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Power S01E01: "Not Exactly How We Planned"


Pop quiz: How many of you knew that Starz had a new drama series called Power on the way? Did you know what it was about, or that it premiered Saturday night? 

No matter how you answered those questions, the television industry has reached a point where relatively prominent networks can produce and release a slick-looking new show with some big names attached and most of the country isn't even aware of it, myself included. Power is further confirmation that there is simply too much television out there. And the consequence is that solid-but-not-great shows like Power are likely to immediately fall through the cracks in an instant. That's too bad; while the series' opening episode ran through a cavalcade of familiar paces, it did so with a few solid performances and some impressive visuals. 

In case you didn't catch the debut, either on Starz or online via early samplingPower follows James "Ghost" St. Patrick (Being Mary Jane's Omari Hardwick), a wealthy club owner by night and a burgeoning drug kingpin... also by night. Having clawed his way to the top of the drug game, James struggles to reconcile his illegally obtained income with his dreams of going completely legit. His wife Tasha (The Playboy Club's Naturi Naughton) is well aware of where the money comes from, but she isn't especially fond of James' occasional aloofness and/or dedication to the job. And as James' relationship with his Mexican drug connection (Without a Trace's Enrique Murciano) starts to go south and an old flame with a problematic occupation (Gang Related's Lela Loren) enters his life, James starts to feel the pressure that comes along with—you guessed it—power. 


If that sounds entirely derivative, that's because it absolutely is. As this pilot made clear, Power doesn't have many new ideas to present to the world. There was quite a bit of discussion about what it takes to survive on the street and what it means to try to escape that life when it's been such an integral part of your life for so long, and blah blah blah. James spoke about how he "made it" to his dead father, and yet found himself troubled by having to take drastic, violent means to protect his drug operation as efficiently as possible. 

Furthermore, we met James as he was getting dressed to the nines to manage his swanky new club, but by the end of the next sequence, he'd stripped off the nice shirt and tie so that he could execute someone who hit up one of his drug hotspots. Power is the kind of series that makes a big point out of the symbolism in its lead character's apparel; putting on, then taking off, then putting back on that outfit was clearly intended to signify that James is trapped between two worlds, that the suit is something he wears to cosplay in a life he wishes was completely real, and so on.

Every plotline established in this pilot immediately evoked stories we've seen before. Of course James has to be morally conflicted about his dueling lives. Of course Lela Loren's Angela represents the road not traveled and happens to be part of a task force that's specifically trying to hunt James down. And of course there are questions about who James can trust and who thinks they can trust him. Power is absolutely the type of wrong-side-of-the-law cable drama we've grown very comfortable with, and that networks know how to churn out with ease. 


Nevertheless, in the capable hands of creator Courtney Kemp Agboh (a former writer for The Good Wife), director Anthony Hemingway, and Omari Hardwick, these too-familiar conversations and sequences boasted a surprising amount of life and style. Hemingway's direction gave Power a strong visual template to work with from here on out; this sucker was glossy when it needed to be and a little cold when it needed to be. The opening episode did some fine stuff with its New York locations, which is always a plus in my mind. Agboh, Hemingway, and their editing team also did a nice job of keeping the hour moving. The story might've been familiar, but so much was established in the opening 50 minutes—James' internal turmoil and his external threats with the Mexican cartel and the Puerto Rican competition, various subplots involving his wife's jealousy, his mother-in-law's distrust, etc.—that there wasn't much time to really ponder how standardized it all is. Everything came together in a well-produced package. 

However, the real revelation was Hardwick, who's appeared in a lot of stuff you've probably seen (Dark Blue and Kick-Ass, perhaps most notably). The pilot asked Hardwick to carry so much of the load, and James is somewhat of an interesting character—particularly in the second half of the episode, once Angela showed up—but he handled himself very well. Hardwick's James is more emotionally expressive than you might expect from this kind of anti-hero-ish character at the center of a dark cable drama, and the actor seems to have good chemistry with everyone in the cast. That's especially true with regard to Joseph Sikora, who plays James' longtime buddy Tommy. The scenes between the two of them were warm and natural, even when the characters were discussing how to keep a million-dollar drug operation from going under. 


