This series attempts to achieve the same level of gravitas that The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Game Of Thrones, Mad Men, etc have reached...but it all fell short. Instead of building up Omari Hardwick's character from the beginning, they focus on style rather than substance. Instead of showing us the daily routine he goes through and THEN going into his mob-esque lifestyle, we get that from the beginning. There are no extended scenes of him cozying up with his family and bonding on a personal level with his kids. Hell, the only parenting he does throughout the season is tell his son to, "STAY OFF THEM VIDEO GAMES!"
Rarely, if ever do we see scenes of him bonding with his kids.
As I understand, 50 Cent was a huge fan of The Sopranos. Well, I believe him(and the writers) needed to go back and watch the first season of that show to see what made that great. Then POWER could have truly been the black Sopranos(Although, The Wire already achieved that feat first) In the Sopranos, we saw personal bonding all the time. Hell, the entire fourth episode in season 1 was largely dedicated to Tony driving his daughter Meadow to college interviews. The real draw of that episode saw Tony conflicted as to whether or not he should kill a snitch he found while on the trip. However, the emotional father/daughter moments he had with Meadow were real and tugged at the heart. I felt like those characters were real people because Tony wasn't always doing business. He was also talking with his family. Which is a MUST in great drama. There must be some personal connection between parents and children. The Sopranos especially executes that aspect well.
Which brings me to Ghost committing murder within the first several minutes of the series. I expected them to build up his character after that, to reveal the more human side of him. And I'm not talking about cheap tricks like showing he has kids and a wife. I'm talking revealing his psyche. Nope, that never happens. Instead, the writers just continue to go headstrong into a plot I don't care about, with characters I don't care much about either since-they haven't been built up enough for me to care.
Watching the first episode caused me to think I was watching an episode in the middle of the season, and not at the beginning. Even Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey, and Walter White had their daily routines depicted in the first episode before going straight into the main plot of the season. The writer's attempts to make Ghost and his allies three dimensional characters fell flat, and seemed like after thoughts-as if the writers forgot they were conceiving human beings and not just talking heads with the plot dictating them.
Spoiler Alert on the way. However, it doesn't really matter much since the following character who dies, isn't built up enough for the viewer to care about his death.
This brings me to episode 7, when Ghost kills an ally and old friend of his named Rolla on the word of his overseer "Kannan,"(50 Cent) whom is imprisoned. It's revealed that Kannan was lying to Ghost and was the true betrayer, not Rolla. Now, if they built Rolla up and made him a character I truly cared about, this would have been a perfect scenario. However, Rolla is barely built up, with only passing mentions and small cameos throughout the season.
And here's the kicker, he's only mentioned once or twice in the series premiere of an 8 episode season where he's killed off in the Seventh episode. If they really planned on killing his character off, bringing Ghost to that point, they would have established his importance throughout the season. But nope, his importance is often told rather than shown. That's very, very lazy storytelling.
My guess here is that Tommy was originally meant to be the one Kannan put the blame on, but in later drafts of the script they changed their minds because they loved the actor and wanted to keep him on the show. That's all fine...but that ruins the show and detracts from the quality. Having Ghost kill Tommy would have been so much more compelling, and I was WAITING for that to happen. In fact, that would have been the perfect scenario. Wouldn't it make more sense for 50 Cent's character to choose Tommy? Tommy is Ghost's closest friend and confidant. With Tommy out of the way, there's no one greater friend in his ear than Kannan.
However, on that same note, 50 Cent's character wants Ghost dead. So wouldn't he just kill two birds with one stone by making Ghost kill Tommy and then putting out the assassination for Ghost? Seriously, this show just really ticked me off. With Ghost and Tommy both dead, he'd be the only one in charge with none of them there to suspect that he killed the other.
But no, this show shies away from any and all conflict just so it can stick to their own half-baked status quo in an era of television that's proven the status-quo is BS. What makes great shows great is that there is no status quo. Things are constantly changing and evolving. That makes a compelling drama.
Almost nothing of consequence has happened throughout the season because the writers felt like giving way too much fan-service to the females by providing cliched love triangles and romances that highly detracted from the quality of the show. I still don't really care for the Lobos plot. Lobos is supposed to be the big bad yet we rarely see him. This only works if the execution is good, but it's bad.
