'The Power' review: Fleeting sparks of brilliance in a show spread too thin

'My Power burned up my report card' would soon become the most widely-used excuse among teenagers worldwide. Photos: Handout

Almost overnight, perhaps spontaneously considering the otherwise glacial pace of evolution, young girls around the world develop the power to generate electricity in their bodies.

Part defence mechanism, part lethal weapon, it appears to be a great force to balance the scales for a vulnerable sector of society.

Yet this "gift" (and to some, pardon the cliche, a curse) comes with a myriad of caveats, both for those who receive it and those who stand opposed.

Based on a prize-winning speculative fiction novel by English author Naomi Halderman, The Power has one of those concepts that could easily dismissed as "woke BS" by detractors. And yet it's not, coming after all from a platform that gave us (what's been described as) the luridly anti-woke The Terminal List.

It is balanced, sensible in many places where the temptation would be to swing wildly at patriarchal "oppressors", and offers a whole lot of situational and cultural variety as its events take place across the globe (I would have liked more of a look at Asia, but I guess the Oscars already swiped that).

'Being on the run is hungry work ... maybe I'll just fry up a whole aquarium of fish.''Being on the run is hungry work ... maybe I'll just fry up a whole aquarium of fish.'

You could even call it sprawling, and that can be both a good and a bad thing.

Good, in the sense that it presents multiple points of view across different cultures. Not so good, because something has to give – several things actually.

From a mayor trying to make sense of what's happening around her and in her own family, to a video blogger seeing this phenomenon as his shot at the big time, to a disillusioned Moldovan ex-gymnast in the confines of her forced marriage to her country's leader, to the daughter of a feared London crime boss, to a teenager escaping the unwanted attentions of her foster father – it's a lot of ground to cover.

For a movie adaptation, we might have been left with something totally incomprehensible.

Even the 10-episode (seven of which would have been released by the time this is published) structure of this Prime Video series creaks under the pressure of having so darn much going on.

Interesting plot threads vanish for episodes at a time, certain tiresome elements get too much focus, and to someone recently scarred by the emo overflow of Gotham Knights, the teen angst on show here – justifiable as some of it may be – does grate on the nerves somewhat.

Otherwise, The Power benefits from a uniformly fine cast from veterans (including Eddie Marsan, Toni Colette, John Leguizamo and The Good Wife's Josh Charles) to fresh faces like Auli'i Cravalho (the voice of Moana), Ria Zmitrowicz and Halle Bush as some of the powered girls; Toheeb Jimoh (Ted Lasso) as the abovementioned video guy; and Croatian actress Zrinka Cvitesic as the Moldovan First Lady who exudes such restrained fury you just know she's going to unleash hell at some point in the story.

The mayor's new bring-your-family-to-work day was getting off to an awkward start.The mayor's new bring-your-family-to-work day was getting off to an awkward start.

The show, jointly developed by Sheridan herself and Raelle Tucker (Jessica Jones) among others, seems to take an arm's length approach to the global patriarchy that inevitably clashes with the empowered girls and their growing movement.

Rather than judge, it simply presents this "opposing view" as something so entrenched, whether at a cultural or personal level, that it has difficulty accepting what's different; and this neutral tone is then deftly used to evoke some powerful moments.

The Power is also effective in conveying the diverse range of reactions and emotions of those who both receive it and who are on the receiving end. It runs the gamut of the human experience, from the exuberant to the tragic, and these high notes more than compensate for the occasional lull in its pacing.

New episodes of The Power are released on Prime Video every Friday.

7 10


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