There's also something to be said for Power's diverse cast and crew. Many of the show's key players are minorities, including creator Agboh and director Hemingway. It's not fair to say that it's progressive for Starz to have picked up a series from a black woman about a black drug dealer who works primarily with folks from Mexico (and while Puerto Ricans serve as his primary competition), but it's certainly a good thing. Frankly, there've been enough TV shows featuring middle-aged white dudes breaking the proverbial bad. If we really need another series with these types of storylines, I welcome one that, from top to bottom, comes from a different perspective. That's something we should support. 

Power's pilot wasn't great, nor did it establish anything that felt fresh or original enough to make the show worth committing to immediately. However, despite the familiarity of the story beats and the character types, a strong lead performance from Omari Hardwick at least forces me to consider putting Power on my already extended DVR watchlist. If you haven't already, I suggest that you consider doing the same.



NOTES

– I don't watch many Starz shows, but this episode didn't feature HBO or Cinemax levels of nudity, which I found to be a little surprising. There was some exhibitionist masturbation from Naughton's character, though, so suck it Game of Thrones!

– This show is executive-produced by Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson, who will appear in a supporting role, but he was a no-show in the first episode. What a shame that was, right? Mr. Jackson did provide the theme song and at least one other track, which played immediately after the opening titles, because I guess that's the only way people are going to listen to 50 Cent music in 2014. The intro sequence was pretty cool, though. 


Did you watch the debut of Power? What'd you think? Had you even heard of it before now?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/21/2016

Season 3 : Episode 6

Next Episode

AIRS ON 8/28/2016

Season 3 : Episode 7

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I watched both episodes. This is obviously a woman's version of what drug dealers would sound and act like if they were women. It's not bad as a show and could get better but it's a little weak on the intensity, even the murder was completely anti-climatic. Also, the rainbow feel good meeting of nationalities working in the same crew is absolutely unbelievable. Also they said they arent a gang. So how the hell would 20 people take over a huge majority of the drug trade in NYC? Serious plot flaw there guys. But the most glaring weakness is how "Ghost" isn't a known drug dealer and still has anonymity even as the leader of such an organization that he can afford a NY Penthouse and to be able to open a 10 million dollar club without him being at least known in the police department's drug or gang enforcement.
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I have watched this pilot. Not interested in gangs, gansters bad feelings about killing people, choices between drug dealing and club business, or in general, supporting criminal life in fiction. We have to give the show merits for having most of their cast not white males when it fits. But I was bored the whole time. So this is a pass for me.
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So what to make of Joseph Sikora who has been in a lot of places on television since 2010? It will be interesting to see him as part of the main cast. I first remember him from 'Boardwalk Empire' as Margaret's husband in the pilot Then he had a great, hilarious, run on 'The Heart, She Holler' then he gets a run as a White Supremacist beefing with 'Emmett' on 'Banshee' (later to be killed by 'Burton'), now here. (His last character may have a few problems with this one :)) Dude is on a role; great character actor with a lot of range. He'll be working for a long time. Should be an interesting new show. It looks better than any of the sh!t coming back to USA at least. It will be interesting to see if it can hold or build on the audience that the just finished watching the excellent 2nd season of 'DaVinci's Demons' in this Saturday 9pmEST spot where Starz lives.
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I sample it early (thanks to grumpyclown reminding me) and I loved it ! It is probably nothing new but there is no current TV show with its theme - Brotherhood and gangs.

It is even better than gang related which I like. If the whole season is as good as the pilot, than it is an above average show.

Hardwick is great but his chemistry with Tommy (played by Joseph sikora - who was in the Tom Cruise movie - Jack Reacher) was a joy to watch. It really felt like they are childhood friends and had each other's back all their life. I think this is important because I get the feeling by the end of season one, they will have conflicts that might result in a major break-up.

