The Power of Power

In every classic story at the bare minimum there are two kinds of characters, the hero and the villain. You are conditioned to cheer for the hero while praying for the villain’s downfall. There are times when the villain can become compelling such as Papa Pope in Scandal.  But what if there are no heroes or villains? It can be argued that this applies to shows like Scandal because every single character has dirt on them and has done nefarious things (I think rigging an election, protecting corrupt politicians, and almost killing your father are especially egregious) yet at the end of the day Olivia Pope is undeniably the hero who always claims to wear the white hat. Enter Power. Power is undeniably not a show with heroes and villains but it falls into the gray area of morality where it become difficult to extricate right from wrong. The characters in Power are deep and complex but they all fall within this gray area. Some are more popular than others but it is undeniable that Courtney Kemp Agboh’s crime drama forces us to explore new avenues for how black and brown characters are portrayed on television. Whereas it is easier to cheer for Cookie instead of Anika, Power makes viewers take a step back and and at least briefly consider the actions of the characters.  All the characters intersect with James “Ghost” St. Patrick portrayed by Omari Hardwick and he does provide a central way to reconceptualize  how black and brown characters can be humanized even if they do not fit into the “respectable” mold.

Thomas Egan

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I am not the biggest Tommy fan (sorry not sorry) but he is an important point of comparison to the other characters who I do like. As the token white person in the show, Joseph Sikora’s character is in love with the drug dealing and street life so much that he is the main obstacle  that stands in Ghost’s way who is trying to go legit and leave his criminal days behind him. Tommy is similar yet the opposite of Ghost. Whereas Ghost is all calculating and to a point manipulative, Tommy is primal and operates on raw emotion (dude has serious anger and drug issues). Tommy does not hesitate to react to a situation based on how he is feeling (which is why even though I didn’t like her I felt it was very smart that Holly handcuff Tommy to the bed when she was going to ask him to run away with her). Tommy is a character we have seen on television before, but in the context of a predominately black cast he is beneficial especially when viewed as the opposite of Ghost. Tommy becomes a lens through which we can reconceptualize how black men are portrayed on television. Ghost does not become a cliche drug dealer who cleans his money with his club, instead Agboh has provided the Tommy as a foil to Ghost a representation of Ghost’s drug life and the instability of it.

Tasha St. Patrick

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Tasha is an interesting character for me. I have loved Naturi Naughton from back during her 3LW days plus she is from the town right next to mine (East Orange stand up). Naturi’s does Tasha justice by showing the complexity in the character. She like Tommy loves the game (or more so the lifestyle that the game produces) and as a result is very surprised by her husband’s declaration early in season 1 that he wants out. Tasha married Ghost after she protected him one night when he was pulled over with a gun in the car and ever since then she was living the perfect life

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until old flame Angela Valdes came back into Ghost’s life as if by fate. Tasha felt betrayed once she learned that Ghost was cheating on her and to add insult to injury it felt worse when she learned that Angie was particularly looking to arrest Ghost. I must admit the reason I am not on Team Tasha is due to my own biases. Even though it wouldn’t have been good for the story, Ghost probably wouldn’t have ran into the hands of Angie had

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Tasha just supported his dream to get out while he was ahead before everyone wanted to kill him (like they want to do now). Tasha could have easily become a stereotype of the neck rolling hood rich woman (though she  has elements of this identity to the point where Ghost had to tell her to dress like she owns the place instead of as someone who is trying to get in for free) but besides her materialistic ways it become evident that she loves her family and will do what she can to protect them even if it meant killing a federal prosecutor (bad idea girl smh). Tasha fits in as a black woman in the post-Olivia Pope Era, she is confident, self assure, and  she proves to know how to play the game as well. As one of the women in Ghost’s life, she also represents his life of crime and her strategizing with him shows that she is not just a pretty face (Let’s also not forget how she would manipulate Shawn when she wanted something).

