Well, that was a lot.
You’re here because you’ve just watched the incredibly tense Season 1 finale of Starz’s “Power Book IV: Force,” which effectively brings Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora) back to square one.
Not that he’s sweating it. As we see near the end of the episode, he’s no longer interested in just having his own stake in the local drug trade: Now he’s determined to bring the whole city of Chicago under his direct control.
But to get there, he’s going to have to deal with an extremely uncertain new status quo. Both of the show’s family-run gangs — CBI and the Flynns — have fractured into opposing factions. Claudia (Lili Simmons) and Victor (Shane Harper) now run their own organization around the designer drug “Dahlia” in defiance of their father Walter (Tommy Flanagan), while Diamond (Isaac Keys) has severed ties with his brother-betrayer Jenard (Kris D. Lofton), with the two splitting CBI territory between them.
And as for Tommy, while he managed to save his brother JP (Anthony Fleming III) from being murdered by the Flynns, and now looks to be closely allied with Diamond, his own family didn’t make it through unscathed. Rest in peace, Liliana (Audrey Esparza), we’ll miss you.
Video: Joseph Sikora on 'Power Book,' 'Ozark'
And that’s not even getting into the fact that Tommy and JP’s neer-do-well mother, Kate (Patricia Kalember) is now in Chicago. Or the fact that the Serbs and almost certainly the real Irish mafia are gunning for him. Yikes.
Like we said, it’s a lot. To help make sense of it all, TheWrap was lucky enough to talk at length with Sikora ahead of the season finale, and he not only laid out where he thinks Tommy’s head is at after everything that went down, he also shared a major revelation about Tommy — and had loads of praise for his co-stars, as well as the community that made “Power” such a success.
“I think the closer we get to Tommy, so many good things were happening to him, you couldn’t touch him. He felt invulnerable in some ways,” Sikora told us. “And just when it seemed like everything was going good, things change. There’s an old Black Flag lyrics, ‘I get so wound up/To feel so let down’ and I think that’s applicable here as well. There’s only one direction to go and that’s at the end of our season, where Tommy has nothing. And sometimes when Tommy has nothing it’s ‘now I see clearly, now I see the path.'”
How Tommy works
We’ve been watching the character since the first season of the original “Power” back in 2014, and of course if you have as well, you know Tommy is a violent, remorseless killer, but he’s not a sociopath in the way that word is normally used. He has a code he won’t violate, rules he sticks to, fierce loyalty to whoever he considers family, and a burning desire for structure.
We also noticed throughout the series that in certain moments of vulnerability, Tommy seems to miss certain cues and appear as though he’s attempting to navigate confusion about the way other people think or feel. In short, it reminded us of many of the traits that can indicate someone may be on the autism spectrum.
It’s a fascinating performance that’s even more front and center with Sikora in the lead on “Force,” and when we spoke to him we had to ask outright: Is he playing Tommy as someone on the spectrum?
“It’s probably time to just come out with it,” Sikora said, adding that he’d never been asked that question before. “I’ve always played Tommy on the spectrum.”
Sikora said he was inspired by things he’s observed outside of his acting career, and wanted to add to his performance what he described as “this beautiful brilliance,” and to make sure that “you can see the thinking happen.”
“It’s not ‘normal’ like the rest of us, it’s special, I’m playing Tommy as special,” he said, making it clear that this trait absolutely isn’t why Tommy is a criminal, just why he encounters his world and relationships in the way he does.
Goodbye, Liliana – and Tommy’s new family
Speaking of those relationships, a major theme in “Force” Season 1 is Tommy’s collection of a new family that replaces the one he lost when Ghost (Omari Hardwick) died in the final season of “Power,” and his ties to Ghost’s surviving family were irrevocably broken during the first season of “Power Book II: Ghost.”
The unlikely lynch pin of of this new family is Liliana, who hasn’t been seen since Season 1 of “Power” when Ghost and Tommy were debating whether or not to kill her. Turns out she fled to Chicago where, after figuring out Tommy isn’t there to kill her, she becomes his right hand.
Her death — she was shot by Claudia Flynn — hits Tommy especially hard, and even provokes the kind of terror and sadness we’ve only rarely seen in him when someone close to him dies.
