Powers is returning to the PlayStation®Store on May 31 for Season 2. If you still haven’t read the comics the show is based on, you should check them out because they are great and they are all on comiXology. The TV show has a lot of potential plots to draw on with over 15 years of Powers comics, but they’ve still barely scratched the surface. The end of Season 1 (which you can read about in our recap article) concluded with the death of “Big Bad” Wolfe, which happened pretty early into the original Powers comic. We’ve also just seen the death of Retro Girl, which famously kicked off the first Powers arc: “Who Killed Retro Girl?” The show seems to be playing around a lot with the source material, so we thought it would be fun to go over things the show has changed. Obviously, this article includes SPOILERS for both the show and the comics.
The biggest change to this series has been the backstory of protagonist Christian Walker. Arguably, the most shocking moment in the original series is when you find out that Detective Christian Walker is an immortal amnesiac who has been around since the dawn of time.
Christian in the comics was one of the first Powers, a barbarian warrior named Gora during the Stone Age with a complicated history involving a battle with the same arch-nemesis that has lasted for centuries. However, despite being incredibly powerful, his brain is still that of a normal human and he can only retain memories for about 100 years or so. Beyond that, he has no recollection of his own life, his past loves, the people who taught him, the identities he held, or even his ancient grudge-match.
The TV series gives us a more down-to-Earth Christian Walker with origins that more deeply connect him to the other characters. We get to see flashbacks of a younger Christian Walker running around with a young Johnny Royalle as they were both coming up and learning the ropes under Wolfe. There’s an almost Studio 54 vibe to it.
The major motivations for Christian Walker have also changed a lot. In the comics, it’s questionable whether or not he gave up his super-powers willingly. He definitely might miss it at times, but at the beginning we’re introduced to a Christian Walker who has simply grown tired of the ridiculous bullshit of the superhero lifestyle. His identity is also mostly a secret at the beginning of the series. The show introduces us to a Christian Walker who is already “out” as the former super-hero Diamond from the very beginning and known as a minor celebrity. Rather than having willingly given up his former life, he desperately misses his super-powers like a phantom limb and spends most of Season 1 trying to get them back. His eventual acceptance of the loss of his powers is a huge emotional turning point for the character.
Deena Pilgrim hasn’t been given a ton of focus on the show yet, but her relationship with partner Christian Walker is already an interesting one. Their relationship is different from the beginning. In the comics, Deena is partnered with Christian because they’re both said to have bad attitudes, and nobody else wants to work with either of them. In the show she’s a rookie to the Powers Division; Walker’s partner has just been killed by a super-villain, and he’s supposed to teach her the ropes of dealing with Powers.
Their dynamic is also flipped a little. In the comics, Deena is usually seen as more of the loose cannon, and Walker is there to provide stability or reign her in when he needs to. In the show, Walker still has to provide her with guidance, since he’s teaching her what to do, but more often than not Deena is the by-the-book cop preventing Walker from acting like a loose cannon.
The biggest change to Retro Girl in Season 1 of Powers, obviously, is that she’s alive. I really like this change because it gives us a lot more time to become emotionally invested in her before her inevitable murder. In the comics we’re just told that the death of a big Silver Age-type hero is shocking and has a profound impact on everyone, but here we really get to see the way people felt about her while she was alive.
Rather than a sort of amalgamation of every Supergirl-type knockoff ever published, we really meet her as a fully fleshed-out character. She’s been a super-hero for a long time and she knows the effect that she has on people, but she’s also very conscious of the difference between how much positive effect Powers actually have on the world versus how they’re perceived in the media. She seems to almost resent her celebrity status and her duties to the media, but she tries to use them to direct resources where she thinks they’ll do the most good… which means focusing more on less glamorous problems like natural disasters over the costumed super-villain of the week. Michelle Forbes has a long history as an underrated sci-fi character actor (Ro Laren on Star Trek, Helena Cain on Battlestar Galactica), and she really brings a lot of depth to the role.
Calista Secor, the young girl rescued in the beginning of the comics who later becomes the new Retro Girl, is given a much bigger role in the early plot. The TV show has aged her up several years and we meet her as basically a Powers “groupie,” having sex and doing drugs with older Powers to help get her into the lifestyle. In the comics she is extremely young when first introduced and still in school.
The show gives us a Calista who obsessively believes that she is a Power whose super-powers have not activated yet, and it’s up to the viewer to decide whether she really is special or just completely delusional. In the comics, Calista also has an obsession with Retro Girl, but it’s possible that she actually is Retro Girl thanks to a legend that Retro Girl is a figure who reincarnates. Johnny Royalle becoming an almost parental figure to Calista is also a creation of the show, serving to tie her in more closely with the other characters.
Zora has had one of the biggest departures from the comics, with her backstory totally changed. In the comics, she is one of the older heroes that Christian Walker knew from his superhero days as Diamond, and she appears occasionally to help him out of tough spots. This role is filled by Retro Girl in the show, and we’re introduced to a younger Zora who hasn’t made a name for herself yet.
A recurring focus on the show is groups of young super-powered teenagers who are still figuring out what to do with themselves — kids that have powers, but maybe aren’t suited to be real heroes and maybe don’t necessarily have what it takes, but all want to be famous and live the glamorous lifestyle of the big Powers. Zora gives us a look at the celebrity side of the Powers world with her publicity team and her press interviews. The show has also gotten rid of her self-proclaimed status as an atheist superhero. In the comics, when asked about the source of her powers, Zora explains that they come from her complete lack of belief in all things spiritual and her acceptance that she is her own God.
Johnny Royalle is given much more importance in the show than he had in the comics. The comics introduce him as a big criminal player early on, but he’s not much more than that and he dies relatively quickly. He’s murdered by Deena Pilgrim under questionable circumstances, and the investigation of his death lasts way longer than he ever did. The show sets him up not just as a major character, but as a direct foil to Christian Walker.
They grew up together as best friends learning from their mentor Wolfe, both dreaming of someday becoming major important players. Christian grew up to become a hero, while Johnny followed in his mentor’s footsteps and became a criminal. It seems like Johnny is going to have an even bigger role in Season 2, since we last saw the world treating him like a hero for finally killing Wolfe.
“Big Bad” Wolfe
“Big Bad” Wolfe is another villain who is given much more screen-time on the show than he had in the comics. I feel like I’ve already elaborated on him a lot in the other entries. In the comics, he’s known as a formerly great villain who’s responsible for Christian losing his powers, but we only ever really see him when he’s locked up and not a threat anymore. It is later revealed that he’s actually another immortal and he’s held a grudge against Christian Walker for centuries, although Christian remembers almost none of this history. The show switches Wolfe into a former mentor figure for Walker and Royalle, with most of the first season’s conflict revolving around his imprisonment.
It is sometimes annoying when adaptations do this, but Eddie Izzard really makes it work. He’s so good in this role as the menacing power-hungry madman barely contained by keeping him constantly doped up in his cell, I kind of wish we got to see even more of him. It looks like next season is gonna give us Michael Madsen as SuperShock though, and I’m hoping that turns out just as excellent!
Thanks for reading! For more information on Powers, check out the Powers Wiki on Wikia!