Power never dies.” That was the tagline (and obligatory hashtag) used back in early 2020 to tease an ambitious brand expansion of Starz’s popular drug-trade drama, “Power.” As the flagship series wound down, the sizzle trailer insisted that while the show’s antihero protagonist — played by Omari Hardwick — might have drawn his last breath, there was plenty of oxygen left in the franchise. It seemed almost fanciful at the time — four spin-offs announced at once?!? — but three successful shows launched within two years’ time goes beyond proof of concept. Not only is “Power” alive and well, its heart rate is robust.

February saw the premiere of “Power Book IV: Force,” the franchise’s third extension, focused on Tommy Egan (Joseph Sikora), one of the “Power” universe’s many virtuosic cocaine dealers. “Force” set an all-time viewership record for Starz, tallying 3.3 million cross-platform viewers for its premiere. It’s an amazing feat on its own, but even more impressive since “Force” premiered just after the second season finale of “Power Book II: Ghost,” its sibling. “Ghost,” which Starz says sparked a historic rally for new subscriptions, will return for a third season, while the other “Power” spinoff, “Book III: Raising Kanan,” is in production on its second season.

The “Power”-verse boasts a loyal (and largely African American) audience, one big enough to make it a foundational property for Starz and a social media mainstay. But, as the street-pharmaceutical entrepreneurs of “Power” would no doubt attest, getting to the top of the food chain is one thing, and staying there is another story. As the first season of “Force” comes to a close, having secured a Season 2 renewal, the “Power” franchise is headed into an especially precarious position creatively.

For one thing, creator Courtney Kemp, who developed the series with executive producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Mark Canton, has since signed a lucrative overall deal with Netflix. While she’ll still retain her executive producer title on all “Power” series, the writing will now fall to the respective showrunners, a team still in flux. (Brett Mahoney has taken over Season 3 of “Ghost,” replacing Kemp, while Gary Lennon will oversee the second season of “Force” following the departure of that show’s creator, Robert Munic.) Speaking of the “Force” renewal, it was conspicuously slow to come relative to the renewals for its franchise siblings, a symbolic slight that didn’t go unnoticed by Jackson. (Few slights go publicly unaddressed by Jackson, who recently called the network “incompetent” following a reported episode leak.)

There’s also been a dearth of news about “Influence,” the Larenz Tate-starring political drama originally positioned to debut before “Force” that has since disappeared into development limbo. (A Starz representative was unable to confirm the project’s status despite multiple queries.) As efficient as the “Power” incubator has become, can the franchise maintain its quality despite the behind-the-scenes upheaval?

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Omari Hardwick on “Power.” Courtesy of Starz/Everett Collection

Before exploring that question, let’s start with a primer for those yet to be corrupted by “Power.” Original recipe “Power,” which debuted in 2014, starred Hardwick as James St. Patrick, a nightlife entrepreneur living the glamorous life in Manhattan. When he’s not hosting the rich and beautiful at his nightclub, Truth, he’s peering down from the deluxe penthouse he shares with his wife Tasha (Naturi Naughton) and their three kids. What Tasha knows, but the kids initially do not, is that James is also a massively successful cocaine distributor alongside his childhood friend (and “Force” protagonist) Tommy.

Like most kingpins, James — known on the streets as “Ghost” — yearns to go straight and focus his endeavors on legal hedonism, especially when the drug game requires him to commit pragmatic homicides. That inner turmoil intensifies when James has a chance reunion with Angela (Lela Loren), a high-school flame with embers still glowing over a decade hence. James and Angela plunge into a torrid affair, both blissfully unaware of the true ramifications. Because James should be completely off-limits to Angela, and not just because of the whole wife-and-kids situation. He’s also the same mysterious and ruthless drug lord she’s been trying to identify and bring to justice in her work as a federal prosecutor.