“I think that Tommy has always tried to find family, who is his family,” Sikora told us. “I think that it’s hard to prove your true loyalty to Tommy. I think we saw that in a lot of ways, even with Tommy’s whole gang of guys [in “Power”] that to truly prove loyalty and put the idea of the partnership before everything. Ghost is really the only one that proved that to him.”
“I think that Liliana has just proven her loyalty very consistently. And her unyielding nature, and Tommy appreciates the beast in somebody. When they say ‘real recognizes real,’ I think that’s true with Liliana. When she took out those Serbs in that car, that big boy and stabbed him in the neck, she’s just like this wild animal. And Tommy’s like, ‘I appreciate that,'” he continued.
“And Liliana had a chance to screw Tommy or to hurt Tommy, and she didn’t either. She is true to the game. And if anything has saved Tommy’s life in the past, and in the present and will continue to, it’s Tommy sticks to the loyalty to the game. Sometimes he’s not even loyal to himself, but he’s loyal to the street. And Tommy always gives love to the street because that’s what saved him,” Sikora added.
Chicago’s historical legacy – and ‘gratitude’ for Black culture
A big tonal change in “Force” compared to the original “Power” is that it functions in many ways like an action thriller, something Sikora, a Chicago native, says the city is uniquely suited for.
“There is a lot of action, I really do appreciate that, I like that about the show. I think Chicago lends itself to that. There’s almost this urban wildlife happening. Chicago, even back in the 1890s, in the New York Tribune where it was first coined ‘go west young man, go west’ and find your fortune,” he said.
“So there’s always almost this western vibe, shootouts and such,” he continued. “I’m sure that our showrunner, Gary Lennon, one of the most brilliant storytellers I’ve ever had the luxury of working with, is going to really utilize the background of Chicago as a character.”
Related to that, while “Force” is set in the underbelly of Chicago, it has studiously avoided racist depictions and presents the criminal world of Chicago as diverse as the city itself. Not that it shies way from hard truths, such as the still very segregated makeup of the city, or real systemic racism.
Sikora notes that the way Chicago grew unfortunately made racism “part of the fabric of this city,” from the Parish system around which it was built, to the really entrenched political machines that found particular glory and power based there.
Growing up in Chicago, Sikora said he witnessed that and as a result, “I always try to do whatever I can to have a healthy and more open dialogue between white and Black. I’ve always had Black people in Chicago that loved me, I know that I’m lucky in that way, that I’m so blessed to be employed by Black culture.”
“All the things that I’ve learned and enjoyed, the respect I have for the Black community in Chicago, and the Latin community, growing up boxing, being part of the subculture of graffiti writing, I have so much gratitude for Black culture, so I think we can get very specific,” He added.
He notes that “even today with the gentrification, even with the more amalgamated neighborhoods that have become more prevalent” Chicago is still very separated. “More than most big cities Chicago is still like that and I think we can put a finer point on that”
But, he told TheWrap, the focus isn’t just on depicting those themes for the sake of them, but to make a point about who these people are. For instance, Irish mob leader Walter Flynn, who spends the season not only being bitterly opposed to his son Vic’s relationship with a Black woman, Gloria, but also being a pretty mean racist when it suits him. Sikora praises Flanagan, who he calls a “brilliant strategist,” for taking the character in that direction purposefully.
“So, I think that Tommy Flanagan as an actor, and as a brilliant strategist of the character of Walter Flynn, I think he brought in this racism, but he used the racism thing, you know when he was talking to Diamond and did the name calling, that was specifically to get a reaction out of Diamond,” Sikora continued. “I think that’s really advanced acting. He could have said these words and thrown them away and then it’s ‘oh this guy’s just racist.’ But there’s racism and levels of it, and I think he brought that to Walter Flynn, saying it’s ‘I want to hurt you, hurt you with this.'”
“I just thought it was a brilliant performance,” he added.
Sikora also had praise for co-star Isaac Keys, the “very special actor” who portrays Diamond. “I think that he takes his craft seriously, but lightly, he’s a nice person to be around, he’s kind, he’s considerate, he really appreciates everybody from catering to Mark Canton the executive producer, he treats everybody the same way,” Sikora said. “I think that we approach life together in that way, and I have a lot of respect and appreciation for him and I can’t wait to do more work with him.”
The season finale of “Power Book IV: Force” airs Sunday on Starz. The show was been renewed for a second season.