In retrospect, it makes sense that 50 Cent and Courtney A. Kemp had such powerful, confident smiles on their initial Power press runs the summer of 2014. Kemp, the creator and showrunner of the series, was ready for the world to see her creation (a deviation from her work on The Good Wife). 50 Cent, the executive producer of the eight episode series, knew he had backed a winner — so much so that he even helped write the pilot. What we didn’t know seven years ago was that the pair was building their own drug dealing universe, complete with shifting antagonists, exciting spin-offs, and uncanny character development.
The Power franchise ended with six seasons and birthed two spin-offs, with another on the way in 2022. Abound with grit, drama, time-travel, and love, morality is a sliding scale — allegiances, alliances, and power are constantly shifting, making the series an instant cult-classic complete with live-tweeting. While the three franchises all have fan favorites outside of the main cast, James “Ghost” St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick), Tasha (Naturi Naughton), Tommy (Joseph Sikora), Tariq (Michael Rainey Jr.), and Kanan (50 Cent) are the core characters with uniting storylines. To prepare for everything new coming to Starz’s Drug Dealing Universe (DDU), here’s a guide to watching the three series, eight seasons, and 83 episodes of Power and its spin-offs. Beware, there are some slight spoilers.
What’s interesting about the Power universe is that most of the integral people, themes, and conflicts are introduced in season one. With the main character, James “Ghost” St. Patrick, fatherhood is a prevailing theme immediately presented in episode one. There’s this moment 12 minutes into the episode, where he acknowledges the desire to make his own father proud and parent his son correctly, all while employing the son of an old friend. We also learn in season one that the old friend is actually a frenemy, Kanan, whose story — before and after meeting Ghost — is so compelling, he earned his own spinoff, Power Book III: Raising Kanan. Ghost, an enterprising drug dealer and entrepreneur striving to go legit, attempts to leave the drug side of the business to his best friend from childhood, Tommy. What Tommy lacks in finesse he makes up for in fight, serving as the short tempered muscle of the duo. Naturally, this makes for plenty of fast paced mishaps that couldn’t possibly be covered in one series. (Tommy’s spin-off, Force, is slated to premiere in 2022.) Though Power centers around street life, family dynamics are often seen through Ghost’s interaction with his wife, Tasha, and his son, Tariq. Tasha and Ghost also have two often overlooked daughters — Tariq’s twin sister Raina, and Yaz — a fact that will come to destroy their family dynamic mid-series.
To really get a full understanding of each of the characters and their twisted dynamics, watch these episodes:
Power season 1
Power season 4 — episodes 2, 5, 9
Power season 5 — episodes 2, 6, 9
Power season 6 — episodes 2, 8, 13
Ghost season 1 — episodes 1-3
If You Could Only Watch One Season Of Each Franchise
This is easy for Raising Kanan and Ghost because, they each only have one season. But for Power, that’s a little more complicated. For each of the show’s six seasons, there were character developments and events that impacted the journey of the core crew, and you need to understand the dynamics of Kanan and Ghost in season three to understand the reasoning behind many of Kanan’s decisions in season five. You have to see the exploration of fatherhood told through the entire story of Ghost and Tariq to truly understand season six. Is it possible to choose one season that can explain later seasons, spinoffs, and keep your interest in the show without completely confusing you? Yes, season four.
Season four shows the best and worst of the entire cast, and combines enough future-shifting events and history to prepare you to watch any of the spin-offs. Will you miss out on some personable characters and some noteworthy deaths? Yes. But you just can’t miss season four. If you have another eight hours, add season five to that binge list. I like to call season five Tariq’s villain origin story. He’s not just exposed but centered around so much death, that you watch him internalize feelings of hatred and disappointment until he’s no longer just a teenager rebelling, but an angry and distant young man searching to carve his own lane in life. Plus, five is the season that Ghost becomes unbearable and you almost wish something would happen to him.