“Power” is equal parts Shakespeare, Elmore Leonard and David Simon, a story of tragic coincidences and bloody consequences set in a chaotic criminal underworld. Its closest recent peers are Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” and several FX series: “Snowfall,” “Sons of Anarchy,” and the “Sons” spin-off“Mayans M.C.” Like those shows, “Power” and its descendants are simultaneously massive and inconspicuous, like a narrow radio frequency that, once you find it, blasts out of the speakers at an ear-splitting volume.

Hip-hop is the franchise’s beating heart, owing to Jackson’s influence as a former corner boy turned entertainer, and multiple rappers have been written into the show. Jackson recurred throughout “Power” and performs the theme songs of each series, while “Ghost” boasts Clifford “Method Man” Smith as a regular. Kendrick Lamar made his acting debut in an episode of “Power,” and “Force” features guest appearances from Freddie Gibbs and Jeremih.

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“Power Book II: Ghost,” from left: Michael Rainey Jr., Mary J. Blige, LaToya Tonodeo. Courtesy of Starz/Everett Collection

Of the three spin-offs currently in rotation, “Ghost” is the most creatively stable, if only because it maintains the closest proximity to the “Power” mothership. Michael Rainey Jr. reprises his role as Tariq St. Patrick, James’son who has ascended to the leading man slot after shooting his father to death in the “Power” series finale. In “Power,” Tariq was an adolescent terror, constantly meddling in his father’s affairs and putting his family in even greater peril than they faced already. That made Tariq a controversial choice to build a new series around, and a portion of the polarized fanbase vowed on social media not to tune in as they continued to stew over his arguably needless patricide.

In what may have been an attempt to overcome the obstacle of a fan-favorite punching bag turning protagonist, Mary J. Blige was attached to “Ghost” months before the show’s premise or details about her character were announced. Blige’s casting proved a key decision, one that prevents “Ghost” from becoming “Power: The College Years.” That’s what the show initially looked like it could become, as Tariq agreed to obtain a degree from the elite Stansfield University in order to satisfy a stipulation attached to the trust account earmarked by his father. But thanks to his first-year roommate Zeke (Daniel Bellomy), he’s drawn into the affairs of Zeke’s family, the Tejadas, who are running their own flourishing drug enterprise. Monet Tejada (Blige) is the scheming matriarch who draws Tariq deeper into the family business, much to the chagrin of her actual children.

“Ghost” was an easy point of entry for “Power” fans, with a plot that picks up mere hours after James’ murder and tracks the aftermath for a host of original characters including Tasha and Cooper Saxe (Shane Johnson), a disgraced prosecutor who once worked alongside Angela. The first season invested too heavily in the plot’s college elements, with even Tariq’s square-peg classmates and professors getting sucked into his criminal vortex. But by Season 2, the campus setting faded into the background as “Ghost” evolved into a dysfunctional family drama with stakes much grander than whether Tariq can maintain his grade point average.

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“Power Book III: Raising Kanan,” from left: Patina Miller, Mekai Curtis. Courtesy of Starz/Everett Collection

“Raising Kanan” is also the story of a dysfunctional family, but was a much bigger swing for the “Power”-verse, since “Ghost” functioned as a direct continuation of storylines already in motion. “Kanan” is a 1991-set prequel focused on the upbringing of Kanan Stark, the terrifying uber-villain played by Jackson in the original series. Mekai Curtis stars as a 15-year-old version of Kanan, who lives in the South Jamaica section of Queens with his fierce and fabulous mother Raquel (Tony-winner Patina Miller.) Raquel is involved in a dangerous vocation (one you should be able to guess by now), and struggles to keep Kanan out of the business despite his natural urge to protect his single mother from the dangerous elements surrounding her.

Of the “Power”-verse’s many topsy-turvy parent-child relationships, Raquel and Kanan have the most interesting and nuanced bond. As played by Jackson, Kanan is malice personified, a gleeful killer with a hair-trigger temper and a tendency to humiliate and emasculate his foes. “Raising Kanan” relies on the audience’s curiosity about what influences and life events could yield such a monster, and while that’s a fascinating hook, it’s also a slow burn. Complicating matters as “Kanan” finds its voice is its similarity to “BMF,” another Starz drug-trade drama also executive produced by Jackson. “Kanan” and“BMF” certainly have their differences — the latter is set in Detroit, and is based on a true story — but two crack-epidemic era family dramas might be one too many for a single network.

