The Power Season 1 Review – A gripping feminist drama

Season 1

Episode Guide

A Better Future is in Your Hands
The World is on Fu*king Fire
A New Organ
The Day of the Girls
Scarlet Minnow
Episode 8
Episode 9

We’re coming up on the end of women’s history month, and what better time to premiere a TV series that’s by and about women. Boasting a rare all-female writers’ room, Prime Video’s The Power imagines a global development that sees teenage girls suddenly able to electrocute people at will. Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman, the sci-fi drama is a gripping examination of gender and power dynamics, as it explores the manners in which a patriarchal world responds to female power–even if the series’ heavy-handedness detracts from its ultimately poignant message.

It starts with teenage girls. All over the world, a power stirs from inside their collarbones; electrical jolts suddenly spark from their fingertips. Three of The Power’s protagonists are teen girls themselves, each reckoning with their new abilities in different ways: There’s Allie (Halle Bush), a foster kid whose voice awakens alongside her power; Roxy (Ria Zmitrowicz), who in the wake of tragedy sees brighter chances of joining her father’s criminal organization; and Jos (Auli’i Cravalho), who struggles with the unpredictability of her changing body while being in the public eye–thanks to her mother, Margot Cleary-Lopez (Toni Collette), being Seattle’s mayor. 

Margot’s husband Rob Lopez (John Leguizam) and Nigerian journalist Tunde (Toheeb Jimoh) are important to the series as well for reasons I’ll get into–but first, it’s worthy to note that The Power sports a majority-female cast with Margot at its center. Although there are more themes at play here than female power–like corruption and violence and social reform–the female characters reveal the heart of the sci-fi drama, which is to tell the stories of women and girls from their own perspectives.

And yet, it very nearly avoids becoming a reductionist female empowerment fantasy, a pitfall the series so evidently fights against and yet barely side steps. It’s not that The Power takes easy ways out in shepherding us to its feminist message. The series, guided by the care Alderman takes in the source material, deftly circumvents cutting and pasting the flaws of patriarchy onto societies in which female power blossoms. It advocates for women’s empowerment, all while critiquing power differentials and gender binary systems.

The problem, however, is that The Power employs these fascinating and complex themes in a manner that is often and unfortunately… trite. For example, writers want so badly to portray Margot’s struggles as a woman in politics that much of her dialogue is stilted in fulfilling this purpose. Poor characterization treats Margot as if she’s at the start of her political career and is absolutely shocked that–wait for it–men can be sexist! In ticking off a list through Margot’s dialogue to convince viewers unnecessarily of the already-obvious sexism she faces, The Power moralizes when it would do better to sit quietly in the oppression it depicts.

There are similar problems when it comes to Tunde, whose journey to becoming an ally to women and to becoming a professional journalist both come about through taking advantage of a woman. Tunde’s story is one of the show’s most interesting, contributing to The Power’s multifaceted nature with a dissection of how his privilege interacts with his allyship. The issue is that, untrusted as viewers, we are told how to feel about Tunde after we are already shown his actions.

I understand, personally, the potent rage that must come from the women’s writing room for The Power, and I relish it making its way into the series’ dialogue. I only wish it were channeled more effectively through sci-fi drama’s characters, in a way that trusts its viewers and actors with more subtleties and fewer sermons–in a way that doesn’t tell us how to feel.

And The Power has a stellar cast it certainly can trust. They understand their characters, lending a depth to them the script sometimes misses (I blame sparse characterization on perhaps too many points of view vying for attention). When it comes to the cast’s talents, I think mainly of Collette and Leguizam, who in the depiction of their marriage simultaneously portray deep love and simmering bitterness–with subtle shifts in their relationship dynamic over time.

The couple’s journey following the emergence of the electrical power in girls around the world is a heart-wrenching one, exploring how certain expectations and gender roles can strain a marriage. I think that such difficulties are more obvious for the Cleary-Lopezes than others because they fulfill non-traditional gender roles. Theirs is a very compelling, very clever arc in driving home one of the show’s main emphases: Flipping gendered roles and responsibilities doesn’t necessarily create solutions, but it helps to reveal problems that have always been a part of systems where power and responsibility are unequally distributed. The Power sheds light on failings of the patriarchy by revealing how power corrupts even in circumstances where men don’t hold it.

The Power, in its plethora of perspectives, emphasizes that there will always be those who benefit from inequality in unjust ways. Just as there will always be those who suffer from it. (The one thing I believe it misses is that there will always be those who deny they suffer from being unequal, but I digress.)

With these messages of seeking equality and subverting binaries, it’s curious that the drama sidelines its trans, intersex, and nonbinary characters. The presence of these characters feels like an afterthought, as if the writers wanted to acknowledge the complexities of gender and womanhood without putting in the work to sufficiently explore how these characters fit into Alderman’s world. The intent of the whole work–to empower women–rings empty if it doesn’t reckon further with gender identity outside the binary. But the existence of these marginalized characters gives me hope for the rest of the series and its intent to address these oversights, pending on the show’s renewal.

My hopes are generally high for future installments of the show, especially after this season challenged patriarchal systems–going beyond a critique of men’s power to challenge the sanctity of power in and of itself. Who knew such a simple premise as literal “girl power” could be so brilliant? But it is, and it merits countless future manners of exploration.

In Alderman’s acclaimed novel, her alter-ego (a male writer named Neil) comments that “gender is a shell game.” He continues, “What is a man? Whatever a woman isn’t. What is a woman? Whatever a man is not. Tap on it and it’s hollow. Look under the shells: it’s not there.”

Alderman’s work holds that gendered, hierarchical social structures are constructed and maintained by violence, all for the sake of this hollow game. The screen adaptation drives home this chilling and powerful message with breathtaking effects and theatrics. It’s a strong start for a thrilling feminist drama series, even if it’s weakened by some sorry oversights and blatant moralizing. 


The first three episodes of The Power premiere March 31st on Prime Video, followed by weekly installments.

Feel Free To Check Out More Of Our TV Show Reviews Here!

  • Verdict - 7/10

1 thought on “The Power Season 1 Review – A gripping feminist drama”

  1. Would love to chat with you about the trans and other gender non conforming rep in the show. I’m a reviewer like you, but I’m also trans! And doing my own coverage to illuminate just how trans friendly the show is. It’s just not always obtrusive. Mine is at TRANSlating Everything. Loved your coverage otherwise thanks for the recap ❤️🏳️‍⚧️🏳️‍🌈

Leave a comment