The things sons inherit from their fathers are usually benign. Maybe you love baseball. Maybe, God help you, it's a bird-watching hobby. We won't even get into the obvious genetic things like male pattern baldness.
We all wrestle with a question, in big ways and small: Am I turning into my parents? Hollywood takes that question and tweaks it to the extreme: What if your dad is a cutthroat mob boss who can't get out of "The Life?"
"Power Book II: Ghost" treads that familiar, entertaining ground. The sequel to Starz's hit show "Power" focuses on the immediate aftermath of the original's finale. If you've seen "The Godfather," you already understand much of the dynamics at play. We're not giving away any spoilers. A quick Google search will bring you up to speed.
"Power Book II: Ghost" zooms in on young Tariq St. Patrick, played by Michael Rainey Jr. His Dad was James St. Patrick (Omar Hardwick), nicknamed "Ghost," a smart and ruthless drug dealer who wanted out of the narcotics business. He wanted to live in the nightclub world, which was his legitimate business. Instead, he was murdered; much of the end of the "Power" series is a whodunnit.
In "Ghost," Tariq is starting college at fictional Stanfield University in New York City. To rake in his substantial inheritance, Tariq must stay enrolled at the school and maintain a 3.5 GPA.
But already, he's feeling pressure to turn into his old man. His mom, Tasha, (Naturi Naughton) was arrested and charged with his father's murder. And you have to find a way to pay the lawyer, right? In season 2, which debuts in June, Tariq turns to the drug game, cutting deals with a cutthroat family led by Mary J. Blige's character, Monet Stewart Tejada.
Even in the first episode of the series, you can see the direction Tariq is heading. He meets with a trio of professors and delivers his take on "The Stranger" by Albert Camus which he had to read.
"Meursault, he was different. He was a killer. He was alienated. He was special, maybe too special to live by everyone else's rules. Because of that difference, he couldn't survive," Tariq tells his smiling professors. Then he goes on to shoot down the idea of playing by society's rules. "I think to do that is to die while you're still living. He went out on his own terms. He controlled his own destiny."
It sounds like he's already made his choice. New to the Starz show? This development has been brewing for a while. The original series spent years building Tariq up as a bratty, entitled kid seemingly looking for direction. In Ghost, he seems to have figured it out. And the story bears a striking resemblance to another famous Hollywood product.
"The Godfather," "Power" and fathers and sons
Fifty years ago, "The Godfather" tread familiar ground. Al Pacino's Michael Corleone was too good for the family's mafia kingdom, led by his father, Vito (Marlon Brando). Above his family's cycle of violence, or perhaps because of it, he joined the Marines.
When he got out of the service, Michael was dragged back into the family business relatively quickly after rivals shot his father. Michael visited his dad in the hospital and pledged his loyalty.
After his father dies of a heart attack, Michael goes on a killing spree, knocking off rival families and re-establishing the Corleone gang in charge of New York City. "The Godfather" title was a reference to Michael Corleone, not his father.
"Ghost" takes a different tact. While Vito Corleone encouraged his son to take over his empire, Ghost tried to shoo his son away. In a fateful meeting just before his father's death, Tariq was in trouble selling drugs and had to meet his father's wrath.
"Dad, I'm just like you. How could you expect me to be any different?" Tariq asked.
"I sold drugs because I had to, okay? I'm not that person anymore," Ghost tells his son. "Your mother and I are telling you that you're going to ruin your life."
Are we fated to turn into our parents?
The thought crosses the mind of most adults at some point. Maybe you make an offhand comment to somebody about a flock of birds, and you suddenly catch yourself: What have I become? Am I turning into my parents?
Hollywood's version of that is decidedly less wholesome.
Tariq has seemingly made his choice already in the first episode of "Ghost." He's sympathizing with fictional bad guys, lionizing them into counterculture heroes. He's on his way to becoming the ultimate drug dealer on his terms.
As the title of the show implies, Ghost is now haunting his wife and son. The show is just one of three spinoffs coming out in the next 12 months. 50 Cent famously played his dad's rival, Kanan, in the original "Power" series. His character will get new life in another series, "Power Book III: Raising Kanan," which debuts in July 2021. The show will focus on the forces that turned Kanan into Ghost's nemesis. Still another spinoff, "Power Book IV: Force" will premier in January 2022, focusing on Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora), Ghost's old business partner, who leaves New York City behind and charts his own path.
Tariq's path already seems clear. In a scene with Simon Stern (Victor Garber), another former rival of Ghost, Stern chides the young man for only talking about business, no chit-chat.
"Just like your father. Always eager to get right down to business," Stern says.
"I'm nothing like my father," Tariq quickly says.
Right. He's going to be bigger, badder, and better. We can all relate.