Only weak point was the wife. I just think we need a better and hotter actress for that role.



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Just managed to catch episode two in between the breaks for World Cup matches. The second episode is just as good. This is one of my favorite NEW show for 2014 !
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I enjoyed the show. I love the characters and I can't wait to see what's going to happen.
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wow another show of dishonest thugs who only care about themselves and their own profits- while carrying on the illusion that they are not that way?? OMG we have NEVER had a show like that before! what a new idea! (LOL!)
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This seems to be obe of those shows you watch if you're tired of watching shows with white people.
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Being a cat from the inner city, of course I would watch a show about cats from the inner city, if its any good. Power's just not gritty enough, and the character portrayals are nothing like the kind of folk you meet in the real world. The dialect and mannerisms are all wrong, its riddled with cliches, the street politics seem taken from the mind of one who is very unfamiliar with them. Everything looks staged.

It's a shame too, because tv land could use more cultural variety.

I would prefer to be able to like this show, but at this point, I don't. I'm glad someone does.
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I'm not from the US. What's the inner city like, just out of curiosity?
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The inner city is pretty much the center of any metropolitan major city. in the US, these urban areas tend to be highly populated with working class minorities. I'm from Washington DC, but I've spent time in NYC and Baltimore.. The Wire was filmed in Baltimore and its about as realistic as a show can get when it comes to portraying urban crime, and politics.
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Thanks. From the USA I know only Orange County California, and I stayed in a hotel downtown LA.
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Thanks for the information. Saves me the trouble of watching. There are too many options on TV and not enough time to see them all.
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"I guess that's the only way people are going to listen to 50 Cent music in 2014."

