Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Ghost’s dark side emerges anew in a busy Power

Omari Hardwick (Photo: Starz)
Omari Hardwick (Photo: Starz)
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Power isn’t Power without dramatic irony. It’s the narrative device the show thrives on, and nothing creates tension like knowing the peril ahead for the characters before they do. A season and a half passed before both Ghost and Angela knew how mutually dangerous their relationship was, so the audience got to watch as they made moves and countermoves with no idea they were sleeping with the enemy. That element is gone now that the happy couple has moved to a new phase of their relationship, but in season three, Power has figured out how to reintroduce its most durable storytelling technique.

Everything in “Don’t Worry, Baby” revolves around the ignorance of the characters, and their choices relative to to the information they don’t have. Tommy doesn’t know Holly is pregnant, and doesn’t understand why it’s suddenly so important to her that he kill Ghost as soon as possible. She was remarkably calm about the Lobos threat when Tommy first clued her in, but now that she could possibly become a mother, her survival instincts have fully kicked in. Tommy also doesn’t know that it was the Koreans who tried to gun him down, not Lobos, and that the only reason he’s still alive is that Ghost emerged from the shadows and killed the shooters just in time. The attempt on Tommy’s life is enough for Holly to take matters into her own hands and reach out to a Jamaican hitman to see if he’s willing to do what Tommy either won’t or can’t do himself.

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I talked last week about how Tommy’s story this season feels like a meditation on how someone like Ghost becomes who he is. But it’s also about how someone like Tasha became who she is, an independent, self-sufficient woman who begins putting herself in harm’s way to help her man reach his illicit goals. Just as Ghost and Tasha once conspired to get Kanan locked away so Ghost could take over the drug operation, Tommy and Holly are now trying to figure out how to eliminate Ghost so Tommy can take his place atop the food chain. The difference, of course, is that Ghost and Tommy have a unique bond that prevents them from taking each other out, or even fully cutting ties. Tommy doesn’t have the itchy trigger finger of someone like Kanan, but he’s shown no reluctance to put a man down if the situation calls for it. So it means something that Tommy can’t bring himself to kill Ghost, just like it means something that Ghost is willing to return to the dark side to save Tommy. But Holly is the wild card, and she has no good reason to help maintain Ghost and Tommy’s detente, if it can be called that.

I tend to think far ahead about serialized dramas, and I find myself unable to enjoy a moment if the moment is related to an impossible outcome. Ghost isn’t getting killed anytime soon, so the show feels stuck in neutral when it builds to a climax that will never come. The twist of Holly going rogue and ordering the hit herself is somewhat appealing, but it ultimately just means that Ghost is now being hunted by a Jamaican redshirt the audience doesn’t know and won’t miss when Ghost inevitably neutralizes him. As much as Power benefits from dramatic irony, it also suffers for it. The show gets the audience invested by giving it lots of information the characters don’t have, but part of that information is the fact that Ghost is not going to get killed off of this show. All of the drum-rolling gets exhausting at a certain point.

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That said, Power is also an incredibly dense and busy show, such that it seems like lots of things are happening even though the broader story is moving at a crawl. “Don’t Worry, Baby” has gunfights, glamour, and lots of good sex—basically every reason people watch Power in the first place. And for every scene that feels like homework—Greg’s attempts to court Ruiz, for example—there are two more than seem like fun just for fun’s sake. Between its gorgeous visuals and smartly chosen needle-drops, Power feels exciting even when not a lot is happening. For that matter, it feels like a lot is happening even when not a lot is happening.

Season three is going to explode at any moment, but the build-up is starting to feel substantive and interesting. Of the multiple threats Ghost is facing, the Kanan threat is the one that works the best as story. There’s more of the show’s dramatic irony—Ghost still thinks Kanan is dead as Kanan plots against him—but rather than pretend there’s yet another person out to kill Ghost, the episode does something more interesting. Jukebox, who did so much to elevate last week’s episode, puts a bug in Kanan’s ear. Consider, says Jukebox, that Ghost might be worth more to Kanan alive than dead, and besides, death is probably too easy for the man who got him locked up and hijacked his son. Kanan is quick on the trigger, as he proved with a needless execution of Jukebox’s inside man during the otherwise clean and simple jewelry heist. But after Jukebox’s advice, Kanan is now intent on destroying Ghost rather than giving him the quick release of death, and that’s more potent a threat than anything Tommy and Holly have cooking. Once Kanan is back in place as Ghost’s most cunning foe, this season will really kick into gear.

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In the meantime, there are some intriguing things happening in Ghost and Angela’s relationship as their awkward transition into a real couple hits more speed bumps. Angela stops by Tasha’s building to tell her she’s taken the liberty of getting Tariq’s record expunged, but her visit is about more than that. As cavalier as Angela has been about carrying on with a married man, she does appear to genuinely contrite about how her relationship with Ghost has affected his family members, Tasha included. But Ghost understandably doesn’t want Angela interacting with Tasha without huddling with him first. Put simply, they’re experiencing classic “baby mama drama,” though they’re far too sophisticated to put it in those terms. Power is about Ghost’s usually unsuccessful efforts to keep his disparate worlds from colliding, and his romantic life and family life are smashing together in inconvenient ways just like his straight life and his criminal life. Dre talks about how hard it is to keep one foot in the hood and one foot out, but the show is at its best when Ghost convinces himself he can be in two places at once.

Stray observations

  • I’m not as invested in the club stuff this season as I was last season, in part because the characters involved feel too familiar. Andy and Albie are junior Simon Sterns, and Karen Bassett is basically a replacement for Diane Neal’s character in season one.
  • Ghost’s attention to detail runs deep. He fetches Karen a Superiority Burger, the namesake dish of NYC’s hot new vegetarian eatery.
  • Tariq has some legitimate gripes against his parents.
  • It’s interesting how the show has dialed back the Ghost and Angela sex scenes. I wonder if we’re meant to believe they’re still getting it on like crazy off-screen, or that their respective schedules and recent relationship strife have slowed them down sexually.
  • Meanwhile, everybody else is getting busy, including Kanan, who welcomes himself back to the world by giving Jukebox’s girl the business.
  • Speaking of Kanan and sex, I was surprised to see a prosthetic erection during the mutual masturbation scene. I wasn’t quite prepared for that.
  • I hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Jukebox, though I suppose it won’t be, since this is surely not the last time we’ll hear about what Kanan did during the heist.
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