Oftentimes in crime dramas, the women are spending, sexing, or silly. The women are all of those things in the Power series at different times. But there are some standout episodes where you can’t help but exclaim, “Thank God for the women.” Season five is an example of this. While the men get emotional the women get strategic, saving their families and fortunes simultaneously. Not only does this happen in particular episodes of Power, but in spin-offs like Power Book II: Ghost and Power Book III:Raising Kanan, which practically center around women.
Ghost serves as the continuation of Power, told through the stories that surround Tariq St. Patrick. While his mom and dad are figuratively and literally ghosts in his life — you have to watch to see which is which — Tariq meets another strong matriarch who also is running the drug game named Monet, played by Mary J. Blige. Sass, smarts, and a shooter, Monet plays men like chess without compromising her integrity and the safety of her family. While her husband is locked up, she raises their three kids, keeps her talented student-athlete nephew Zeke Cross (played by Daniel Bellomy) safe and focused, and keeps rival drug dealers in check. You can’t get anything past Monet and if you do, she’s quick to recover. She also imparted this wisdom upon her daughter, who may or may not have a thing for Tariq, but refuses to get used or played. (While Tariq thinks he’s controlling all of these situations, it appears that they are mutually using each other — and so far, that’s a win for everyone.)
While watching Power, you may ask yourself, “How did Kanan get this way?” Raising Kanan attempts to answer that question, and by the end of season one you’ll find yourself saying, “It’s his mother.” Kanan’s mom, Raquel Thomas (Patina Miller), is what hood novellas in the ’80s are made of. Fly, ruthless, and calculating, she is willing to do anything for her family — except lose. Throughout season one, you won’t be sure whether you want to be her, date her, or send her to jail.
Raising Kanan season 1
Ghost season 1 — episodes 1, 3, 4, 7-10
Power season 1 — episodes 3 and 6; season 3 — episode 6; season 4 — episode 10; season 5 — episodes 8, 9 and 10; entire season 6
If snarky, sneaky, and strangely comical is your thing, you will love villain-turned-anti-hero (turned villain again) Kanan Stark. Despite being introduced in season one and present through season six, Kanan’s story is never really fully told in Power. What you do start to discover is that everything he is supposed to love, he kills or considers killing. His allegiance is not to blood or friends but to money, where you start to wonder, “Is there anything this man won’t kill?” Turns out there is, which is revealed in season five of Power. While ruthless, you catch glimpses of his humanity in Power. But the real story is in Raising Kanan. Just one season in, the story explains his close relationship with his family — including his cousin who appears in Power — his lack of a father figure, and just how he enters the drug game.
Power season 1 — episodes 1 and 2; season 2 — episode 9; season 3 — episode 4; season 4 — episodes 2, 6, 9; season 5 — episode 1, 4, 8
Raising Kanan — episodes 4, 5, 8, 10
Of course you’re interested in Tariq. Somehow, Michael Rainey Jr. — and the amazing writers in the DDU — transforms Tariq from a boy who adores his father, to a painstakingly and dangerously short-sighted teenager that ultimately becomes an interim head of the family you want to win. If you watched the series in real time, you remember how the internet wanted to collectively put Tariq over our knee. By the end of season six of Power, we just wanted him to be whole and healed. While we don’t quite see that in Tariq’s spin-off series Ghost, we do see a young man trying to become his own person while still living in his father’s shadows. We also start to see that he is more like his father than he realized. Season two of Ghost premieres this weekend and we get to see what Tariq has learned to be a better person — or a better criminal — from his lessons.
Power season 1 — episode 1; season 2 — episode 4; season 3 — episode 8; season 4 — episode 8; season 5 — episode 1, 5, 8, 9; season 6 — episode 5, 15
Ghost — episodes 3, 7-10
Banner Graphic: @popephoenix for Okayplayer
Brittiany Cierra tells stories wherever there is a screen. When she’s not writing or on air speaking about people, places, and things, she’s dancing on, or marketing them. Follow the journey on Twitter and Insta
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