EMPIRE has finally hit a stride as we run into the last (two-part) episode of the season. In that sense, this is the penultimate episode, and there are quite a few plots both resolved and hitting their climax. The central core of the episode seeks to answer where we left in the last: who took Bella? I’ve had a sneaking suspicion this whole time that it was Tariq who took Hakeem’s daughter, the DuBois felt too obvious. I wouldn’t yet say I’m wrong, but I’m definitely not yet proven right.
There are a lot of different threads in this episode that lead you down a number of paths. Though many of them revolve around the disappearance of Bella, most also seek to rectify past plotlines. Perhaps the most apparent of these is with Andre. Andre has been a central character this whole season, that has managed to stay in the shadow throughout its entirety. Andre was the only one to witness the death of his wife and unborn child by the hands of Anika. He was also the only Lyon present during his arrest, moved against his father behind the scenes, and allied with Shyne in the shadows as well. Nothing with Andre has come to a head. Until now.
Cookie has become more involved in the lives of her sons and Andre is not excluded from this. What Cookie sees, she doesn’t like. He’s more impulsive and obsessed with taking down Lucious. His tendencies are bordering on irrational, and his disregard for social norms even more apparent. He berates Shyne in front of his mother, and lets his girlfriend get slapped across the face by his mother as well. When Nessa approaches him about his behavior, he seems to allude to Nessa being a pawn towards taking down his father. When Cookie and Andre meet with the Vegas mafia for the casino deal, Andre has a mental breakdown, promising that he won’t back any deal that Lucious has become a part of. The climax of Andre’s descent to madness comes with pinning Anika down and promising revenge for the death she’s caused in his life. Instead of inflicting any sort of harm, she leaves her to suffer with the knowledge that her baby will never be returned to her.
The disappearance of Bella seems to have a profound effect on Lucious. Hakeem is also troubled by it, but like everything Hakeem does, it feels like child’s play. When Lucious asks his mother if he’s a good father, he’s crushed when she admits he’s not even a good person. Reality has begun to set in, and with some surprisingly wise words from his mother, Lucious is ready to make amends with Jamal. If Andre represents vengeance, Jamal represents compassion. In many ways I feel like Empire is a twisted retelling of King Leer, and although Hakeem is perhaps most in line with Lucious, it’s Jamal who deserves the keys to the kingdom. Only Jamal forces Lucious to become a better person. After debunking a couple of Lucious’ agendas, Jamal manages to grab his father’s full attention. The music they create together is the best Empire Records has to offer. It’s been a journey this whole season, but for the first time this season, it seems like Jamal is a Lyon and Lucious is a better person.
I think the stress of a stolen Bella has caused Cookie to more-or-less go rogue. As much as she wants to kill Guisi for moving in on her family, she’s more convinced that it’s time to personally dismantle the DuBois family. Unfortunately, the point has been reached where Cookie feels like she needs to become the woman she tried to leave behind. After slapping Nessa across the face, she makes a deal with Shyne – get her Angelo, and she’ll make it up to him. If there’s anything Shyne does well, it’s illegal, so kidnapping Angelo and torturing him in a laundromat falls under the man’s expertise. Cookie is convinced the DuBois family has something to do with the disappearance of Bella, and at this point, I was so convinced it was Tariq. I mean Cookie has Angelo tied up, bloody and begging. He doesn’t know a thing about Bella, and even Cookie begins to pick up on this. Knowing there will be a legal battle to follow, she reluctantly releases Angelo back to the wild.
As Cookie relays this information to Lucious, she makes a plea to reunite the Lyon family. The Lyon’s united can take on the world, and surely, they will find Bella and return her to safety. But Lucious says he’s already made his decision. Guisi walks in and the scene is set: Lucious has chosen to side with Guisi. You have to think that Lucious is playing some ulterior motive here, but maybe not. Maybe he simply sees himself aligning with Guisi, for now and forever.
As Angelo’s mother tends to his wounds, Angelo promises legal ramifications that would cripple the Lyon’s forever. Diana DuBois is ready to let Angelo in on her Trump card. She rings a bell, as a slaveowner would, and a white woman brings in Bella, who Diana introduces as the newest member to the DuBois family. Stupefied, Angelo looks on as Diana cradles Bella and pontificates on her motivation, “They stole our future, so I stole theirs.”
Season 3, Episode 16 (S03E16)
Empire airs Wednesdays at 9PM on Fox
Arman is a Seattle-based writer who often lives in LA and wants to be in New York. He has worked on Billy on The Street and Black-ish. He also loves sandwiches.
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Arman Mohazzabfar | Contributor