Everything You Need to Know About Spinoffs ‘Ghost,’ ‘Raising Kanan’ and ‘Force’

 


"Power is eternal." Back in early 2020, that was the phrase (with with the required hashtag) used to promise an ambitious brand expansion of Starz's popular drug-trade thriller "Power." While the main series' antihero protagonist — played by Omari Hardwick — may have drawn his final breath, the sizzle teaser insisted that there was plenty of air left in the franchise. It sounded nearly fantastical at the time — four spin-offs announced at the same time?!? — but three successful shows released in less than two years proves the notion. "Power" is not only alive and healthy, but it also has a strong heartbeat.

"Power Book IV: Force," the franchise's third installment, premiered in February and followed Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora), one of the "Power" universe's many skilled cocaine dealers. "Force" broke Starz's all-time viewing record with 3.3 million viewers across all platforms for its premiere. It's a remarkable achievement in and of itself, but it's even more remarkable given that "Force" debuted just after the second season finale of its brother, "Power Book II: Ghost." "Ghost," which Starz claims caused a "record rally" in new subscriptions, will return for a third season, while "Book III: Raising Kanan," the other "Power" spinoff, is in development for its second season.

The "Power" universe has a devoted (and predominantly African American) fan base, substantial enough to make it a staple of Starz's programming and a social media mainstay. However, as the "Power" street-pharmaceutical entrepreneurs would attest, getting to the top of the food chain is one thing, and staying there is quite another. The "Power" brand is heading into an extremely hazardous creative situation as the first season of "Force" comes to a close, having secured a Season 2 renewal.

For one reason, creator Courtney Kemp has now secured a hefty overall deal with Netflix, which she produced alongside executive producers Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson and Mark Canton. While she will continue to serve as executive producer on all "Power" programs, the writing will now be handled by the showrunners, a group that is still in flux. (After the departure of "Force" creator Robert Munic, Brett Mahoney has taken over Season 3 of "Ghost," replacing Kemp, while Gary Lennon will oversee the second season of "Force.") When it came to the "Force" renewal, it was noticeably tardy compared to its franchise siblings, a symbolic snub that didn't go unnoticed by Jackson. (Few slights go unremarked upon by Jackson, who recently dubbed the network "incompetent" in response to a rumored episode leak.)

Before we get into it, let's start with a primer for those who haven't yet been corrupted by "Power." Hardwick acted as James St. Patrick, a nightclub entrepreneur living the lavish life in Manhattan, in the original recipe "Power," which premiered in 2014. He can be found staring down from the luxury penthouse he shares with his wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton) and their three children when he isn't hosting the affluent and famous at his nightclub, Truth. Tasha knows, but the kids don't, that James, along with his childhood friend (and "Force" protagonist) Tommy, is a hugely successful cocaine distributor.

Like most drug lords, James — also known as "Ghost" on the streets — want to go straight and focus his efforts on legal hedonism, especially when the drug trade compels him to conduct pragmatic homicides. When James has a chance meeting with Angela (Lela Loren), a high-school flame whose flames are still smoldering over a decade later, his inner conflict escalates. James and Angela embark on a hedonistic relationship, both blissfully unaware of the consequences. Because, aside from the whole wife-and-kids problem, James should be completely off-limits to Angela. In her employment as a federal prosecutor, he's also the same elusive and vicious drug lord she's been seeking to uncover and put to court.

"Power" is a narrative of tragic coincidences and violent repercussions set in a chaotic criminal underworld that is equal parts Shakespeare, Elmore Leonard, and David Simon. Showtime's "Ray Donovan" and many FX shows, including "Snowfall," "Sons of Anarchy," and the "Sons" spin-off"Mayans M.C." among its most recent peers. "Power" and its offspring, like those shows, are gigantic and unobtrusive at the same time, like a tiny radio frequency that, once found, erupts out of the speakers at an ear-splitting loudness.

Because of Jackson's influence as a former street kid turned entertainer, hip-hop is the franchise's throbbing heart, and various rappers have been written into the program. Jackson appears throughout "Power" and sings the series' theme music, while Clifford "Method Man" Smith is a regular on "Ghost." Kendrick Lamar makes his acting debut in an episode of "Power," and Freddie Gibbs and Jeremih make cameo cameos in "Force." There's also been no word on "Influence," the Larenz Tate-led political drama that was supposed to premiere before "Force" but has since vanished into development limbo. (Despite several inquiries, a Starz representative was unable to confirm the project's status.) Can the franchise retain its quality despite the behind-the-scenes turmoil, as efficient as the "Power" incubator has become?

