Omari Hardwick, Lela Loren

“When you really love a guy, you stand by him. No matter what he’s done. If Holly really loves Tommy, she’s not going to say a word.” — Angela Valdez

Dramatic irony fueled Power through its first one-and-a-half seasons, as corner boy-turned-legitimate entrepreneur James St. Patrick romanced his childhood flame, somehow federally affiliated attorney Angela Valdez, and both remained blissfully unaware that Angela was hard at work tightening a noose around her boyfriend’s neck. “Who You Are And Who You Want To Be” sacrifices the dramatic irony once and for all, but potentially in the interest of something more interesting: an emotionally fraught cat-and-mouse game between two people for whom manipulation and dishonesty have become reflexive.

With Angela now aware that “Jamie” is Ghost, the two are pitched against each other in battle. Though Angela saw Holly’s refusal to give up Tommy as a demonstration of her intense love for him, she isn’t going to stop pursuing Ghost simply because she initially fingered the wrong high school associate. She’s going to use her proximity and his emotional attachment to take him down. It won’t be quite that simple, anymore than it was simple for Ghost to extricate himself from Angela once Tommy found out how dangerous she was. But whereas Ghost has been motivated by his delusion that he can have everything he wants without sacrificing anything, Angela is motivated by pride, ambition, and fury. As Sade once sang, “love is stronger than pride.” But pride, ambition, and fury combined could be enough to obliterate true love.

That’s assuming Ghost and Angela are experiencing true love to begin with, which isn’t necessarily so. Establishing that two people were meant to be together is one of the most difficult storytelling feats. There’s far more holding a romantic bond together than chemistry, sexual attraction, and shared interests. There’s always a mysterious element at play when you fall in love with someone, a quality or a dynamic that can’t be easily defined or quantified. It’s tough to convey to the audience an emotional bond that wouldn’t be easily conveyed by the characters experiencing it. That’s where suspension of disbelief plays a role in love stories. When the storyteller says two people are in love, you just have to believe them. That said, at this point in Power, I’m not sure the writers are trying to tell the story of star-crossed lovers. It’s more like a story about two people who accidentally reignited an ancient infatuation and are becoming more intensely drawn to each other the more perilous their relationship becomes.

Advertisement

Maintaining that relationship isn’t as dangerous for Ghost, the hunted, as it is for Angela, the hunter. Ghost doesn’t have anything to lose that wasn’t already in jeopardy simply by virtue of his live-by-the-sword criminal lifestyle. But Angela has everything to lose, and here’s where the pride, ambition, and fury come into play. Angela’s career, which means everything to her, has already been jeopardized by her relationship with Ghost and her association with Tommy. She’s been let back onto the Lobos task force on a probationary basis, and she’s so focused on getting her suspect, she can’t help but rock the boat even though she’s aware how precarious her position is. Angela insists on questioning Holly, and when she tries to push back against Sandoval, he tells her she’s acting like a little girl. Sandoval doesn’t know the half of it. If Angela’s superiors caught wind of her relationship with Ghost, that would almost certainly mean the end of her career in law enforcement.

Prior to the season premiere, everything Ghost and Angela did to gum up each other’s plans was a honest mistake. But Ghost has known about Angela for a while now and has lied right to her face about his lack of involvement in Lobos’ drug empire, all while insisting everything will be okay if they trust each other. The damage from a lie can be contained if the truth comes out the right way. This was not the right way for Angela to find out Ghost’s identity. The shock and grief would have been traumatic enough, but factor in the humiliation of finding out the truth from Holly of all people, and Angela has adequate motivation to mow Ghost down without a second thought.

I’m dwelling on the final moments of “Who You Are” because those are the scenes that injected some energy into an otherwise limp episode. Power’s issue now is that Ghost seems invincible even as he’s beset from all sides. Kanan is still lurking, waiting for his opportunity to strike while Simon Stern is insinuating himself further into the operation of Truth. And now, Holly is under pressure from the feds and has no reason not to burn down Ghost to save Tommy’s life, and Lobos is demanding payment for his drug shipment in a fraction of the time he and Ghost originally agreed upon. With this many active threats around him, the show should feel like watching a man struggling to keep his head above water, but Ghost never appears to be out of his depth. Even in his scenes with Tasha, the only person in Power who seems to have Ghost by the short hairs, there’s an air of triumph to Ghost that never goes away. It’s one thing for Ghost to be convinced everything is going to work out in his favor, but for the audience, Power should look more like a man whose life is unraveling.

Advertisement

The Angela reveal will hopefully go towards fixing this problem, or at least serve as a reminder of what exactly is at stake for Ghost. I’m sure enough of the audience has invested in Ghost and Angela’s relationship that they’ll root for the doomed couple to figure out a solution together. But Power only works if it shows Ghost struggling to keep his power and constantly under the threat of losing it. As it stands now, Ghost isn’t imperiled as much as he is inconvenienced.

Stray observations:

  • It was pretty great to have Angela reprise Ghost’s “how was work” line from “Consequences.”
  • The performances in this show are really hit-or-miss. I was hoping Lela Loren would have a killer moment when she finally found out about Ghost’s true identity. Loren definitely goes for it with her bathroom stall breakdown, but she didn’t totally sell it to me.
  • The Holly interrogation scenes weren’t as illuminating about Holly as I hoped they would be. She’s apparently been a kleptomaniac all her life and has some abandonment issues, but Holly still feels two dimensional.
  • As much as I dislike Holly, Lucy Walters pretty much manhandled the “You dumb bitch” line.
  • Despite my reservations about Kanan as a character, I must concede that “Who You Are” was missing some energy with 50 off for the week.
  • Can someone, anyone explain to me how exactly Stern came to be in control of Truth to this degree? Stern bought the building from the landlord, but I can’t make sense of how he wound up with full operational control of the business.
  • Lobos is quite the cartoon, isn’t he? If you’re going to hold the arm of the guy holding the phone, why not just, I dunno, hold the phone yourself?

Advertisement