For six seasons, the Starz original series Power has captivated and confounded several of its begrudgingly loyal viewers. Created by Courtney A. Kemp, and executive produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, the series has followed the exploits of well-to-do nightclub owner James St. Patrick, as he worked to keep his legitimate business profitable while also operating under the street alias of “Ghost”, one of the biggest goddamn drug dealers in New York City. Things of course get complicated when Ghost reconnects with his high school sweetheart, Angela Valdez . . . who grew up to become a federal prosecutor. Most people, SMART people, would have said, “Well, it’s been great catching up! Have a nice life!” the SECOND this information was shared. But if Power has taught us everything over the past six years, it’s that Ghost is not a smart person. He‘s had his moments where he seemed like someone who can competently navigate the criminal underworld, and garner more success than failure, but it’s usually not without taking the hit somewhere else. And Ghost’s decision to pursue Angela romantically, DESPITE already being married to the hottest member of 3LW, aka Naturi Naughton as Tasha, still baffles me to this day!
**Spoiler Warning for anyone who hasn’t been watching . . . **
Now, as the series progressed, things got increasingly more ridiculous, and Power has been a full-on daytime soap opera pretty much since season three. Nothing made the show more exciting and frustrating than 50 Cent as Ghost’s old running buddy, Kanan. A dyed in the wool street dude who was basically Wile E. Coyote in live-ass human form, Kanan believed himself to be smarter than he really was, and usually found himself pausing to look down just before falling off a cliff. Kanan’s quest to reclaim his throne as H.N.I.C. of the streets, after doing hard time, is arguably one of the most hilarious character arcs ever put to screen, and it definitely had more satisfying moments than not. Though the character finally met his demise in season five, Kanan did have some measure of success in his quest to knock Ghost off his pedestal . . . by influencing his son, Tariq.
Remember The Dark Knight, where the Joker’s antics culminated in Gotham’s “golden boy”, district attorney Harvey Dent, getting half of his face blown off, thus forcing him to take up spree killing?! (incidentally, both The Dark Knight and this current season of Power feature actress Monique Gabriela Curnen!) This is basically what Kanan did to Tariq, subtly influencing his decisions and exposing him to his father’s nefarious double life. With every new secret revealed, Tariq is pushed even further down a path that sees him following in his father’s footsteps. Petty theft, home invasion and murder eventually see Tariq trying to stay one step ahead of a dirty cop who ultimately kills Tariq’s twin sister Raina while trying to get to him. Now to be fair, I firmly believe Raina got herself killed, for thinking that she could confront someone that anyone would be able to tell was willing to pop a cap in a total stranger. This man had every earmark of a “do-dirt” thug, and I think Raina should have known better! Don’t take this as me absolving Tariq, but sometimes. . . accountability is a two-way street with speed bumps.
In any event, I feel like this proved to be a major turning point for Tariq as a character. Naturally wanting to avenge his sister, he tracks down the dirty cop who shot her, and before Ghost, Tasha, and Ghost’s lifelong partner in crime Tommy, can get to him, he shoots and kills the cop, leaving the others to clean up his mess. Even Angela has to get involved, making the entire drama between her, Ghost, and Tasha, all the more tenuous. But that’s another story. We are talking about the decisions of one, Tariq St. Patrick, and how they’ve been repeatedly . . . the stupidest decisions a character could make with the wealth of knowledge and experience they already have at their disposal! The evolution of this character has done nothing but boil my piss for the past three seasons. We’re so beyond the point of no return that I refuse to believe there is anything the writers can do to redeem the character. We can presume that as being the point, but it doesn’t make his subplots any less infuriating to watch play out. I’m sure there are those who would argue that Tariq is acting out understandably in response to the revelations about his father, including the infidelity that led to the end of his parents’ relationship, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah! I couldn’t care less about any of that. If I had witnessed no less than three murders, and murdered somebody myself, all before I was old enough to drive, I’d be doing everything in my power to not put myself in that situation again! But if Tariq has inherited anything from his father. . . it’s debilitating stupidity!
