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Some Fresh Summer Programming, Sort of – 'Power' Returns to Starz
July 7, 2018  | By David Hinckley
A couple of years ago, when it became clear the sheer volume of television programming had sped past any human capacity to watch it all, there was some rumbling about summer no longer giving us a breather – that quality programming now was rolling out year-round.
That hasn’t proven exactly true. Summer remains a lull, relatively speaking, and frankly, that’s not unwelcome.
Still, quality fresh summer material does pop up in TV’s ever-expanding universe, and any list would have to include the intense Starz drama Power.
Power’s fifth season launched last Sunday, and continues for the next nine weeks at 8 p.m. ET. If you missed the opener, catch up and settle in to watch some of the sharpest-edged characters on television navigate a world just as dangerous and more troublingly recognizable than the worlds of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones.
As Season 5 begins, club owner and main man James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick, top, right) has formed an alliance with his one-time bestie and later lethal enemy Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora, top, center) and his long-time mortal foe Kanan (50 Cent, top, left).
This would signal an unusually dark turn if Power hadn’t already, some time ago, committed to the dark side. Where its cousin Empire softens its menacing storylines with liberal doses of soap, the humor in Power doesn’t let us step away from its tangled web of crime and, more significantly, the criminal perpetrators.
Those perps fascinate us largely because they cover such a wide waterfront. Kanan is a classic hard-core street criminal, kin to mob bosses of every ethnic stripe. Tommy is the white guy who’s sort of played himself into the black and brown world. Ghost is a smart guy who thought he could pick up a little illegal cash on the dark side and then just say “Okay, done” and go back to being legit again.
Ghost’s wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton, below, right) thinks she can keep her hands clean and her kids pure without giving up any of the perks of being Mrs. Ghost. Ghost’s one-time love and now FBI agent Angela Valdes (Lela Loren) fools herself into thinking she can get reacquainted with Ghost and still conduct investigations in which he may be a person of interest.
Okay, it all could get soapy. It doesn’t feel that way. Soaps take you to the edge of the falls and pull you back. Power sometimes doesn’t.
In that sense, it’s closer to, say, Sons of Anarchy, where people we want to like, because we keep seeing residual glimpses of decency, keep doing things we can’t defend. Courtney Kemp, who created the show, has a wonderful touch with characters right down to the way she gives enormous, albeit subtle, power to women working their way through a world neck-deep in testosterone.
The unusual alliance we see at the start of this season suggests, correctly, that these three fellows have identified a common menace. Turns out that’s tied to Dre Coleman (Rotimi Akinosho), which is interesting because he’s been a subordinate character for much of the show and seems to have surreptitiously worked his way up the criminal food chain.
Nor, it should be noted, does Power draw any clear lines between the behavior of criminals and law enforcement. While the nominal good guys have some dedicated and reasonably high-minded soldiers, they also include the kind of people you find in every office. Looking out for themselves, not afraid to shaft a coworker, not above sabotage and occasionally flat-out on the take.
There’s probably no plotline, personality or perverse twist that hasn’t surfaced over the years in one of TV’s crime dramas. Powerisn’t reinventing the genre. It’s simply putting an arresting bunch of characters, led by Ghost, Tommy, Angela, and Tasha, into a vivid story whose endpoint is as ominous as it is unknown.
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