Angela Valdes 

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Now despite me saying that there are no heroes and villains in Power, many fans view Lela Loren’s character Angela as a villain.  After all Angela stayed with a man after learning that he was married so many women aren’t for her and on top of it all she if a Fed hunting for Ghost. Yet Angela just shows how complicated being human is. For many people that love Angela and James together, Angela was there first and supports James’ endeavors, which puts her in opposition to Tasha who wants to keep Ghost tethered to the drug life. I like Angela because her story is unique and one that even in this age of women of color on screen isn’t really explored. The sexism that Angela faces at her job is undeniable. Her actions were always second guessed even before she started bending the rules. As the only woman after Frankie left, Angela had to confront these issues on her own without any sense of guidance. Whereas we meet Jessica Pearson and Olivia Pope

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at the top of their game in dominating their opponents, we are introduced to Angela still trying to navigate this space and work her way up the ladder even though her messy personal life that occasionally spilling over into her professional one. Like Ghost, Angela wants more than the life she left behind in the old neighborhood and will do what needs to be done to get it. Like Tasha, Angela was not afraid of using her womanly wiles to get Greg to assist her with her quest to prove herself. Despite the disdain many have for Angela the show would not function without her. The truth is from the end of episode 1 in season 1 you knew that there would be an inevitable game of cat and mouse between Angela and Ghost when it was revealed that she was a federal prosecutor searching for Lobos’ New York distributor. Now that Ghost has bested her in blowing her case against Tommy wide open, Angela has decided to forsake the fantasy that he represented and has made the decision that all her energies need to go into bringing Ghost to down. While Angela employed borderline illegal tactics such as wiretapping Ghost’s phone and talking to a minor without parental consent she felt that she was doing what was right, and feels betrayed when Ghost blindsided her.  Angela allowed us to see Ghost as James, not the drug kingpin Tasha and Tommy wanted him to be but the dreamer who always wanted more than the cliche from hood to riches story.

James “Ghost” St. Patrick

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It can be argued that Omari Hardwick’s character James “Ghost” St. Patrick is a type of anti-hero. Yes he is the protagonist but his actions aren’t defined as “classically heroic.” After two seasons of watching Power it has become evident that Ghost looks out for Ghost and once you understand that you understand why he makes the decisions he does. He has double crossed everyone from his wife, best friend and mistress, to secondary characters like Ruiz , the Serb, and crazy son-killing Kanan. Ghost knows what he wants and will do what he can to get it, which makes his mental chess match with Angela so compelling. He is arguably the smartest person on the show often playing like a true chess master as if he was taught at the feet of Papa Pope and Jessica Pearson themselves. Even as an anti-hero Ghost’s pride is his fatal flaw and though he has been able to fend off Angela he is unaware of the chaos developing in his own organization outside of the fact that Kanan tried to have Shawn kill him (RIP Shawn). The reason Ghost is such a powerful character is because he

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embodies all the contradictions that make humans so complex. Ghost could have easily been more drug kingpin than dreamer wanting instead to expand his enterprise and get deeper invested in the game. He could have taken Lobos’ offer to become his representative in the US but instead saw a way to materialize his escape route and go legit. The patience with which Ghost is preparing his final offensive against Stern to get back Truth shows how committed he is to his other life.  I think it is obvious Ghost wants Angela and after he destroyed her case and put her job at risk he said now they could be together and that Angela was actually in love with the person

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standing in front of him. Ghost was right to call out Angela for being mad that she lost (temporarily) in their game but his hubris got ahead of him as he thought she would just fall in line so that their fantasy could come true. Of course he underestimated her and forgot that she has proven to be relentless and that she would also go the distance to get what she

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wanted. Until Angela called him Ghost in the penultimate episode of season 2 he was just James to her but now she has forced him out of the gray anti-hero area he has become comfortable in and views him solely as the villain to be brought down. After all “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”.

 

 

Power shows why we need more writers and creators like Courtney Kemp Agboh to push the boundary and tell more of our stories. Yes we have Shonda, Tyler, and Lee who tell different types of stories but Power shows that it is always great when we can have more black storytellers who create these rich characters that cause people to invest so much time into. I love the ambiguity that Agboh and her writers bring to these characters as they function as mirrors into ourselves. I often find myself wondering what would I do if I was in *insert character’s name* position and find that it is not as clear cut as it seems. Though Power is still a fiction, the realism with which Agboh builds her world makes her characters easy to relate to and become invested in. Moreover, the complexity she brings to the storytelling of character of colors helps to answer the very broad question of how can we add nuance to how blackness is portrayed on the small screen.

 

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