Webseries are nothing new and there are a lot of them. Slowly but surely they are becoming a bit of an industry and some even have big corporate backing. But The Platoon of Power Squadron is one of those precious few gold nuggets that not only stands on its own, but stand out amongst the crowd.
PoPS comes along but once a year (mostly). Created by Jake Javi in 2009, the series tells the story of a group of young adults in Chicago who share a flat together. Oh, and they all have superpowers, of course. Most of them have tried to keep them secret, to live their lives as if they were normal, but one, Donald (played by Craig Benzine of Wheezywaiter fame) is convinced he is supposed to be a superhero. And so he goes out looking for crime to fight and people to save, all in the name of destiny (and paying the rent).
This is a talented and varied cast, some with some serious acting chops behind them. Each character has a distinct stance and manner that comes to life as the series goes on and the actors get better. There’s a tremendous amount of positive and strong female characters, and with the exception of one slightly eye-rolling romance between two of the main cast, they are generally treated with great respect. There is even an entire character arc dedicated to dismantling not only the damsel in distress trope, but also the all too common occurrence of a man lying to a woman about a major issue in order to try and develop a romance. It is dealt with in a very human and rational way and people get their comeuppance. I actually applauded when it happened because it’s so rare in entertainment these days!
What’s more, the villains are hilarious. There are some bumbling goons, of course, but the group of antagonists is every bit as fascinating as the heroes. The arch-villain is a creepy, silky smooth creature of pure darkness with a desire for power played to perfection by Derrick Stout. His henchmen are both his assets and his downfalls in very comic-book fashion, but it is done with a sense of reality in amongst the fantasy. Many of them have very believable reactions to the incredible things that happen to them.
Carlyn Janus plays one of my favourite characters (or group of characters) Sebastian. She has the power to multiply herself, but each ‘clone’ is their own person and has their own character. Anticipating Orphan Black by a number of years, Carlyn plays all of her characters with a new and different approach. I suspect she will be an actress to look out for in the future.
The production values on the show have shot through the roof since its initial episodes. The first outing of the show is as low-budget as budget will go. Jarvi – executive producer, writer, editor, co-star and pretty much everything else on the show – had to tell a story with little more than a camera, some friends, and Adobe After Effects. But give it some time, see it through, and you can witness vast improvements on pretty much every level.
The direction in the first episode can be a little comic-book in style – lots of big sound effects, over dramatic movements and punchlines. But things swiftly smooth out, the story develops depths and clarity, and the look of the thing gets crisper.
The opening shots of the first episode follows a young man in a cape walking heroically down a street. His cape flares out dramatically, the music swells, every movement is given weight and significance until we see… he is delivering pizza.
There are a lot of gags in this show. Some fall flat, others had me genuinely giggling for ages. The entire concept itself is silly and that is often played up – but don’t be deceived, there is a truly intriguing story going on and before you know it, you’re wanting to know what happens next, you’re clicking through episodes, and then you’re waiting impatiently for the next instalment.
Look out for my exclusive interview with Jake Jarvi here on Sci-fi and Fantasy Network and do yourself a favour by watching The Platoon of Power Squadron!