We also meet Roxy Monke (Ria Zmitrowicz), the illegitimate daughter of an organized crime family, who’s itching to join her dad’s business even before she gets the power.
And we meet the Clearly-Lopezes, a (mostly) functional US family headed by Toni Collette’s Margot, the ambitious mayor of Seattle. She’s struggling with double standards at work and home as her three kids (notably Auli’i Cravalho as eldest daughter Jos) want a different level of engagement than she can offer. The father, Rob, played gamely by John Leguizamo, is stuck in the mother role—yes, he has an important career as a doctor, but the direction gives him a constant stream of domestic tasks when at home. He does the laundry, will go the clothes, and makes the kids breakfast. It’s heavy-handed and annoying (in real life, American women who make more money than their spouses STILL do the majority of the housework), especially because we never see Margot do any chores. Theirs doesn’t appear to be an egalitarian relationship but rather a gender inverted one—and one that is more of a boogie man of feminist goals than the reality of modern womanhood.
That’s a lot to set up in one episode (and there are actually more plotlines, including a compelling one in Moldova to come). But “The Power” pushes through and takes off in the second episode, visiting distant corners of the globe. And the film manages its diverse cast mostly well: Colette shines, as always, here toggling between savior and embarrassing mom; Jimoh falls effortlessly into his role, his natural charisma and wholesomeness making believable his quick success as a journalist; and Zmitrowicz reverberates with power, rage, and moxie.
The art direction is beautiful, traveling across the world, yes, but also taking time to explore its various settings in moments of alternating between quiet and upheaval. There’s thankfully no sepia tone marking some locations as different or dangerous, but it’s still immediately clear where we are: London or Seattle, rural US or a bustling Nigeria, the suffocating Presidential Palace of Moldova or the nearby countryside, which multiple characters remind us is a sex trafficking capital.
“The Power” is wonderfully assembled, acted, and directed. But its real success is in how it envisions women, trans, and intersex people as capable of the cruelty and abuses of power that have long been the providence of men. In this show, women are not kinder, more maternal, or more communal than men. They’ve adopted those strategies to survive but can shed them, becoming as ruthless, unhinged, and nakedly power-hungry as any man.
I’m not sure I totally buy it, but it is a compelling question: is our entire world order—our familial, sexual, governmental, economic, and religious structures—all predicated on who has the greater capacity for violence? “The Power” argues it does, and it makes for smart TV along the way.
All of season one was screened for review. “The Power” is now playing on Prime Video.