Power Don’t Thank Me Review
Since Assistant United States Attorney Angela “Angie” Valdez (Lela Loren) had found out that James St. Patrick (Omari Hardwick) was Ghost, A.U.S.A. Valdez had done everything that she could to keep her relationship with St. Patrick and the damage that it could do to her legal career marginalized. All of that went out of the window in Don’t Thank Me when it became clear that without revealing the exculpatory evidence that she possessed, Ghost could face the death penalty. An innocent person being sentenced to death was something that Angela Valdez couldn’t live with. Valdez had become a morally grey person through her relationship with Ghost but at her core there still remained a strong moral code and a conscience. Valdez’s testimony on the witness stand during Don’t Thank Me was the dialogue high-point of the episode. It was laced with well-executed bombshells and reversals as former colleagues tried to deliver as much damage to each other as possible. Assistant United States Attorney John Mak (Sung Kang) and A.U.S.A. Valdez wanted to get in as many career-crippling facts on the record as possible. During their verbal slugfest, Judge Tapper (Michael Gaston)’s anger and astonishment made the scene that much more compelling. The judge was the uninitiated newbie, unaware and bowled over by revelations that the viewer had been fully cognizant of. The judge’s abashed reaction was the same one that a new Power audience member would have had thus was apropo for the scene. It was the fact the prosecution team didn’t even see how egregious their behavior had become that was so disturbing to the judge. The team prosecutorial’s malfeasance also showed that even those with the noblest of intentions could be corrupted.
James “Ghost” St. Patrick, on the other hand, had little-to-no nobility to begin with. He hadn’t since he was a teenager. Ghost wanted respect as an average citizen and business man yet he was a drug dealer and a killer. In Don’t Thank Me, Ghost, yet again (the first time being when he broke Biscuit’s wrist), proved himself to be an impetuous fool when he killed U.S. Marshal Clyde Williams (Charlie Murphy). Ghost was on the brink of release and he let himself be egged into a fight with a U.S. Marshal prison guard? Ghost’s lack of self-control was comical. Did all of Ghost’s frustrations, rage, and repressed anger bubble to the surface? It did. Was that an excuse to lose control? Absolutely not, especially as the head of a large criminal organization and as a man with a loving family waiting for him on the outside. When the murder was completed, and Ghost realized the gravity of what he had done, Ghost saw his freedom and the world that he knew evaporate before his eyes.
The Tony Teresi (William Sadler) save was unexpected but well-executed. Teresi changing the Ghost murder plan up on-the-fly showed how good Teresi was at improvisation. If Teresi could think up situational last minute saves like that (think William “Bill” Strannix in Under Siege), how was Teresi ever caught by law enforcement and sentenced to multiple life sentences?
The situation that Dre (Rotimi) was caught in up to and including Don’t Thank Me was an inept, coward’s prison of his own making. Dre believed he was being extremely clever by playing both sides. He thought he was even more clever by sensing an opportunity and committing to one of those sides. The problem was that the side that Dre choose, Kanan (Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson)’s side, was an unscrupulous side. The side that Dre decided to betray was steadfast, reliable, and stable. A smart person would have chosen the latter side. A smart person also wouldn’t have had a well-known criminal like Kanan parade himself through an underground club that Ghost and Tommy Egan owned. I have witnessed the writers of Power construct situations that would never occur in the real life. The Kanan-walking-through-the-club moment in Don’t Thank Me was so badly thought-out and written that it reveled the terrible writing in the last three seasons of Dexter and True Blood. No one would be that stupid in real life. Kanan was assumed dead. Why would Kanan promenade himself in a public venue filled with people that might know him, Ghost, and Tommy? At any time, Tommy could have walked through the club and spotted Kanan (Julio did). Dre had no way of knowing if Tommy would pop into the club or not to check things out and neither did Kanan. It was staggeringly illogical. To Real World Kanan and Dre, walking through that club and meeting in public would have been inconceivable. To TV Kanan and Dre, oh, they just assumed that no one that knew Kanan would be in that club. Kanan and Dre conducted a secret survey of the guest list (what guest list?) and cross-referenced that list with everyone from Kanan’s past (because no one uses or changes aliases in the street / criminal world – “Slim” anyone?). That’s how they knew. Why not have the meeting in the alley behind the underground club, at a secret location, etc.? Instead, the viewer was forced to watch that sloppy construct play out. It was just bad writing, plain and simple.
The good writing in Don’t Thank Me showed up in the aforementioned Assistant United States Attorney Angela “Angie” Valdez testimony scene. It also showed up in Tasha St. Patrick (Naturi Naughton)’s hypocritical moment during the episode. When Tasha St. Patrick told Ghost in We’re in This Together that unilateral decisions that not only affected Ghost but Tasha and their children were not permitted, Ghost got it. The St. Patricks were a team, in it together, a family. In Don’t Thank Me, Tasha showed that she didn’t get it. In Don’t Thank Me, Tasha proved herself to be a hypocrite i.e. calling Simon Stern (Victor Garber) without first consulting Ghost and discussing their financial situation. There were hundreds of high net worth individuals (e.g. Ms. Stern, who got James two of his three clubs) and financial firms in New York City that may have lent the St. Patricks money, especially if the St. Patricks were able to show positive inflows of cash, a positive financial outlook, and had enough collateral to back the loan. The high net worth individual or financial firm would not have had an alternative motive in their money-lending besides the money that they would make from the deal. Simon Stern did have an alternative motive – payback. Simon Stern had a personal grudge against James St. Patrick and was there as an opportunist and a revenge-seeker. James knew that. Tasha knew that and yet she still dialed Stern’s number, letting the jackal back into the hen house after James worked so diligently to get Stern out of it. I don’t know what’s coming between Stern and the St. Patricks but whatever it is, Tasha earned it.
Jukebox (Anika Noni Rose)’s re-emergence in Power re-introduced an old storyline back into the series but with a caveat: Kanan likes Tariq St. Patrick far more than he did previously and back then, Kanan already had reservations about killing Tariq. I believe Kanan’s positive, on-queue response to Jukebox’s re-introduced plan was an act. Kanan had no intention of killing Tariq. He will follow the Jukebox plan to get money from Ghost and put Ghost into mortal fear for Tariq’s life, thus upping the stakes for that narrative in Power. At the end of the day, however, Kanan will never pull the trigger on Tariq. Kanan will also not allow Jukebox, or anyone else for that matter, to kill Tariq. Kanan will reveal his true plan in the eleventh hour to Jukebox and / or kill her if or when it is necessary. When Kanan smiled in Don’t Thank Me and asked how he could help with Jukebox’s plan, he was playing his own game, a game guided by few scruples. Kanan has never been The Governor or James “Black Jack” Randall. Kanan’s villainous scope and intelligence are too truncated for that but he is amoral and “tricksy,” as Gollum would say. That, Kanan’s gift for manipulation, and his situational awareness have made Kanan a worthy adversary, antagonist, and narrative element in Power. When Kanan betrays Jukebox for Tariq St. Patrick, it will be one of the greatest moments in the series.
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