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‘The Power’ review: This science fiction drama has the potential to light a spark

By April 8, 2023No Comments5 min read
Still photo of a scene from Prime Video's "The Power"

Three episodes were screened for this review of The Power.

There is a scene in The Power that underscores the importance of women’s rage. In Episode 2’s “The World is on Fu*king Fire,” Dr. Rob (John Leguizamo) consoles his wife, Seattle Mayor Margot (Toni Collette,) as she remarks on how she cannot express any emotion at work. Every day the polished politician must navigate her constituent’s sexist comments on social media while the state’s governor gaslights her about the city’s ever-increasing emergency problems. She bitterly tells her husband as he rubs her sore feet, “Even if my face looks too angry for like a second, I am emotional, irrational, hysterical, and totally unelectable.”

Concerned about his wife’s well-being, Dr. Rob comes up with a brilliant way for Margot to release her frustrations in the comforts of their abode. He hands her his mother’s wedding gift, an atrocious chicken sculpture, and tells her to break it. Initially hesitant, Margot gnashes her teeth as she smashes the object onto the ground. Surprisingly for the wife and mother of two, this small but meaningful gesture makes her feel better. After a long day of trying but failing to put out fires, Margot finally expresses the rage bubbling inside her.

This cathartic moment between Margot and her husband works as it shows how women can dismantle, even in a small way, a system that constrains them. The Power may not be the first television show to explore a woman’s desire to burn down the patriarchy, as I May Destroy You and The Handmaid’s Tale tackle the same concept with more flair. However, the series does a solid job dissecting this subject through the lens of science fiction, which, to be fair, is hard to accomplish (sorry, Paper Girls). Though The Power will not set off any fireworks in its first three episodes for review, it makes up for it with its solid writing and performances from its talented cast.

The Power is an inverted version of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Power explores what happens when teenage girls unexpectedly develop the ability to release electricity from their fingertips. The globetrotting science fiction series follows an eclectic cast of characters as they realize the world they once knew is over. The series begins with Allie (the incredible Halle Bush), a Black American teenager, who challenges her white evangelical foster parents when she receives her abilities at church. As the wayward girl taps into her newfound gifts, she soon realizes that more people like her exist, if not thousands, worldwide. Across the pond, feisty adolescent Roxy (Ria Zmitrowicz), the illegitimate daughter of a prominent British crime boss, uses her skills to make her family notice her. While back in the States, Margot’s daughter, Jos (Auliʻi Cravalho,) struggles to control her power, much to her parents’ alarm.

Male political leaders attempt to prevent public panic and discord as they declare the miracle power a hoax; however, their lies fall on deaf ears. Not only are these extraordinary powers hereditary, but the user can transfer their abilities to older women with a simple touch. Amateur reporter Tunde (Toheeb Jimoh) also uses his online platform in Nigeria to prove the global phenomenon is not fake news. As everyday people become more aware of the unexplained event, Margot and Dr. Rob do everything they can to get answers and hopefully create a path forward for these girls.

The Power is an inverted version of The Handmaid’s Tale. Instead of focusing on a society that takes power away from women and girls, the science fiction drama creates one that gives them the upper hand. With the ability to electrocute at will, these girls gain the confidence to achieve things their foremothers only dreamed of doing, such as boldly kissing a high school crush or fighting a child abuser. But as much as these moments are thrilling to watch, the show tends to be cliché at times, particularly with its portrayal of Tatiana (Zrinka Cvitešić,) a gymnast turned wife of a ruthless dictator. Her thirst for vengeance and refusal to assist her financially strained family are just as predictable as a villain from a B-rated Marvel movie.

Strong performances

Thankfully, the performances from the ensemble cast save The Power from becoming another trite science fiction drama. Collette and Leguizamo hold it down as Mayor Margot and Dr. Rob, but Bush’s performance as Allie makes the drama a rewarding experience. The breakout star’s quietly intense take on Allie is on par with the previously mentioned veteran actors. One scene that standouts are when Bush’s character stands up to her foster parents in Episode 1’s “A Better Future is in Your Hands.” While having dinner, Allie stops her caretakers from passing her some meat by saying, “No, thank you.” This simple objection stuns the bible thumpers as it is the first time Allie has spoken to them since her therapist diagnosed her with selective mutism. Within seconds, a tense standoff between the teen and her so-called parents takes off. Yet unbeknownst to them, Allie has the advantage.

This scene is riveting because we see Allie blossom into her own as she fights her oppressors. Throughout the pilot episode, we get clues into how her guardians, and to a certain extent, the foster care system, fail her. They control her clothes, how she arranges her coily hair, and most notably, her faith. So, when the teen finally tells her abusers she does not belong in their home, the moment feels victorious. Like many girls in The Power, Allie gets a taste of freedom and will not let anyone take it away.

Despite its initial weaknesses, The Power becomes an engaging series as it challenges its viewers to ponder a world where women and girls are a dominant force. As more people develop their powers, they slowly realize there is no use in repairing their broken society. Like Margot with her chicken sculpture, they use their abilities and anger to shatter their system and rebuild something anew. Though the first three episodes may not be electrifying, the science fiction drama has the potential to light a spark.

Feature image courtesy of Prime Video

New episodes of The Power Season 1 drop every Thursday on Prime Video

  • The Power - 8/10
Phylecia Miller

Phylecia Miller is a quirky Black freelance writer and creator of the blog, Hi, Phylecia. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, she resides in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her lovely husband and lazy tuxedo cat. Her professional experiences include working for Rotten Tomatoes and Film Independent. When she is not agonizing over her first sentence, Phylecia takes long scenic walks at Stanley Park and the VanDusen Botanical Garden. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @hiphylecia.

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