A Guide to Starz Smash Hit “Power” Book Universe (But Only the Gay Parts)

Have you ever watched the Power Book Universe shows on Starz? Produced by 50 Cent, the interlocking web of tv series based around central crime fictional families has become the backbone of Starz’s ratings — I’m talking bonafide smash hits, to the tune of three separate spin-offs — thanks in no small part to Black viewership. This also means that despite being must watch television in certain households, there are a lot of people who have either never heard of the Power shows or, if they have, now that we’re four series deep, feel too overwhelmed to jump in. Which is unfortunate for many reasons, primarily for us because these shows are GAY. And you like gay things!

So if this is you, I am here to be your guide. Power Book IV: Force just began its second season on Starz and it co-stars Lili Simmons as Claudia Flynn, a crime boss lesbian who really puts the blood in blood red lipstick. That means there is no time like the present to jump in. The first rule of the “Power” Book Universe on Starz is that there are no actual books, we’re working purely with aesthetics here. The second rule is that each “Power” spin-off is gayer than the last. Amen.

If I can be serious for a second, there is something very beautiful to me about a television show that is steeped in hip hop, drug, and crime lore — none of which is particularly known for being gay friendly, we can say — getting fucking gayyyyyyer and gayer with each passing turn.

Ok enough with that genuine emotion! We have drugs to sell, the streets of New York to climb, and people to kill.

Before we go any further, here’s a key guide to my character maps. I tried to make one overarching map to combine all the shows in a family tree, however my Canva skills (and the fact that Jukebox and Kanan exist as both teenagers and adults, ultimately creating a flat time circle) failed me. Instead each map is broken down by show. But maybe you’ll prefer it this way! Let’s find out!

An Autostraddle Power Book Universe Key Guide

  • Circle sizes are unscientifically (excuse me, very scientifically) decided relative to the importance of that character to the plot of that particular show or the Power Book Universe overall. The bigger the circle, the greater the importance.
  • We are only here for the gay parts, so I’ve only mapped major characters needed to follow the gay story along or the gays themselves.
  • An overlapping circle indicates a familial or romantic relationship.
  • Purple circles mean gay activities.
  • Green arrows mean the those characters are friendly or allies.
  • Red arrows indicate enemies.
  • A dotted arrow means that the one character killed the other.
  • Yes, that means Tariq killed his own father. We’ll get to that.

And now we can begin!


Power The Original Series (Six Seasons, 2014-2020)

Central Crime Family: The Saint Patrick Family

Time Period: 2010s

Power The Original Series is arguably — at times!! The last season falls off — an excellent crime series. If you enjoy mob movies (think more Goodfellas than Godfather) or New Jack City, this is for you. If you’re the kind of person who gets upset when a character who obviously needed to die in order for the crime to be gotten away with, instead somehow gets to live for plot contrived reasons, this is for YOU. One of my favorite things about Power is that the deaths are creative, beautifully shot, core to the thematics of keeping the story going, and always right on time. Yes, I do realize how dark that sentence is read out loud, but I’m working with the assumption that if tv/film violence makes you squick, you already closed this article a while ago. This is for the rest of us.

In Power, you will meet the Saint Patrick Family, who are the backbone of everything that’s going to come after. The Saint Patricks are headed up by James Saint Patrick, a successful businessman by day and a drug dealer by the name of Ghost by night. He wants ultimately wants to clean his money and go legit full time, but the streets keep pulling him back in, you know the deal. His wife, Tasha (Naturi Naughton) is not gay, but is hot and smart, so I wanted you to know. They have a son Tariq and as you can see in the chart above — Tariq does not get along with dear old dad. There is also Uncle Tommy, Ghost’s best friend since childhood and the enforcer and co-captain of his off-the-books business.

Ghost and Tommy grew up with Kanan (50 Cent), before double crossing him in a time period before the series begins. Kanan tries to enact revenge and at first loses, which in Season Three sends him to lick his wounds in DC… introducing us to our first central lesbian character, Kanan’s cousin Jukebox!! Played by the one AND ONLY Anika Noni Rose!! Jukebox grew up with Kanan in them streets, but now spends her time as a dirty cop (a ruthless cover for her own robbery business) and making out with her hot girlfriend. Later Kanan and Jukebox come up with a plan to kidnap Tariq in an effort to blackmail Ghost for more money. The kidnapping goes awry and KANAN ENDS UP KIlLLING HIS OWN COUSIN to cover his tracks. Yiiikes.

Sadly I cannot say that this kind of intra-family yeah is uncommon in Power, because before you know it young Tariq is all grown up 😭 and killing some family members of his own. This brings us to…

Power Book II: Ghost (Three Seasons, 2020-Present)

Central Crime Family: The Tejada Family

Time Period: 2020s

Now you might think that because the first Power sequel series is called “Ghost” that its about Jamie Saint Patrick, however you’d be wrong! Oh now this series (named Power: The College Years in my own head) follows Tariq after he killed his father, thus stepping into the Ghost mantle on his own. Did I mention that most Power fans hated Tariq as a kid? He begrudgingly grows on us here, but also that’s only because Power made the first of many right decisions at this point in our storytelling, and introduces us to our first real queen pin — Mary J. Blige as Monet Tejada.

Mary chews scenery while wearing a cherry red wig, every conceivably imagined type of fur coat, and waving a gun in the air with the best of them. But it’s her son, Dru Tejada (Lovell Adams-Gray) who gets the juiciest of gay plots here. Drew’s known as being the “brains” of the Tejada children, and mommy’s favorite, but his father has reservations about handing Dru over the family business on account of Dru being… a lil friend of Lil Nas X, if you catch what I’m saying, and I think that you do. So far Dru’s had two major boyfriends, a closeted college-aged basketball player and a member of a rival crime family. Yeah. That second one does not end well.

