Friday's final episode of the hit Starz show's third season brought the usual 'Power' twists and turns — and ended with a bang no one saw coming
This post contains spoilers from Friday's episode of Power Book III: Raising Kanan.
In the Power world, no one is ever safe.
Sascha Penn knows that intimately as the creator and showrunner of Power Book III: Raising Kanan. The show’s most recent installment, season 3, sees the story “round a corner a little bit,” Penn tells PEOPLE.
“It became really big in a way that I didn't totally anticipate. Look, when Raising Kanan came out, it didn't have any of the original actors from Power. It was a period piece. It was an entirely new cast. Yes, we had these two characters — Kanan and Jukebox — but we had the adolescent versions of them. So I know early on there was some wariness about the show. People were like, ‘What is this? Why are they even doing this? Who cares?’" he explains.
He continues of the audience's die-hard support and passion for the characters, “I think what's happened is that by season 3, they finally have embraced it."
At its core, its a story about family — and about how a young Kanan Stark (Mekai Curtis) becomes the fully-grown drug lord fans first met in 2014's Power as 50 Cent.
“We've always felt like Kanan is the product of the people that were around him as he was growing up — the notion of it takes a village. And so every season is a building block in terms of who Kanan ultimately becomes when he's fully realized by 50 Cent in the original Power,” Penn continues. “Each season we try to make more and more sense of how he becomes who he became. So I think this season is another piece of that story.”
Following the show’s jaw-dropping season 3 finale, Penn breaks down all the major moments — and what almost was — for PEOPLE.
PEOPLE: There’s a lot of major moments in this episode. Kanan kills Ronnie (Grantham Coleman), Raq (Patina Miller) kills Howard (Omar Epps), and we get a very shocking surprise right at the end. How did this episode — and these deaths — play into Kanan’s story overall?
Penn: It's yet another building block. He watches his mother [Raq] kill his father [Howard], which under the best of circumstances is traumatic. But look, the spine of this series, the heart of it has always been Kanan's relationship with his mother. It's always been the defining relationship and everything else has orbited that on some level. I think the important piece of Howard's death, on some level, is once again, how it impacts the relationship between Raq and Kanan. That's certainly something we see play out in subsequent episodes.
A lot of characters' fates are hanging in the balance in this episode. What was your idea for this episode? Because there’s so many storylines, so many characters — there’s a million things happening at once.
We've tried to really get the audience to care about these characters, to be invested in them and their lives, and I think the vision for this season is sort of the vision for every season on some level, which is to keep people invested. I think what we've tried to do — and I defer to the audience as to whether we've been successful — is create an arc for these characters, to start them in one place and take them somewhere else. I think, again, in terms of something that's been really gratifying is how much people have responded to Marvin [London Brown] and his story, for example.
So many people will hit us up and be like, "Oh, Marvin reminds me of my uncle." "I grew up with a guy like him.” That's the other part of it that's just so incredibly gratifying and speaks to the privilege of doing what we do — is that people have an emotional connection to the work.
Obviously, we have to talk about the last scene. Unique (Joey Bada$$) is alive! I was completely shocked when I watched the episode. What was the cast’s reaction to this major twist?
People were pretty stunned. We hit the ball pretty well, to be honest, so I think people were pretty shocked. It was definitely a dramatic moment because he doesn't have any dialogue, it's just he shows up. So Joey just popped up on [the screen], because we do the table reads on Zoom. You always know when you hit it because the cast just starts applauding and shaking their heads, and we had a lot of that, which was super gratifying.
I talked to Joey (Bada$$), and he shared his take on how the conversation went down with you when he realized he just couldn’t leave Unique behind quite yet. How did that conversation go for you, and what went into bringing Unique back to life?
Definitely as soon as he said he wanted to be back, I wanted him back. There's no question. But I can't lie, we had already written the scripts, so it was not an insignificant adjustment that needed to take place. I had said to Joey early on when he said that he was done, "Look, I have to be honest, this type of role, this type of opportunity, can happen once in a lifetime." And that's not me patting myself and the other writers on the show on the back. He took this thing and turned it into something iconic. That doesn't always happen for an actor. I felt like, wow, to walk away from this is tough. And you know what, I wasn't the only one who had that conversation with him. 50 [Cent] also spoke to him about it, and ultimately, Joey figured it out, and we were all able to accommodate it and I think the show was far, far, far better for it.
Were there a lot of changes you had to make to the script, or was it more thinking about that finale and how that was going to go down and what the right way was to have Unique back?
Frankly, the end of the season was completely reconstructed. Let me put it to you this way: it was not an insignificant amount of work. It was not and it required a complete re-imagining of the engine of — not just season 3, but also season 4. In some ways, the biggest impact has been on season 4.
What does season 4 Unique look like?
As you can imagine, the original version of season 4 did not have Unique in it, and now Unique is a huge presence in it. And also, without giving too much away, there's a portion of season 4 that actually explains how Unique survived and helps the audience to understand that journey as well. Because we felt strongly that we didn't just want this to be some sort of bulls--- Deus Ex Machina type thing where miraculously he survives and we never understand how it happened.
One of the things that is super important to us on this show is, frankly, how much we do respect this audience. I think that they know this show and this world, in some ways, better than any of us do.
Obviously, there's going to be a big fan reaction to this big reveal, but there was also a huge response to his death. There was a lot of outrage. Did you expect the level of response that that death got?
I'll be honest, I didn't. It's just amazing. It's such an amazing experience, to be honest. The other thing that's been really interesting is the initial reaction to Ronnie was so vicious. Now, it's a complete 180. Ronnie has become the fan favorite. I hope the audience, at some point, will learn to trust us. It may not work out the way they want it to all the time, but ultimately, we have their best interests at heart.
It is Raising Kanan at the end of the day. How does season 3, as a whole, fit into Kanan's story and how he's being raised — or maybe not raised?
I think this season is a real giant step forward for Kanan to realize his own independence from his mother. I think this season really does feel like a bridge in a way between Kanan as a kid, Kanan as a young adult, where he's finally said, you know what, enough is enough. I'm going to be my own man. I can't trust the people around me. The only person I can truly trust is myself, and I'm going to do my own thing. I think that's really the story of Kanan in season 3.
Season 4 is underway as we speak. How does this new iteration of the story feel? What does it look like from where you are right now?
I'm really, really, really happy with season 4. It's still early, but I do believe it'll be our best.
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Seasons 1-3 of Power Book III: Raising Kanan can be streamed in full on the Starz app.
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