Some people on Amazon argued that The Wire was just people cursing, killing, and yelling. Wrong. Those people didn't pay attention. The Wire clearly set up its plot from episode one and it takes patience for the show to kick into full gear. There's constant build up with the main character Jimmy McNulty happening, and when one goes back and watches season 1 from the beginning, they can see how intricate and well planned out the web was. In The Wire, Sopranos, Breaking Bad, etc...there was no give. Here, there is because the writers are too scared to take risks that skyrocketed the aforementioned shows to immortal status.
With Power, it really is nothing but yelling, cursing, and killing. In Power, there are no true character arcs that define them as Human beings. Every character is just a talking head driven to a finale that disappoints on all fronts.
It disappointed me because even as jumbled episode 1 was, there was potential for the show to get better. Lobos mentioned how if Ghost disappointed him, he didn't see any use in keeping Ghost around. Now that was some compelling stuff that I thought would lead somewhere...nope. Not at all. There's barely any tension between them after that comment, and whatever fears Ghost has for his family aren't portrayed at all.
Now, I understand they don't feel like throwing all their eggs into one basket, but this is taking that concept too far. With only 8 episodes of television, there has to be build up to some huge major event, you have to constantly raise the stakes for the characters and keep the plot moving. And Ghost's assassination wasn't enough. Since even the build to that reveal was cheapened since Ghost killed a character no one really cared about. I mean, jeez, even that guy Walter locked up in Season 1 of Breaking Bad had more character development than Rolla did. And he was only in 2 or 3 episodes.
The dialogue between Rolla and Ghost was a good chance to at least give us the viewers a shred of sympathy for him. But no, that fails too-much like most of the dialogue in the show. Most of the dialogue is just words and nothing really quotable or memorable. There's a few good stuff, but nothing very good. Their dialogue needed to go through another draft. I mean, WTF was up with Ghost talking about the whether?
"They say we're supposed to get ten inches tonight."
Was the show trying to be deep? Because that was just laughable. Having Ghost or Rolla remember a fond moment between them would have been a fine way to have the character of Rolla go out, and a decent way of giving him sympathy.
Rolla reminiscing, playing the game of, "remember when," is a great way for the prey to catch the captor off guard and increase their chances of survival. This was sparsely, and poorly done. As of a result, the big moment where Ghost had to kill this friend we as the viewers rarely saw...was very mediocre. "I am your friend. I am your friend," doesn't do much in the department of giving sympathy towards a character with almost none. One way they could have established a good connection between Ghost and Rolla was to have a scene with them establishing their friendship earlier on in the series. Whether it be at a basketbal game with the family or just hanging out together. Any private jokes, or things like that. Then, Rolla would bring that moment or joke back up in the finale.
I will say that the build to the Stern plot where Ghost was trying to expand his club business was decently conceived. There were mentions of him in the pilot and cameos throughout the season building his character as well as many mentions. He actually seemed more important than Lobos and anything that was going on with Ghost's life. In fact, the scenes with Stern in episode 7 were the best written scenes of the show, and proof that the writers can be good when they're not lazy. But even some of the dialogue there was shaky.
I'll give them that. I'll give them that.
Overall, POWER is a show with pretensions of grandeur that other shows achieve and this one fails at. It's like they wrote this series with stuff like Breaking Bad and Sopranos in mind without realizing what made them great-the characters and the build up. Not the huge moments. It's not the destination, it's the characters that makes a show good and its taking risks that makes drama great. Since Amazon doesn't have a 2.5 star option, I shall be generous and give Season 1, 3 out of 5 stars. Especially after seeing one of my favorite actresses from Orange is the New Black(a way more characterized show than this) in here. I swear, every scene that Latino lady is in, she steals it from Lela Loren. And it depresses me because seeing her only reminds me that I should be watching Orange is The New Black instead of POWER.
I know this was a long review, but that much needed to be written. Thank you. Hopefully, the writers get it together in Season 2 and raise the stakes to a satisfying conclusion. POWER doesn't need to be 5 or 6 seasons. I doubt this show even has that much left in it. A good 2 or 3 more seasons would suffice without dragging things too far, and introducing characters and elements that just have no place in the story. 2015 is their chance to turn things around and make this a quality show. However, looking at the reviews and the women obsessed with Omari Hardwick and his looks...I fear that this show's quality will never improve. The show will most likely forever value style over substance. Maybe instead of focusing on sex scenes, poorly conceived romances, cliched theatrics, and obtaining music rights for way too many montages...they should have focused on getting the story right first.
Good storytelling has proven that no matter how small the audience is in its first season, the viewers will always grow because people will keep calling it good.