Before we get into it, let's start with a primer for those who haven't yet been corrupted by "Power." Hardwick acted as James St. Patrick, a nightclub entrepreneur living the lavish life in Manhattan, in the original recipe "Power," which premiered in 2014. He can be found staring down from the luxury penthouse he shares with his wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton) and their three children when he isn't hosting the affluent and famous at his nightclub, Truth. Tasha knows, but the kids don't, that James, along with his childhood friend (and "Force" protagonist) Tommy, is a hugely successful cocaine distributor.



Like most drug lords, James — also known as "Ghost" on the streets — want to go straight and focus his efforts on legal hedonism, especially when the drug trade compels him to conduct pragmatic homicides. When James has a chance meeting with Angela (Lela Loren), a high-school flame whose flames are still smoldering over a decade later, his inner conflict escalates. James and Angela embark on a hedonistic relationship, both blissfully unaware of the consequences. Because, aside from the whole wife-and-kids problem, James should be completely off-limits to Angela. In her employment as a federal prosecutor, he's also the same elusive and vicious drug lord she's been seeking to uncover and put to court.

"Power" is a narrative of tragic coincidences and violent repercussions set in a chaotic criminal underworld that is equal parts Shakespeare, Elmore Leonard, and David Simon. Showtime's "Ray Donovan" and many FX shows, including "Snowfall," "Sons of Anarchy," and the "Sons" spin-off"Mayans M.C." among its most recent peers. "Power" and its offspring, like those shows, are gigantic and unobtrusive at the same time, like a tiny radio frequency that, once found, erupts out of the speakers at an ear-splitting loudness.

Because of Jackson's influence as a former street kid turned entertainer, hip-hop is the franchise's throbbing heart, and various rappers have been written into the program. Jackson appears throughout "Power" and sings the series' theme music, while Clifford "Method Man" Smith is a regular on "Ghost." Kendrick Lamar makes his acting debut in an episode of "Power," and Freddie Gibbs and Jeremih make cameo cameos in "Force."

"Ghost" is the most conceptually stable of the three spin-offs now in rotation, if only because it is the closest to the "Power" mothership. Tariq St. Patrick, James' son who has taken to the leading man role after shooting his father to death in the "Power" series finale, is played by Michael Rainey Jr. Tariq was an adolescent terror in "Power," frequently interfering in his father's business and putting his family in much more danger than they were already in. As a result, Tariq was a divisive character to base a new series on, and a segment of the splintered fans pledged on social media not to watch as they stewed over his arguably unnecessary patricide.


Mary J. Blige was linked to "Ghost" months before the show's premise or information about her character were disclosed, maybe in an attempt to overcome the problem of a fan-favorite punching bag turning heroine. The choice of Mary J. Blige was a crucial decision, since it prevented "Ghost" from becoming "Power: The College Years." Tariq committed to earn a degree from the top Stansfield University in order to fulfill a criteria related to the trust account specified by his father. But, owing to his first-year roommate Zeke (Daniel Bellomy), he's dragged into Zeke's family's drug-running business, the Tejadas. The manipulative matriarch, Monet Tejada (Blige), lures Tariq more into the family business, much to the anger of her actual children.

With a plot that begins up just hours after James' murder and follows the aftermath for a number of original characters, including Tasha and Cooper Saxe (Shane Johnson), a disgraced prosecutor who had worked alongside Angela, "Ghost" was an easy point of entry for "Power" viewers. Tariq's square-peg classmates and teachers were dragged into his criminal vortex in the first season, which invested too strongly in the plot's collegiate trappings. By Season 2, however, the school setting had receded into the background and "Ghost" had grown into a dysfunctional family drama with consequences far greater than Tariq's ability to retain his GPA.

"Raising Kanan" is likewise about a dysfunctional family, but it was a far bigger leap for the "Power" universe, because "Ghost" was a direct continuation of previously established plots. "Kanan" is a prequel set in 1991 that focuses on Kanan Stark's childhood as the terrible uber-villain played by Jackson in the original series. Mekai Curtis plays a 15-year-old Kanan who lives with his strong and magnificent mother Raquel in Queens' South Jamaica neighborhood (Tony-winner Patina Miller.) Raquel works in a dangerous profession (which you should have guessed by now) and fights to keep Kanan out of it, despite his natural desire to protect his single mother from the dangers she faces.