Meanwhile, Tariq gets back together with his high school girlfriend (whom we first meet in the original series) Effie Morales, played by Alix Lapri. Effie’s also grown and in college now, plus some time between the original series and this one, she got herself a girlfriend! Sadly, she leaves that girlfriend for Tariq almost right away — so there’s not much on camera queer action coming from Effie. But we love bisexuals with boyfriends living out their Bonnie ‘n’ Clyde fantasies like they are Beyoncé and Jay-z!

Power Book III: Raising Kanan (Two Seasons, 2021-Present)

Central Crime Family: The Thomas/Starks Family

Time Period: 1990s

There is no easy way to account for this pivot to thirty years in the past, it’s bananas and we have to roll with it because Power Book III: Raising Kanan is easily the best of the Power series and that is directly thanks to two words.: Tony Award-winner Patina Miller. Oh was that more than two words? My bad!

In Raising Kanan, Miller stars as Raquel “Raq” Thomas, the queen pin of the Thomas/Starks family. Now maybe the name Starks is ringing a bell for you at this point in our mini-recaps! Well my friends, that is because we are now returning to Kanan and Jukebox — first introduced to you in Power The Original Series as villains going against the Saint Patrick family, namely Daddy Ghost and son Ghost back when son Ghost was still an annoying teenager. Here we get to revisit Kanan and Jukebox as teenagers themselves, and the entire series is a pretty interesting edition on how villains are created and molded, not innate to who we are.


As teenage Jukebox, Hailey Kilgore stuns. I should mention that Kilgore is also a Tony nominee (Raising Kanan has made excellent use of that NYC talent pool!) and watching her work in scenes alongside Miller is a bit like watching time stop. She can also sing the house dowwwwwwwn, making good use of that ‘Jukebox’ nickname. Watching Kanan and Juke as teenagers is equal parts is a bit like watching an incredibly dark version of The Wonder Years, the 90s nostalgia is impeccable and strong, and its hard not to fall in love with how the two cousins love each other so deeply.

Unfortunately, we also know that despite their bond — which will see them through decades together — ultimately Kanan will kill his own cousin in the future to save his own ass! So! That’s the game. But together Anika Noni Rose and Hailey Kilgore have threaded together one of the most indelible characters of the entire Power Universe in Jukebox. They deserve all their damn flowers.

In other relevant Raising Kanan plots, Jukebox has her first girlfriend, Nicole, who is a rich girl from the Upper East Side. Unfortunately, Nicole doesn’t know about Jukebox’s family business, and when she sees some crack in Juke’s backpack she swipes it — the crack was incorrectly mixed by Kanan, leading to Nicole’s accidental death when she smokes it. This is my least favorite of the Power deaths, not because necessarily of Bury Your Gays (this is a web of series about drug lords, people are gonna die), just because it’s ridiculous. Also, Juke and Nicole both face various homophobic violences — physical for Jukebox, emotional for Nicole — that you should be aware of going in.

While all of this is happening, Detective Burke is snooping around trying to bring the entire Thomas/Starks crime family down! She befriends Jukebox as something akin to a gay mentor (Burke is also a les), but their relationship is more like an uneasy cat and mouse.

As you can see, I’ve had a lot to say about Raising Kanan, but that’s because it’s good as hell and gay as hell! In fact, it’s so gay that we write mini-recaps for the show while its airing, and you can catch up on those here.

This brings us to the real reason we are gathered here today, the latest book in the Power series, airing now on Starz, Power Book IV: Force — co-starring a delightful Irish lesbian, I’ll let her introduce herself!

Power Book IV: Force (Two Seasons, 2022-Present)

Central Crime Family: The Flynn Family

Time Period: 2020s

So in the original Power series, we learn that Daddy Ghost’s best friend Tommy is actually a prince in a New York Sicilian Mafia that no one knew about it! In part reeling from that revelation, Tommy sets his sights west and leaves the series to end up in Chicago, thus bringing us to Power Book IV: Force.

In Chicago, Tommy gets caught up with an Irish mob, the Flynn Family. Claudia Flynn, our lesbian, is also our first queer character to have full co-lead billing, which brings us full circle to a time when Anika Noni Rose had to wait in the wings for three seasons before any of the characters could be gay. How quickly the tables have turned!!

Claudia’s whole deal is that she wants to take over the business but her father won’t let her because she’s a woman — which feels a little reductive in 2023 but whatever I’ll take it. Instead, Claudia works to get her own version of designer drugs on the street and who does she run into to help her on this quest? That’s right, our own Thomas Egan!

Claudia is cold-hearted, viscous, and perfect in that way of Power Femmes who wear blood red lipstick tend to be. Tommy was always the Power Universe’s loose canon. So what will happen when they come together? Only time will tell at this point. But if history has anything to say with it, it’s gonna be fire.

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 700 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. Power is a mixed bag for me. I did like it for a while but the whole high drama “Who’s side are they on?” aspect got a bit to much for me. And everyone hated each other by the end which is not fun to watch. Did watch all the way to the end though, and I do find it amusing that The L Word and Power have “What if our final seasons were murder mysteries?” as something in common.

    I tapped out after the first season of Book II though. I cannot stand Tariq’s whiny hypocritical ass. And because I was so burnt out I never watched Book’s II and IV. I guess Book V’s not happening, though did anyone want to follow the adventures awful political man?

    • LMAO!! I sure did not notice the Power/L Word crossover until now!!

      (If you ever decide to come back in, I really recommend Raising Kanan. You only need to have seen the first three-four seasons of original Power for Raising Kanan to make sense, and it really is good)

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