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Power, Ep. 1.03: “This is Real” feels like lowered stakes

Power, Ep. 1.03: “This is Real” feels like lowered stakes


Power, Season 1: Episode 3 – “This is Real”
Written by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Directed John David Coles
Airs Saturday nights at 9 on Starz

“This is Real” mostly deals with the reverberations of Ghost’s actions in Power to this point. That may take the form of the key chain that his daughter chokes on, but it is also represented in how all the groups involved in the crime plot–police forces included–are responding to the message that Ghost sent via severed body parts. So, on paper, there’s plenty of content here–stuff happens, as it were. Yet the episode itself feels like a less urgent or important one when so much of the focus is on the trials and tribulations of being a night club owner. The strand of story that involves a dealer giving bad cocaine to a woman who nearly dies in Truth might not take up the majority of the screen time, but the sense that it’s the central part of the action is absolutely a part of the viewing experience, intentional or otherwise.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The story itself makes sense and works fine enough. It doesn’t amount to a whole lot, but it doesn’t feel hastily put together and incorporated without purpose. These are, after all, things that Ghost would inevitably be facing. How he handles the situation after the woman is hospitalized is the main reason the story is there at all. For one, it forces him into a situation in which he has to exercise restraint in the professional setting where he would be using physical force in a street setting. He can’t just pull aside the dealer, who comes back on another night, and shoot him in the bathroom. He has to catch him in the act and get retribution in a lawful(-ish) way. On top of that, it further shows how intellectually open-minded Ghost is as a decision-maker. He has his natural instincts, of course, but he seeks advice, weighs it and visits the woman in the hospital as a show of support–without a lawyer that might intimidate her. There is a compassion in many of Ghost’s actions that don’t have to be limited to ones involving Angie (how he handled his employee who got her face cut, for example). It’s a not a new note, but it’s one that is worth emphasizing for a character whose archetype is usually a bit different and more ruthless. So, those are things that the Truth plot can get the viewer thinking about, but they ultimately don’t justify the heavy use of that story, I think.

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Luckily, there are several other threads that “This is Real” picks up. One is Shawn going to visit his father, played by Power-producer 50 Cent. We get some sense of the backstory between Ghost and Kanan, but Ghost never quite tells Shawn the full version of what his relationship with his father was like. Shawn, though, is just glad to have him in his life at the moment, which gives him something else to do other than being semi-seduced by Tasha. Tasha, meanwhile, is becoming more and more distanced from Ghost when she learns that he’s been keeping information from her (in this case, the amount of money he took out of their bank account to fund the club). When Power began, the couple seemed relatively solid. The quick disintegration hasn’t been unearned, but I would like to see more and better reasons as to why that rift has been allowed to grow as it has. I can’t imagine the time Ghost has to put into Truth being enough of a reason, and while I buy that his involvement with Angie is enough to explain his distance, Tasha’s isn’t as clear to me within the logic of the world.

The episode also speeds up the Ghost-Angie story by having them kiss already, after which Ghost buys her diamonds (more expensive ones, presumably, than the ones he gives Tasha). Paying a little closer attention to their scenes, it’s amusing how Omari Hardwick sheds so much of Ghost’s demeanor to the point where he’s kind of coming off bumbling. It’s endearing and true-to-life. Ghost doesn’t look like a strong character in those scenes, but it makes the chemistry there more appealing. Little details like Angie twirling the umbrella add to that, too, showing that both characters are just as giddy about whatever is forming. That love story itself isn’t the most interesting part of Power, but there’s obviously tons of information they are going to learn about each other in the coming episodes–some that will not go down very well. And when a story like that has consequences elsewhere, like Ghost’s daughter almost choking, it gains a forward-moving kind of ominousness. This isn’t a story that seems equipped to let happy people be happy for very long before terrible things start happening.

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– Sean Colletti