With the Season 3 debut of Power on July 17, Starz’s most-watched series may become its strongest one too. Now moved to the big leagues of Sunday nights after two successful years on Saturdays, the mantra for this season of the fast-paced drama is “Ghost Must Die,” but the chorus should be “ladies are livin’ large.”

Drenched in the dialects, divisions and mash-ups that are 2016 New York City life from borough to borough, background to background and block to block, Power‘s power has long come from its sense of authenticity, mediated and raw. As I say in my video review above, a lot of that comes from the oversight and insight of co-star/executive producer Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent, along with showrunner Courtney Kemp. The duo, to paraphrase the rapper’s 2003 debut, are going for getting real or die tryin’ as the female characters and the actors who play them move to the foreground.

To that end, and picking up almost right after last season’s burning cliffhanger, the 10-episode third season finds main man James “Ghost” St. Patrick, played by the dictionary definition of a leading man Omari Hardwick, having left the drug game. With enemies known and yet to be unsheathed, Ghost has also left his wife Tasha, portrayed by a fierce Naturi Naughton, to shack up with his first love Angela, played by Lela Loren – the very federal prosecutor once set to put the now nightclub mogul behind bars. So, in this saga of broken homes, strange bedfellows, broken promises and healing wounds, let’s just say a complex multi-point narrative is getting a lot more complicated and engaging — and I liked the first two seasons of Power a lot to begin with.

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Add to the mix Lucy Walters as the always watching and ambitious Holly, girlfriend to Ghost’s old partner Tommy (portrayed again with fine explosive tension by Joseph Sikora), and Roots alum Anika Noni Rose on board in a pivotal new role, and the checkmate moves here reveal who is really playing this long game — and the men are simply outclassed.

Having significantly bulked up its game over the past five years with a strong slate that includes Outlander, The Girlfriend Experience, Black Sails and comedies like Blunt Talk and Survivor’s Remorse, Starz has in Power a veteran more than pulling its weight and showing the contenders how it’s done – and taking off into realms the series had only hinted at before.

Click on my Power Season 3 video review above for more — you’ll see what I mean.

This review originally posted on July 7