Raquel and Kanan's relationship is the most complex and sophisticated of the many topsy-turvy parent-child relationships in the "Power" universe. Kanan is malice personified, a delighted assassin with a hair-trigger temper and a proclivity to humiliate and emasculate his opponents, as performed by Jackson. While "Raising Kanan" hinges on the audience's curiosity about what influences and life experiences may result in such a monster, it's also a gradual burn. The fact that "Kanan" is similar to "BMF," another Starz drug-trade thriller executive produced by Jackson, is complicating issues as the film finds its voice. "Kanan" and "BMF" have their differences — the latter is set in Detroit and is based on a true tale — but two family dramas set during the crack epidemic may be too many for a single network.

Then there's "Force," which looks to be the most promising of the spin-offs thus far. What "Force" possesses that the other "Power" series don't is an authentic antihero as the protagonist. Tommy is an apex predator who is as streetwise as he is brash, and the pilot sees him escaping an unsustainable situation in New York with ambitions to resurrect his business in California. During the journey, he stops in Chicago to attend to a family matter, only to find himself in the unfortunate position of being sandwiched between two rival criminal families seeking to cohabit with as little bloodshed as possible. The Flynn family, lead by patriarch Walter ("Sons of Anarchy" alum Tommy Flanagan), is in charge of Chi-north town's side, while Diamond Sampson (Isaac Keys) is in charge of the south side after serving a lengthy prison sentence.

"Force" is going through its own growing pains, primarily because the writers are rushing to build Chicago into the well-stocked China shop that the public wants to see Tommy destroy. The "Power" universe is a large ecology, but it evolved into its world over the course of six seasons, and "Force" appears to want to do the same in six episodes. Tommy, a wisecracking bruiser who is equally likely to talk his way out of a tight position as shoot his way out, is the show's gravitational force. Sikora's scenery-chewing act is always entertaining to watch, and he manages to cut through the frantic plotting.

Tommy gets laid on a regular basis in his extended leading-man position, giving "Force" a sexiness that the other two series sorely lack. "I enjoy sex and violence," Kemp remarked in a recent interview, referring to her Netflix arrangement. It was evident in the first "Power," which had equal parts of the former and the latter. Tommy was all business with the business ends of his dual pistols, while starry-eyed James would sneak away to have explicit, athletic sex with Angela. Without the foundation of forbidden lust, the spinoffs have ramped up the savagery — there may be no more consistent supplier of splattered-cranium kill shots on television. The steamy evening soap features of the original series have reduced as the franchise has evolved, with a college student as the lead (one who was introduced to audiences as a minor) and the mother-son interactions of "Raising Kanan."

Ironically, "Influence," the slowest-starting "Power" spin-off, may have the best chance of capturing what made the original show so intriguing. However, "Influence" currently only has a title and a primary character. Rashad Tate, a dirty cop turned unscrupulous politician who locked horns with James in the final season of "Power" and carried his vendetta into a position in "Ghost," is set to return. The plot of "Influence" is as hazy as everything else about it, but Kemp has stated that the show will focus on the sleazy dealings of the New York political class.

That break from the glut of drug dealers in the "Power" universe would be exciting, and not just because of the variety it would provide. "Power" was about the cocaine industry, but it was more about the care and feeding of a double existence at its creative apex. "Power" followed in the footsteps of "Breaking Bad" and "Barry," focusing on an antihero juggling segmented lives, with one facet of his life always threatening to consume the others. The prospect of those dividers breaking creates a lot of drama, and then the chaos that ensues when they do.



The franchise is in desperate need of a starring man like James St. Patrick, who had to keep a pleasant public face while hiding bloody hands behind his back. In actuality, the most potent aspect of the "Power" universe isn't the drugs its characters sell, but the secrets and lies that their ruthless business requires of them. As the first season of "Force" draws to a close on April 17, Tommy is attempting to play both sides of a complex factional conflict by constructing a teetering tower of cards. Because the "Power" universe has proved its ability to pump out inventory, the second season could hopefully enhance Tommy's dualism. It must now demonstrate that it can diversify the product.


Source: Variety

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