‘Power Book III: Raising Kanan’ Season 3 Proves It’s the Starz Franchise’s Best Series: TV Review

‘Power Book III: Raising Kanan’ Season 3 Proves It’s the Starz Franchise’s Best Series: TV Review

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Crime dramas have been a staple on television for decades, and in classic series like “The Wire,” along with more recent shows like “The Cleaning Lady” and “Peaky Blinders,” criminality has an undeniable allure. The Courtney A. Kemp-created” Power” was a massive hit with a six-season run on Starz, introducing iconic characters, including the menacing Kanan Stark (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson). Though Kanan met his fate in the series’ fifth season, the villain’s lore has only increased, especially under the immaculately constructed “Power Book III: Raising Kanan.” The ’90s set prequel is the undeniable standout in the “Power Universe,” chronicling Kanan’s teen years and showcasing the environment and circumstances that caused him to break bad. 

The third season of the Sascha Penn-created “Raising Kanan” opens just after the events of the Season 2 finale. Having antagonized the Newark mafia, Kanan’s drug queenpin monther, Raquel “Raq” Thomas (an imposing Patina Miller), is nursing a gunshot wound in the hospital. But her injury is the least of her worries. Still reeling from the truth about his connection to Detective Malcolm Howard (Omar Epps), Kanan (MeKai Curtis) has completely iced Raq out. Instead of moving into her recently purchased plush suburban home, he’s staying in a run-down apartment with his best friend, Famous (Antonio Ortiz). 

The fallout from Raq’s lies and ruthlessness has extended well beyond Kanan and seeped into their family overall. Lou-Lou (Malcolm Mays), Raq’s youngest brother, desperately wants to sever ties with his conniving sister and the drug game, but for now, alcohol seems to numb his pain. In contrast, still trying to prove that he’s no longer the fuckup he once was, Marvin (London Brown), the eldest sibling, is more than willing to continue doing Raq’s bidding. The Thomases are officially a tribe divided. 

With 50 Cent narrating the series as adult Kanan, “Power Book III: Raising Kanan” has all the intricate bits that make crime dramas so enticing. There are, of course, the shootouts, the inventive ways drugs are trafficked, meddling law enforcement agents and underhanded plots and betrayals. Yet, the show moves past a surface-level tale because of its layers. Penn and his team have worked to envelope the audience in this time — the early ’90s in Queens, New York. The setting showcases everything from the residuals of the crack cocaine epidemic in Black and brown communities to the stunning costumes, consisting of the fur, thick chains and catsuits of the decade. B-stories, like the arrest of a corrupt NYPD detective, seem minor until they cause a ripple effect in the lives of our main characters, including that of charismatic gangster Unique (Joey Bada$$).

This is Kanan’s coming-of-age story, but Raq has been the pillar of the series since it debuted. Clad effortlessly in the most iconic drip, donning a Brazilian blowout and gleaming gold jewelry, she is simultaneously vicious and warm, an enticing combo for anyone who crosses her path — including Unique. However, now that Kanan has completely removed himself from Raq’s grasp, Season 3 delves into her anger and anguish at trying to repair their mother/son bond. Raq claims she desires a different life. But, as Kanan aptly remarks to his cousin Jukebox (Hailey Kilgore) in the season opener, “She is the fucking game.”

Though Raq is still very much the sun around which the other characters orbit, “Raising Kanan” Season 3 belongs to the kids. Far from the happy-go-lucky mama’s boy viewers were first introduced to in the series premiere, Kanan has morphed into an enraged young man with an increasingly harsh New York accent. While audiences saw him stumble with past assignments in the drug game, especially under his family’s enterprise, he’s now determined to stand on his own. Several steps closer to the chilling man who appeared in “Power,” Curtis’ performance has become more refined, allowing the audience to see how deception and betrayal can contort someone toward monstrosity. 

Kanan isn’t the only one owning the spotlight this season. Jukebox, who was never as naive as her cousin, is reeling from the death of her birth mother and feeling increasingly suffocated by her volatile environment. As “Power” loyalists recall, grownup Jukebox (portrayed by Anika Noni Rose) was far more sinister than Kanan or Raq ever were. As the teens battle circumstances they didn’t create, they learn to become colder versions of their parents to survive. 

An extensive narrative with eclectic guest stars, including Tony Danza and Wendell Pierce, the show has stellar acting, some jaw-dropping moments and complex familial dynamics. This intoxicating web unfurls to connect the characters fans knew in “Power” to the experiences of adolescents on the verge of entering their villainous eras. A fascinating and gritty production, “Raising Kanan” is the standout of the universe and the crime drama genre overall. 

Season 3 of “Power Book III: Raising Kanan” will premiere Dec. 1 on Starz, with new episodes airing weekly on Fridays.

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