The Worst. Remember that couple in high school who made out in the middle of the hallway while you were trying to get to class? That’s Archer and Lana. (Sidebar: remember when that couple broke up a year before graduation?) Everyone at
ISIS the CIA is sickened by their cutesiness and conspires to break them up. Their solution? Katya. While Archer is prepping for a date with Lana, the crew contacts Katya and sends her to Archer’s place to seduce him and ruin his relationship with Lana. Their plan runs into a problem when Archer grapples with something he’s never dealt with before: a sense of…responsibility?
This was one of the best episodes of Archer all season, top-to-bottom. It featured everything fans love and expect from the show: characters sabotaging each other, quick dialogue, perfectly placed obscure references, Pam hiding in the men’s room, and in the end everybody completely undoing whatever they tried to do in the first place. On top of all that? There was honest-to-the-god-of-your-choice character development that was torpedoed into the last seconds of the show but that seems to set up future storylines.
Archer is still a remarkably talented operative whose egocentric ways often blind people to his abilities, but having a kid sure seems to have calmed him down. He’s basically Secret Agent Kanye West, and I’m all about that.
Episode Highlight: I want more than anything to put the final line of the episode here, but that’s a bit spoilery, so I’m going to go with Cheryl’s flip book at the start of the episode that describes her convoluted plan to get revenge on Archer and Lana. Hilarious, Tarantino-esque, a direct reference to Batman Begins, and beautifully animated.
Madie Coe is Watching…
Season 4, Episode 9 “Daddy Issues”
Sundays, 9pm ET
Remember that whole thing where Hannah’s OCD caused her to break off her q-tip in her ear? Apparently she hasn’t waxed her ears since. The sheer number of people that flat out tell her that she needs to grow up and stop making everything about herself (this time in light of her father coming out) makes the fact that it falls on deaf ears seem silly. I am actually convinced that at this point Lena Dunham has heard all the criticism about how self-centered the characters are and just decided to turn Hannah into a caricature.
Her father points out her dependency on her own childishness at lunch. Elijah tries to convince her to allow her dad to just come out in stages, and she makes it about her own discomfort with the idea of her father as a sexual being in any context. The principal of the school at which she is a substitute teacher tells her she needs to stop sharing every intimate detail of her personal life with students and staff. Also, Hannah’s mother’s emotional “IDGAF” break on the phone is perfect. Hannah has always depended on her mom as the harsh voice of reason (to react against), so when she is just as hysterical, it shifts their entire dynamic.
Jessa and Adam find common ground in their respective partners Ace and Mimi Rose (Zachary Quinto and Gillian Jacobs) using them as pawns in a twisted ex-lovers game. I think Shoshanna is finally starting to figure out what she could do for a living after helping Ray successfully campaign for his chairman position. Ray, who is the only grounded person on the show, must of course have his heartfelt acceptance speech interrupted by some rando yelling at him to shut up. Marnie later co-opts the moment to announce her engagement to Desi, of course, and no one seems genuinely happy for the couple.
This penultimate episode seems more tightly written than the rest of this season. Its cynical snappiness and delusional oversharing, millennial-style, is right on par and feels fresher than it has in years.
Episode Highlight: The show opens up with Jessa having the most actually sexual sex scene in the entire history of the show, even considering that her partner Ace describes her room as a “Tiffany music video.”