Ummm…Because your white you probably don't realize how big Get Rich or Die Tryin the album and movie impacted the black community…50 cent was being bumped in the west coast by bloods and crips while this nigga is straight outta new york…he literally destroyed Ja Rule's career who was hot at that time and he created the word Wanksta….50 cent is a legend in hip-hop your a fool
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Ummm... That's not what he said. 'Get Rich or Die Tryin' came out how long ago? When was the last time 50 had a hit? When was the last time there was a huge buzz about his music? The last time I even heard a new 50 song was my freshman year of college and my roommate said "omg he's back!" and I said "ehh" ... That was 5yrs ago and I haven't heard a 50 song since
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You and the guy who wrote this are very ignorant when it comes to 50 cent and his music. Fifty has many of records on the radio, he just put G-unit back together and a few months back he dropped an album animal ambition. Get rich went diamond in hip hop that doesn't no happen anymore so move away from the past. 50 cent is a great artist.
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Damn homie, when I was in high school he was the man homie. Haha
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I love the first ep and was disappointed when it was not on last night. I thought this series was slated to be on every Saturday night at 10, which would be great as there is nothing else on on Saturday nights
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I liked this opening episode.....but in real life people aren't able to live seemingly normal family lives juggling being gangsters. There's something missing when people are able to kill. Just saying....I've lived with "a" guy.
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Umm actually they can not in all circumstances, but I'm from Chicago a mob town and having a front politics/legit business/acquaintances is not uncommon (especially in urban/hood fiction).
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Sound to me like he climbe to far up the drug ladder to take his business legitimate.
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This is written both predictably and with oddities to make it seem unpredictable. In that there's the usual kingpin struggling with illegitimate and legitimate life sources. The greedy, insecure and near cheating wife because of it all. A family who are in the dark - except for a 'knowing' and uncaring mother in law. A possible girlfriend who just happens to be a ADA blah, blah.
The unusual? Wow he's got a white partner who he grew up with. His wife wanks off in front of the curious chauffeur, who God knows how doesn't crash or pullover, and comes in seconds - I need a woman like that. Did she keep her undies in the safe and burn then? I lost interest too much by then. How do you know a cartel general is crazy? Well, he's allegedly fucking his sister, so look out!
It has all the usual traits of could grow into something better feel but it's doubtful considering Omari's character has scruples, his wife is nothing but a weight and the oncoming girlfriend is going to turn into the usual mix of trying to protect him or bring him in balls. I keep expecting his white partner to reveal his Arian tat's and burn him down. Oh one thing, the only remote thing, is who really is behind knocking off the two kingpins. But that seems to have been given away at the end with Lillian's botched killing and her seeing the stamp on the guy she slotted.
I can only blame having too much candy for even writing this much about it.
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Actually that botched "corporate takeover" in the elevator is what is gonna get me to episode 2. The partners may have different ideas on resolving conflict... or maybe not... but I'm hoping for an insight to more fringe characters on the show -
guy distributing guns and playing Romeo to Juliet on the balcony
Puerto Rican competition
Cartel guy and his man's other useful talents (wtf?)
egotistical fast talking nightclub guy
driver (nuff said)
.....and of course elevator chick/courier with her wits about her
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Yeah my last line above covers the "corporate takeover" lack of shock now to look forward to.
Romeo is the Puerto Rican's man so I doubt anything novel there. Just the usual dating the bosses daughter trouble with a double trub.
Creepy cartel's fuck buddy henchman hasn't the balls (!) for more. And Enrico isn't far creepy enough. I found his 2D acting as an FBI agent fatiguing - and not in a good or talented way 0_0
Night club guy will no doubt be the weak link for the Law Agents to exploit as he's an asshole and all put out about not being given his supposed worth.
As it goes, I found Lillian the most intriguing as she's quick on her feet mentally and still fought back even after getting a permanent reminder of just how dangerous lifts can be.
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RIP Jennifer Beals driver from Chicago Code / Johnny from Graceland, may you be jumping up and down in that big bouncy castle in the sky full of strippers. :-)
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I agree the show is predictable. I watched it and I could tell you how the whole story will play out. He will get back together with his ex. She will love him too much to turn him and will try to save him. His wife will either cheat or end up betraying him. His best friend will betray him and the rest is history. I mean I know it's hard to be original out there but this show is like you take stuff from other shows and just place a new name on it. The acting was good expect for the woman playing his wife you can see she is trying to hard to play the typical wife married to a gangster role. The lobbos guy don't seem intimidating to me. Over all I would give the series a 2 out of 5.
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I don't watch much tv but my husband and I really enjoyed the show. I can't wait to watch it next week.
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I watched the whole premiere and I'm not sure why, it wasn't very compelling and nothing I hadn't seen before. I won't be watching g it again.
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Mr Baker pretty much summed up my own feeling about this show: OK, but nothing we haven't seen a million times over.

Power has two things working for it right now, though:
- Really good casting - I don't recall anything Omari Hardwick didn't before, but, no doubt about it, playing Ghost is going to put him on the map. Everybody else is just as good.
- There's absolutely nothing else on television right now. I'm being really serious here - the current lack of interesting original programmings out there is a real advantage for this scripted drama. You watch it as a back-to-back with Gang Related, and voilà - you've got yourself a pretty decent two-hours time-wasting block!

That being said, it's obvious Kemp Agboh has a lot of work ahead of her. The predictable beat of this first episode can be excuse, as this was the series pilot, but, no doubt about it, she has to find a way to get this out of the well known path already paved by "Sugar Hill" and, to a lesser extent, "The Godfather Part III".

We already know this story, Courtney... what will make your own take on it any different?
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Nothing to watch on TV? Maybe, if you like just one type of show. But maybe this is a chance for you to get out of your gang - related bubble and enjoy the great things available on TV. In fact I agree with the article:there's too much to watch these days.
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If you really wanted to watch a good show even if you don't have the channel, you know that it's as easy as to log into Facebook to find the show online. For one of the most popular streaming sites I will refer you to Primewire ag. You can basically find all the shows worth watching there. All the new episodes are uploaded within an hour of airing. It just really pisses me off when people complain about not having the certain channel, when the show you want to watch is just 3 clicks away..
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... How do you think I watch Power? On... cable!?

