One needn’t strain hard to find the metaphorical aspects of Amazon’s “The Power,” which imagines the terrifying scenario (to parents, anyway) of what would happen if teenage girls could suddenly shoot lightning from their fingers. But the series gets lost somewhere between the global implications of that and its individual stories, juggling characters and subplots in a too-slow-developing season that could use more of a spark.
Adapted from Naomi Alderman’s provocative novel, the mix of dystopia and feminism has something in common with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” only here taking the term “girl power” literally. Still, the closest kin TV-wise would be “Heroes,” which also spanned the globe in charting the stories of people with superpowers, the wrinkle here being that the shared new-found ability is confined to a very specific demographic.
Beginning with a glimpse of the near-future before flashing back, a voiceover by one of the teenage girls speaks of “a world where we were the ones to be feared.” Later, when girls discuss why all they might have acquired this power, one of them suggests that having been treated “like garbage” for years, “We got it because we need it.”
From there, “The Power” unfolds on multiple fronts, with much of the focus on local mayor Margot Cleary-Lopez, played by Toni Collette (completing a streaming-series hat trick in roughly the last year with “Pieces of Her” and “The Staircase”). The mayor’s family – including her husband (John Leguizamo) and teenage daughter (“Moana’s” Auli’i Cravalho) – is thrown into chaos, along with most of the world, by this current state of affairs, though she identifies the problem more clearly than most of her political brethren.
“We can’t legislate women’s bodies,” Margot says when talk of how to control the girls arises, one of those places where the underlying questions of gender politics and inequality are articulated a little too overtly.
Separate plot threads play out in London, Eastern Europe and Africa, with the most interesting aspect of “The Power” stemming from how the empowerment of the young-female population is viewed in authoritarian states. Watching governments fumble with how to deal with this threat to the patriarchy, a crusading journalist (“Ted Lasso’s” Toheeb Jimoh) appraises the rising unrest and says, “A sleeping giant has been awakened.”
Executive producer Raelle Tucker (“True Blood”) and company face their own formidable challenge in terms of connecting the far-flung tales to the larger implications of unleashing teenage electrocutioners, especially as they begin to master their deadly new skill.
Eight of the nine episodes were made available for review, and the pacing underscores that “The Power,” while intriguing, is at least initially defined more by its potential than its execution.
For now, the series still feels at best like a sleeping giant, one that inspires the reasonable request to wake me when it truly starts getting somewhere.
“The Power” premieres March 31 on Amazon’s Prime Video.