Power Book III: Raising Kanan
If you’re familiar with any legendary New York drug story regardless of the borough, it most likely involves best friends or even brothers turning on one another, oftentimes leading to death or a long stint in prison. Remember in Paid in Full when Rico kills Mitch? Well, at the beginning of “Don’t Sleep,” Unique is like Rico, full of rage and ruthlessness. Up until now, we have yet to see the gritty “I run shit” side of Unique, and if we thought Raq was coldhearted, Unique must not have a heart at all. The episode begins with him torturing his childhood best friend–slash–right-hand man, Trez-G, because of the failed delivery. By now, we should all know that within the Power universe, relationships are fragile. The main characters are more than capable of hurting those they love. After piercing Trez-G’s ear with pliers, Unique kills him execution-style. The murders in this story so far feel more vicious than those in the previous Power series. Maybe it’s the single shot to the head many of the victims received.
In this episode, Unique continues to flex his muscles, making it clear he doesn’t trust anyone on his team. The police raid and Deen’s pausing his supply have ignited a monster inside him. With only a limited supply left, he puts pressure on his team to stretch the product. They understand this will reduce the quality and more than likely affect their reputation on the street — but Unique doesn’t care. He suspects Raquel is the cause of his current troubles and begins pondering how he’ll retaliate.
Meanwhile, Kanan chefs it up for his moms, only to be disappointed when Symphony walks in with her, disrupting their weekly mother-son dinner date. He’s definitely big mad! Symphony and Raq try to play it cool by pretending they haven’t eaten just yet. Kanan plays along, but he doesn’t really buy it. While eating dinner, Symphony attempts to engage Kanan in small talk; however, Kanan is stuck in I don’t f with you because you f’n my momma mode and barely responds to him. Apparently, in addition to being really good at being rude to Raq’s guests, Kanan is good at cooking. According to Symphony, the spaghetti is worth paying for, and the sauce has a nice kick to it! This is kinda surprising. Most hood dudes I know barely know how to whip up Oodles of Noodles. But Raq is a different kind of hood mother; she is intentionally preparing her 15-year-old son for how to survive on his own. Although she hasn’t yet figured out how to stop her son from being pissed at her for dating, she is well versed in reprimanding him for slacking in school. Kanan gets pulled from the stash house in exchange for after-school and weekend tutoring. Her message is clear — no good grades, no selling drugs.
Over on the Upper East Side, Jukebox and Nicole enjoy each other’s company while rewatching their recorded live performance. Nicole’s parents interrupt the secret lovers right as they are about to engage in a passionate kiss. Both parents make broad, seemingly innocent assumptions about Jukebox, while the father tries way too hard to relate to her by using slang. Jukebox thinks nothing of their exchange and, from her interaction, determines that Nicole’s parents are cool. Nicole halfway agrees and acknowledges that they are cool about some things, “but not everything.” It wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that “not everything” refers to her sexuality or dating outside of her race.
We leave one almost-sex scene to transition into Marvin and Toni having wild, aggressive sex. Toni attempts to cuddle with an emotionally unavailable Marvin and gets rejected. He overreacts at the thought of cuddling and makes it clear the two have no emotional ties to each other despite dramatically calling her his girl in a previous episode. The show’s theme of differences, specifically in romantic relationships, reappears. Marvin points out his and Toni’s racial differences and their distinct upbringings to justify his outburst. He’s from the hood, and Toni is “from where the fuck she’s from that ain’t the hood.”
Speaking of hood, Famous is in the studio with local producer Crown Camacho rapping about hood shit. Impressed by his flow, Crown critiques Famous’s not-believable shoot-’em-up lyrics. He directs him to instead rap about “the truth … street shit … dope boy realness.” Whether Famous’s lyrics are believable isn’t the only problem in the studio. Crown has his eyes on Jessica, Lou-Lou’s girl, and she seems willing to do just about anything to get her brother on.
The new stash is up and running! Raquel, Lou-Lou, and Marvin now have a more secure, secretive stash house — Papi’s bodega. Because it’s in his personality, Papi attempts to demand more power and information from the trio, but Raq quickly lets him know that she is now officially in charge.
In this episode, Kanan and Davina’s relationship is also apparently official now. He vents to her about the interrupted spaghetti night and his tutoring sentence. When he speaks with Davina, we see a much lighter version of Kanan — the total opposite of the stiff persona he gives to Symphony. Motherless and without a family structure, Davina admires Kanan’s family life. She expresses her desire for a mother who cares about her well-being as much as Raq cares about Kanan. Despite living in the same neighborhood and attending the same school, the two teenagers have contrasting backgrounds. Davina’s mother is on drugs; Kanan’s mother is a dominating force in the drug game.
As I predicted, Unique approaches Davina, questioning her about Kanan. She starts to defend Kanan by dissociating him from his mother’s affairs, but Unique presents her with an offer she’s unable to refuse — a chance to get her mother back clean. She folds and gives up the location of Raq’s original stash house. Davina doesn’t choose to give Unique information under pressure in a conniving manner, but regardless, it puts Kanan and his family in danger. Money clearly makes the world go round in the Power universe. Everyone from the Papi at the bodega to the NYCHA housing director to even Davina accepts bribes without thinking twice about it.
Marvin alters the plans without Raq’s permission and picks up Kanan while he’s on his way to school to move the product out of the stash house. Of course, things go left! Marvin leaves Kanan at the stash house and gives him typical instructions: Don’t open the door for no one. When he returns, he realizes something is off — they’ve been ambushed! As they attempt to protect the product, a shoot-out begins. Meanwhile, inside, Kanan is being held at gunpoint. Marvin shoots the masked gunman — yup, you guessed it, execution-style. The gunman is revealed to be P-We, Unique’s mans. Covered entirely in P-We’s blood, Kanan is more afraid of his mother finding out he was at the stash house than he is about almost being killed. Regretting his decision to leave Kanan alone, Marvin also understands it won’t end well if Raq finds out about this. The two try their best to cover it up, but they fail. In the closing scene, Raquel finds Kanan’s bloody shirt under his bed. Judging by the unsettling look on her face, we know there will be hell to pay.
The episode leaves us with many questions to consider. Will Kanan find out it was Davina who outed the stash house? Will Marvin be reprimanded for putting Kanan’s life in danger? Will Raq get her product back from Unique? Will Unique want a body in return for his man’s life? One thing is for certain, this episode has had the most suspenseful ending thus far.
The love triangle between Crown Camacho, Lou-Lou, and Jessica feels like it’s going to get dangerous. I appreciate the development of Jessica’s character. The conversation she has with Lou about entering the music business shows that she’s not a pushover and is a go-getter. Her go-getting tendencies may get her into some trouble, though.
There are many subtle fashion wins in this episode: Kanan’s Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt, Unique’s Dapper Dan Gucci jacket, Raq’s Louis Vuitton speedy bag. And one of Unique’s men is rocking an Avirex leather jacket.
The writers are clearly well versed in New York ’90s culture. Their acknowledgment of the importance of the Stretch and Bobbito show is dope!