Then there’s “Force,” the most auspicious of the spin-offs so far. What “Force” has that the other “Power” series lack is an honest-to-goodness antihero as its lead character. Tommy is an apex predator, as street-savvy as he is hot-headed, and the pilot finds him fleeing an untenable situation in New York with plans to reanimate his business somewhere in California. During the road trip, he makes a pit stop in Chicago to attend to a family matter only to find himself awkwardly positioned between two competing crime families trying to coexist with as little bloodshed as possible. In control of Chi-town’s north side is the Flynn family, led by patriarch Walter (“Sons of Anarchy” alum Tommy Flanagan), while the south side is controlled by Diamond Sampson (Isaac Keys), who’s resuming his duties following a lengthy prison sentence.

“Force” has growing pains of its own, mostly because the writers are sprinting to turn Chicago into the well-stocked China shop the audience wants to watch Tommy lay waste to. The “Power”-verse is a sprawling ecosystem, but it grew into its world over its six seasons, and “Force” seems to want to replicate a similar scale in the span of six episodes. But the show has such a strong gravitational force in Tommy, a wisecracking bruiser equally likely to talk his way out of a sticky situation as shoot his way out. Sikora’s scenery-chewing performance is always a blast to watch, and he’s able to cut through the chaos of the too-busy plotting.

In his expanded leading-man role, Tommy also gets laid regularly, which imbues “Force” with an eroticism that the other two shows woefully lack. “I love sex and violence,” said Kemp in a recent interview pegged to the announcement of her Netflix deal. And it showed in the original “Power,” which had just as much of the former as the latter. Starry-eyed James would sneak away to have explicit, athletic sex with Angela, while Tommy was all business with the business ends of his dual pistols. Without forbidden lust as their narrative foundation, the spinoffs have ratcheted up the violence — there may be no more reliable source of splattered-cranium kill shots anywhere on television. But with a college student as the lead of “Ghost” (one who was introduced to audiences as a minor) and the mother-son dynamics of “Raising Kanan,” the steamy nighttime soap elements of the original series have diminished as the franchise has grown.

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Larenz Tate on “Power.” Courtesy of Starz/Everett Collection

Ironically, “Influence,” the “Power” spin-off slowest off the blocks might have the best chance of replicating what made the original show so compelling. But at present, “Influence” only has a title and a main character. Larenz Tate is attached to reprise his role as Rashad Tate, a crooked cop turned crooked politician who locked horns with James in the final season of “Power,” and carried his vendetta into a role in “Ghost.” Plot details remain as murky as everything else related to “Influence,” but Kemp has said the show would focus on the shady machinations of the New York political class.

That departure from the “Power”-verse’s glut of drug dealers would be intriguing, and not only just for the variety it would offer. “Power” was about the cocaine business, but at its creative peak, it was more about the care and feeding of a double life. Like “Breaking Bad” or “Barry” before it, “Power” focused on an antihero perilously managing compartmentalized existence, with one aspect of his life always threatening to consume the others. Great drama first comes from the threat of those partitions collapsing, then the bedlam that results when they finally do.

What the franchise is starved for is a leading man like James St. Patrick, whose challenge was maintaining an appealing public face while concealing bloody hands behind his back. In reality, the most potent thing the “Power”-verse has to offer isn’t the drugs its characters sell, but the secrets and lies their savage business demands of them. “Force” is evolving in that direction as its first season comes to a close on April 17, with Tommy building a teetering tower of cards as he attempts to play both sides of a complex factional conflict. Hopefully the second season will deepen Tommy’s duality, because the “Power”-verse has shown its ability to pump out inventory. Now it has to prove it can diversify the product.

Note: This essay has been updated.