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The Ghost in the ‘Power’ machine

They pulled James back in

Season 3, Episode 1 | “Call Me James” | July 17

The second golden age of television has turned us all into a bunch of fanatical Show Snobs. The internet allows us to indulge our obsessions and has nurtured hordes of people who all need to live-tweet Game of Thrones, and then read five recaps the next day and maybe download a Dothraki companion app — just to casually try it out. Just to see if it’s harder or simpler than Elvish.

Oh, look. Now we’re down a rabbit hole.

This era of show snobbery got me wondering if there’s anything left that you can come to casually (that’s not a variant of Law & Order or some other procedural, or HGTV) and still leap in and immediately understand? The era of Too Much Television means that there’s more than any person can reasonably consume without super gluing their butts to their couches and ingesting a surfeit sleep-staving substances. The fun opportunity this presents however, is the chance to look at a show with new, fresh eyes: Let’s try an experiment and drop in on a show to see if it makes a lick of sense! In this case, the lucky show is Power, the 50 Cent-produced Starz show starring Omari Hardwick and Naturi Naughton that is centered around the life of New York drug kingpin James St. Patrick.

[Omari Hardwick is the true heart and intense soul of ‘Power’]

Initial impressions, based on the catch-up sequence from Season 2: So, everyone dies on this show? Well, 50 Cent does anyway. Drugs continue to be quite the bloody business. With that, let’s get to my running notes on episode one of season three of Power:

James and Ghost are the same person! And Angela has to know, otherwise she’s terribly oblivious.

You can tell a lot by how people react to the abnormal sight of someone’s bruised face and the sight of James St. Patrick’s (Hardwick) beaten-up face is either normal or … nobody ever looks at this guy’s face. But he IS in a visibly expensive suit and the name of the show IS Power. Gasp. No one’s saying anything because James has all the power.

Hoodied Grim Reaper (Joseph Sikora) is taping up a gun. How long before I find myself asking, Can’t we all just get along? Hoodied Grim Reaper and his redheaded girlfriend (Lucy Walters) seem like an … unlikely couple, given the class differences apparent in their speech.

Aaaaaand there’s a territory fight. Can’t we all just get along? Valuable life lesson: Drugs are easy, going legit, not so much.

OK, clearly Ghost is James’ drug-hawking alter-ego that he’s decided to set aside. Sure. Let’s see how long that lasts. When is the last time a crime boss just “retired” and got to live happily ever after?

Also, office sex: still pretty illicit. Apparently James is shtupping a pantyless lady named Angie (Lela Loren).

Omari Hardwick as James St. Patrick and Lela Loren as Angela Valdes in 'Power.'

Omari Hardwick as James St. Patrick and Lela Loren as the underwear eschewing Angela Valdes in ‘Power.’

Courtesy of Starz

Ah. Angela, one-half of the illicit office sex scene, is a career law enforcement official. Hence the meager (well, TV-meager anyway) digs, for which James has voiced his displeasure. This perfectly fine bedroom is just too small!

Angela is asking to meet James’ kids? I’m guessing the odds of this happening are … zero for as long as James can conceivably delay.

Oooh, a conversation between very serious, law-abiding citizens who obviously work with Angela. James/Ghost are the same person! And Angela has to know, otherwise she’s terribly oblivious, according to her colleagues, who say things like, “You really need to get some, dude. You go blast one off.” If this is how these people discuss sex, it’s a miracle they manage to reproduce at all.

Good Cop (Andy Bean) aka Greg, aka the guy in need of “blasting off,” is really obsessed with James. We can tell because ominous music and serious staring at newspaper clippings.

Nineteen minutes! We made it 19 whole minutes before someone’s trying to drag Ghost back into the drug game. Of course.

Naturi Naughton as Tasha and Omari Harwick as James St. Patrick in 'Power.'

Naturi Naughton as Tasha and Omari Harwick as James St. Patrick in ‘Power.’

Courtesy of Starz

Oh, look, it’s Tasha (Naughton), who apparently is living in James’ palatial digs with his children while he slums it with Angela.

Finally! Someone asks about James’ face. Thank you, Tasha, who insists on calling this man “Ghost” because that’s who he was, that’s who he is, and that’s who he’ll be, and the only person who doesn’t seem to realize this is James/Ghost. Oooh- can we just nickname him Apparition?

Ghost is revealing to Tasha that he’s murdered Kanan (50 Cent). And Tasha is mad because someone named Shawn, whom her children really liked, is also inexplicably dead. Again, everyone dies on this show. I really hope these two are covered by spousal privilege.

Hoodied Grim Reaper has taken over James/Ghost/Apparition’s drug business. Because James is Ghost no longer (sure). Time for a deal-sealing montage!

There’s a Latino man named Lobos who is also an opposing drug kingpin? And someone tried to kill him too? Yes. Is it too late to rename this show Body Count?

Apparently, Lobos had his own thing with a U.S. attorney? What is it with these criminals and their irrational attraction to law enforcement? Hubris?

This skulking around seems awfully ghostly. Oh, of course Post-it note girl is dead. What was that even about, anyway?

Tommy/Hoodied Grim Reaper is a little unhinged in his quest to torture those less than loyal. Because he’s got something to prove. Everyone wants to work for Ghost. What is it with this man? Does he buy everyone doughnuts when they kill people properly?

James and Angela are trying to talk through their issues. Even drug kingpins have relationship drama over reheated Chinese.

Tommy (Joseph Sikora and Holly (Lucy Walters) in a scene from 'Power.'

Tommy aka Hoodied Grim Reaper (Joseph Sikora and Holly (Lucy Walters) in a scene from ‘Power.’

Courtesy of Starz

Tommy/Hoodied Grim Reaper comes home with pizza. Why do drug kingpins have such awful taste in food? Oh, no, someone slit his dog’s throat and there’s no sign of the redheaded girlfriend. All the killers in this show are so messy. It’s like they have a Dexter-level attraction to copious amounts of blood.

Aaaaand, Ghost is back. One whole episode. Hope you enjoyed your drug-free honeymoon, James.

Verdict: Power is pretty easy to follow even if you’re just jumping in mid-run, if you’ve ever watched a gangster movie or two, because it uses every conceivable trope from all of them. Just when James got out, they pulled him back in. Let’s see how he wrestles with this for the rest of the season.

Power’s third season began July 17 and airs Sundays at 9p.m. EST.

Soraya Nadia McDonald is the senior culture critic for Andscape. She writes about pop culture, fashion, the arts and literature. She is the 2020 winner of the George Jean Nathan prize for dramatic criticism, a 2020 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism and the runner-up for the 2019 Vernon Jarrett Medal for outstanding reporting on Black life.