LMFAO... ah, you're cute. 'Bet you also think I have a Netflix account too!
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That isn't true about nothing else on TV right now. There's Fargo, Penny Dreadful and Orphan Black. Suits is also coming back next week.

Some of the upcoming shows look really good too, like The Leftovers, The Strain, Dominion, The Last Ship, Extant, Legends, Outlander and Wayward Pines. Gracepoint is worth checking out since it has David Tennant, the same lead from the original British version.
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Let me be clear about something : you're right at saying there's a whole lot of shows coming out... but they're not here yet.

From Sunday to Tuesday, there's plenty of interesting original programmings out there, but afterward, not much - which is why I pointed out, I think accurately, that it would play to Power's advantage.

I also said the show obviously needs to get better... That's ultimately the only way it will survive.
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You named here four shows that, BTW, I watch, but that's hardly a whole lot of current programming. Two of those plays during the weekend, and, if there's a time when there's definitely new shows playing, it's Sunday.

But what about Monday? Except for Fargo, what else is playing on Tuesday? And naming all those upcoming shows... doesn't that clearly prove without a doubt there's nothing on TV right now?

Hell, just check the volume of articles posted by TV.com... they obviously do not have a whole lot to write, since there's not a whole lot happening on the tube.
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I only listed the shows I thought were the best currently airing.

On Mondays there is Rookie Blue, 24: LAD, Longmire, Murder in the First, The Listener and Major Crimes. If you like Beauty and the Beast and Mistresses then that's also on the schedule.

Tuesdays there's Fargo, Awkward, Faking It, Wentworth, The Night Shift and Pretty Little Liars.

Wednesdays there's The 100, Graceland, Suits, Rogue and Offspring.

The weekend is not filled with that many shows right now, but I guess it's a good time to catch up on older ones if you really want to..
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Yup. No shortage of excellent programming at the moment.
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Wow I fully agree.
Really NOTHING else on tv to watch.
Gang related is a decent show. and same goes for Power.
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That's a very narrow-minded statement. And the opposite of what the article says. According to it, there's TOO MUCH to watch on TV.
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Euh... it's not because Cory Barker wrote something that we all have to automatically agree with him.

No offense, Cory.
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It was decent, so I will give it a few more episode.
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I tried watching this a few days ago and thought it was garbage. Its just not credible.
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maybe if you tried the second eps?
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Power's gonna swim or sink irregardless of my initial impression. I'll see what others say about it in the coming weeks, but there's lots of excellent stuff on tv right now. A surplus of highly rated shows I've never watched, plus I have to finish up season 2 of Hannibal, Orp Black, and Complete series of 24, Alias, and Heroes.

If Power aint soon hailed as phenomenal, I may never get back to it.
Omari Hardwick was excellent in "Dark Blue".
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Me myself have just finished hannibal 2 [ beginning great as the last 2 eps] rest was realy boring. I didn't even start with 24.......
orphan black is getting better and better!!!!
heroes only until season 2.
dark blue, I look it up.
to be honest the second eps of power was a bit of a disapoinment [:((]
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Dark Blue only ran for 2 seasons. It was on TNT. I still havent watched any of the original 24 series.. I watched season one of Heroes, only a couple eps of Alias. Every series is entitled to a couple of not so great episodes I guess. I was digging Penny Dreadful, but the last two eps have been abyssmal.
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I agree with you antmorris3511, I love orphan black but I think power will sink. I could be wrong but we've all see the gangster stuff and it's beyond predictable what's going to happen unless the writer takes another angle that we haven't seen before. I like Omari in dark blue and he was pretty decent in power but I feel like the show is just a bunch of gangater stuff taken from other series and has a new name to it.
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