Now obviously, like anything, nurturing a successful criminal enterprise means affording oneself the likelihood of making mistakes. Mistakes are how we all learn and grow, and certainly should not be dismissed as an important factor in attaining success. But the level at which Tariq continues to fail at being a gangster is as hilarious as it is astonishing. You would think after your own sister was murdered, you would want to take a step back and re-evaluate the life choices that led to this outcome. Not Tariq St. Patrick! He’d rather let Kanan’s influence continue to leech its way through his brain, and ally himself with a cadre of mafia outliers who he ultimately decides to supply product for. He’s also formed a small collective of dealers to move pills for him . . . AT HIS PRIVATE SCHOOL!!!! Not off-campus at the town outlet mall or the local Menchies Fro-Yo spot . . . IN THE DORMS OF THE PRIVATE SCHOOL!!!! And it’s in this that I have to marvel at Tariq’s complete and utter lack of situational awareness, the kind of awareness he’s never had the opportunity to cultivate given the years of privilege that separated him from the street life his father grew up in. Almost immediately, Tariq finds himself a victim of his own success, experiencing such difficulty in maintaining inventory, that he tries to steal product from his godfather Tommy. Obviously Tommy, an experienced, albeit emotional, trafficker of narcotics, will be damned if he’s gonna let Tariq carry on with this Tony Montana fantasy of his. But even Tommy’s patent-pending brand of tough love can’t dissuade Tariq from trying to pull a Sarah Polley in Go to fool his junior mafia customers.
Thus bringing us to the last two episodes of this latest season of Power, as Tariq’s dealing gets him kicked out of private school (one of the dealers he recruited turned out to be a mole), and his pill swapping gets him kidnapped, and forces Ghost and Tommy, who have been playing Spy vs. Spy since Tommy killed Angela at the end of last season, to work together to acquire a ransom of two million dollars. It’s quickly revealed that Tariq has supposedly convinced his disgruntled mafia connect Vincent to insist on Tommy and Ghost working together to secure the ransom, and split it with him 50/50. But remember how I said Tariq inherited debilitating stupidity from his father? Well, Tariq inherited debilitating stupidity from his father, and doesn’t realize that Vincent’s planning on killing all three of them once he’s got the money. Only by pure chance does he discover this later, and thankfully relays the info to Tasha, as he needs to be temporarily remanded to his mother’s custody to talk to police about the murder of Ghost’s lawyer, which he lies through his teeth about, infuriating Tasha. And only after a multitude of instances of what can only be described as “divine intervention” do Tariq, Ghost, and Tommy make it out of the ordeal with their lives, but not before Tariq has his midsection tenderized with a sack of oranges after Ghost and Tommy fail to meet the original 24-hour deadline.
And in spite of all this, the preview for the next episode shows Tariq on a chase for product to get back in the game, and he goes to one of Ghost’s biggest adversaries to do it; the chronically duplicitous Kanan protege, Dre. Even if you’re all Gung ho about wanting to be a hustler, would it really be so bad if you just took a break? A sabbatical? Take some time to get your mind right?! Because make no mistake, Tariq makes objectively poor decisions almost exclusively. Yes, I’m fully aware that this is all meant to reflect on Ghost as a character, and his all-around failings as a husband and father. I get that. But it doesn’t diminish Tariq’s boundless arrogance and stupidity in the face of everything he’s had to endure in a ludicrously compressed span of time. At this point, we’re way beyond the fear of Tariq becoming just like Ghost. The bigger and more plausible fear is that he’s becoming just like Kanan; a force of nature that lacks any concept of ever being woefully out of his depth, which can be as dangerous for him as it is for anyone who gets in his way. To draw yet another Dark Knight comparison, Kanan was a dog chasing cars. He wouldn’t know what to do with one if he actually caught it, he just did things. If no one can see that as the path Tariq insists on putting himself on, then we just haven’t been paying attention.