'Power Book IV: Force' Season 2 Review: Starz Series Hits Its Stride

‘Power Book IV: Force’ Season 2 Review: Starz Series Hits Its Stride

For the past decade, fans of the Courtney Kemp-created “Power” Universe have kept up with countless personalities and storylines across multiple shows. However, few characters have been as captivating as Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) from the original “Power.” Ruthless, hot-headed and hilarious, when Starz announced Tommy would be getting his own spinoff series, “Power Book IV: Force,” fans flocked to the screen

When “Force” debuted in February 2022, it became the network’s highest-rated series premiere. After Ghost’s death at the end of “Power,” Tommy left New York to embark on a new chapter in Chicago. Unfortunately, despite the extensive framework the Robert Munic-created series had to build on, Season 1 was a doozy. Fans were faced with clumsy storylines, an unrecognizable Windy City and a restrained Tommy. 

Before “Force” even premiered, Munic exited the series due to creative differences, and “Euphoria” producer Gary Lennon, who was instrumental in cultivating Tommy’s voice on “Power,” came aboard as showrunner for the sophomore season. It was a gamble that has paid off. 

The second season opener, fittingly named “Tommy’s Back,” begins just two days after the Season 1 finale. Haunted and enraged by the murder of his business partner Liliana (Audrey Esparza), Tommy vows to avenge her death. He begins plotting against the Flynn family — a faction of the Irish mob with a hold over the city’s North Side. However, as Tommy has learned, Chicago is not New York. Beyond the issues he’s having with Walter (a commanding Tommy Flanagan), Vic (Shane Harper) and Claudia Flynn (Lili Simmons), the Serbian and Mexican cartels are encroaching on territory Tommy wants, and the Sampson brothers’ Chicago Brothers Incorporated (CBI) has split, with one faction being run by Diamond (Issac Keyes) and the other spearheaded by Jenard (Kris D. Lofton). 

Placed in the driver’s seat after a confounding initial season, Lennon had some significant issues to combat. However, he begins righting the ship immediately by ending ridiculous storylines. Tommy and Claudia’s partnership to distribute the designer drug Dahlia never felt authentic, especially since there was very little trust between them. Lennon finds a resolution to that plot point by the end of the Season 2 premiere. Moreover, Diamond’s rushed relationship with Adrianne (Blythe Howard), a turncoat reporter trying to dig into his past, quickly becomes a figment of Season 1. Tying a bow on these plot points enables Lennon to bring on some more intriguing players and narratives to orbit Tommy’s world. This season introduces Miguel (Manuel Eduardo Ramirez), a volatile Mexican cartel leader, U.S. Attorney Stacy Marks (Miriam A. Hyman), and police lieutenant Bobby DiFranco (Chris Tardio), among others. 

In addition to rounding out the cast, Chicago is no longer just a pretty backdrop in the series. The camera pans toward familiar landmarks like Harold’s Chicken Shack, Leon’s BBQ and even the Sears Tower (born and bred Chicagoans wouldn’t dare call it the Willis Tower). The Chicago River and areas in the Lincoln Park and Pilsen neighborhoods are also highlighted. Like many major U.S. cities, gun violence is a real issue in America’s Second City. Instead of ignoring the repercussions of gang wars, poverty, segregation and drugs, “Force” Season 2 is a reminder that violence doesn’t exist in a vacuum. In doing so, the show presents the layers and textures of the city and its citizens as they are.

As showcased in the first season of “Force,” Tommy doesn’t work well as a lone wolf; his impulsivity requires an anchor. In Season 2, Tommy’s family, including his older brother JP (Anthony Flemming III) and his nephew D-Mac (Lucien Cambric), keep him from flying off the handle completely. Tommy’s mother, fan-favorite Kate Egan (Patricia Kalember), is also a thrilling addition who has returned to the series in a more robust role. By allowing viewers to linger among this unconventional family unit, secrets and dynamics are revealed, enabling the characters to unfold for the audience in a way they had previously been unable to. 

More than eliminating puzzling plotholes and rounding out characters, Sikora has his foot back on the gas. Fans are no longer subjected to the tamed Tommy who was presented when the show first premiered. The battery has been placed back in the Mustang driver’s back, empowering him to be as volatile and reckless as he was in “Power,” with glimmers of vulnerability showing through on occasion. 

While Lennon’s presence has undoubtedly stabilized the series, which had slid almost entirely off course, all of the familiar tropes of the “Power” Universe remain. The drugs, violent deaths, sex, schemes, plots and betrayals aren’t new. But that’s the point. “Power” and its many spinoffs have the same formulaic, watchable factor that has made the “Law & Order” franchise a long-standing success. Even while checking off the typical crime drama boxes, “Force” Season 2 presents some new and inventive ways to die and some enticing and shocking plot points. 

By taking the time to unpack the very real racial tensions in Chicago, permitting Tommy to do what he does best and illustrating the varied characters more intimately, “Force” has hit its stride. Now, it can press forward as long and mightly as the original series alongside its contemporaries, “Power Book II: Ghost” and “Power Book III: Raising Kanan.” 

Season 2 of “Power Book IV: Force” will premiere Sept. 1 on Starz, with new episodes airing weekly on Fridays.