EMPIRE Review: “Love is a Smoke”

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This week’s episode of deals with a lot of loss. Missed connections, opportunities and promises take a strong hold and run rampant throughout the plot, often dictating act breaks and climaxes. It’s hard to say why, though. Outside of the simple entertainment factor, Empire is usually a show that strives for more. A lot of what this episode felt like was simply someone in the room saying, “We need to hit the restart button, change alliances, and make new enemies.” It’s interesting, absolutely, but it undercuts the journey that we’ve made so far.

The focal point of this episode is Guisi. Everything save for a couple of important plotlines directly deal with her. Not to mention she says, “My friends call me Guisi,” multiple times this episode. Definitely, we now know it’s pronounced “juicy.”

I’m not a fan of flashbacks, but the ones involving her and Lucious add a lot of context. Lucious and Cookie divorced for a short period of time, and during the interregnum Lucious took a hiatus to Las Vegas where he fell hard for Guisi. If only that was the full story. Poor Lucious saw this wonderful girl betray him in the most spectacular way. She slowed played him into buying a Vegas property, $10 million cash. Nothing in Vegas goes for $10 million cash. But this is Empire, baby! But before the deal’s done Guisi and her then husband Raphael steal it right in front of Lucious’ eyes. I say “then husband” because remember, she killed him.

tvfanatic.com

tvfanatic.com

Finally we have a reason for why Lucious is against Guisi and Vegas. They represent the only time in his life where he outright lost. Lucious strikes me as a superstitious man and so having any business relationship in Vegas, with Guisi, spells doom for Empire. Until now that is. Lucious decides to take a much more personal route to the potential Vegas move. Let’s assume Lucious doesn’t know about Andre’s plans to kill him, nor the conspiracy theory that Andre is a double agent and this was all orchestrated to drive Guisi out of hiding. Instead, Lucious is irate with Andre for rallying the board against him. Lucious’ emotions are a double-edged sword, and they often cut everything all at once. He decides to make his soul purpose a series of punishments directed at Andre and Nessa. First, he takes Tori back from Andre and gives her the chance at a new singing career. Then, he rallies Hakeem and Tianna, two people who hold deep grudges against Andre and Nessa, against the couple. And finally, in his grandest gesture yet, he tells Andre he’s out and kisses Guisi during an Empire Xstream event, celebrating Empire Records’ move to Vegas.

Jamal is worried about Tori, and he has all the right in the world to be. Often playing peacekeeper with his brothers, Lucious has so thoroughly interfered in the situation that Jamal has nothing to do but interfere in the lives of others. He tells Tori that he’s worried about her, and gets rebuffed by her grabbing an entire bottle of liquor and leaving with a girl. Then, when Angelo asks Jamal for Cookie’s hand in marriage (so corny) Jamal tells him to make it a grand gesture. Huge mistake.

refinery29.com

refinery29.com

We finally see why Angelo and Cookie are not made for each other. Angelo is a façade. He’s a product of society. A man that comes from a wealthy family running for politics is a part of the very fabric of American society. To be a bad guy forthright would be bucking tradition. So maybe Angelo isn’t as great as he has led Cookie to believe. Is Angelo corrupt? Literally, yes, we’ve seen it. But before his relationship, all signs point to probably. His willingness to throw the law aside for Cookie is less of a display of love and much more of an ability to forget the law when it gets in his way. Cookie is status to him, not the other way around. He needs Cookie, not the other way around. He proposes to Cookie on live , she hesitates. And when they get to the green room, Cookie says she can’t do this, and that she kissed Lucious and still loves him. And when Angelo starts listing the crimes he has committed for her, he has no idea that his mic is hot. So, when his mother comes running in to tell him the bad news, he has a full, pathetic, breakdown. Cookie leaves and Mama DuBois promises to bring a terrible revenge upon the Lyon family.

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tvafterdark.com

Although it’s such a small part of the episode, it’s important to mention how Lucious decided to deal with Tariq. The short of is, Anika’s plan worked. They never had sex, but she convinced Tariq that she was helpless and needed him against Lucious. Her vulnerability (and flirting) tricked Tariq into thinking she wanted him, and so he started to dish. And Lucious heard it all, especially the part about Tariq being suspended from the FBI. And I’m so glad this played a role. Last episode I was perplexed why it wasn’t mentioned how Tariq was still working on this case, despite being suspended. I still would’ve liked the earlier episodes to handle it in a better way, but the suspension plays a major role, that it’s somewhat forgivable.

What doesn’t make sense to me is why Tariq allows Lucious to play him. Lucious tricks Tariq into a sit down and convinces Tariq that it’s all over. Lucious even gets Tariq to grab a backpack full of money and all I could think of is now the narrative of the obsessed FBI Agent close to cracking the case is gone. Right then and there, by taking what I can only assume is a bribe he has truly damned himself. What an unclimatic end for a pretty dynamic character.

And that’s what I mean, this episode hit the reset button. With Tariq defeated and Angelo showing his true colors, it seems the battle will take place between two powerful families. And that’s just in NYC. In Vegas, Lucious would be foolish to think Andre is doing anything short of plotting his revenge. As we near closer to the end of the season, I’m excited to see where things go.

TB-TV-Grade-B+

Season 3, Episode 14 (S03E14)
Empire airs Wednesday at 9PM on Fox

Read all of our reviews of Empire here.
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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.
Follow Arman on Twitter: @armanbfar
Keep up with all of Arman’s reviews here.

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1 Comment

  1. Another excellent recap (thank you). A couple of points:

    1) I was under the impression (though I certainly could be mistaken) that the reason Tariq took the money (and is going into hiding) is because Lucious made it clear that the FBI would be there shortly, and that (if Tariq didn’t take the money and split before they arrived) that Lucious would use the recordings and other evidence to prove that Tariq was still investigating Lucious despite the suspension, meaning Tariq could go to prison. Thus, the money wasn’t a bribe so much as a consolation prize to his partial relative (always looking out for family… sort of!)

    2) “He decides to make his soul purpose a series of punishments directed at Andre and Nessa.” My first thought was that should be “sole purpose”… but then I thought “soul purpose” actually is probably better!

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