The Power review: A thrilling allegory for how a patriarchal society makes girls feel insignificant

Toni Collette and Auli’i Cravalho star in this electric TV adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s 2017 bestseller

Nicole Vassell
Friday 31 March 2023 06:30 BST
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The Power trailer

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

In 2017, Naomi Alderman’s novel about teenage girls suddenly acquiring the ability to shoot electricity from their fingers arrived right on time. The defiance of women and girls was a constant part of the news cycle, from the Women’s March in Washington DC to the rise of the #MeToo movement. They were making noise about the ways that misogyny was impacting their lives, and holding perpetrators to account. Six years later, andThe Power has now been adapted into a big-budget thriller series for Prime Video. With a punchy script from an all-female writers’ room –including Sarah Quintrell, Raelle Tucker and Alderman herself – and characters who both inspire and feel accessible, the story is as timely as it has ever been.

“Every revolution begins with a spark,” an opening voiceover tells us. “We never dared to imagine it; a world that was built for us, where we wrote the rules.” Through fast-paced flash-forward scenes, the audience gets a taster of the thrills and destruction to come. But over the course of the first episode’s hour, we only see the start of this curious phenomenon that allows girls around the world to electrocute at will. In Seattle, we meet Jos (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of mayor Margot Cleary-Lopez (Toni Collette). A soft-spoken teen to start, Jos discovers her zappy new quirk and soon finds comfort in her female classmates, who are also setting microwaves on fire.

In the Southern Bible belt, there’s Allie (Halle Bush), who frustrates her white foster parents with her refusal to talk. According to a therapist, Allie has selective mutism as a result of trauma. But when Allie finally uses her voice, the results are explosive. Her guardians aren’t prepared for what she has to say and seek to put her back in her place – but Allie’s skill becomes her key to a much-needed new life. In London, Roxy (Ria Zmitrowicz) is the estranged daughter of a fearsome gangster whose power allows her to finally be seen by her father, and in Lagos, newly charged-up girls form a secret society in which they throw parties with their gifts, watching each other with awe as fizzes of electricity dance on their fingertips.

Of course, any superpowers handled carelessly can have dire and wide-ranging effects, and innocent people soon get hurt. It doesn’t take long to see how frightened the establishment gets when they learn of the sheer potential of these teen girls, and a global effort to shut The Power down quickly kicks off. Across the international ensemble, diverse characters pull the viewers into their distinctive worlds with ease – you’re just as invested in the shocking turns that befall Roxy as you are in discovering the twisty path that Allie is forced to forge for herself. Toni Collette and John Leguizamo have lightning chemistry as Jos’s parents, united in their bewilderment at the new strengths of their eldest daughter.

The Power is a clear allegory for how a patriarchal society makes girls feel insignificant, and how physical force effectively defines who makes the rules in society. Heavy-handed though the metaphor may be, it doesn’t feel corny – it’s genuinely thrilling to see how these girls who are underestimated, forgotten and cast aside light up when they realise that they, and their actions, matter in the world. At a time when access to abortion is dwindling in the US, and stories of violence against women mount up by the month in the UK, young women have a right to be electric with rage. And it’s cathartic to watch them step into their power.

‘The Power’ is on Prime Video

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