It’s back. After a midseason hiatus that gave us the short rise and long fall of Star, EMPIRE is finally back and with a vengeance. There are many moments in this episode to write home about, and many more that remind you why Empire is so good at what it does. But this episode falters in a lot of other areas. I’ve never been so aware of exposition before in my life, but this week’s episode acts as if it’s reintroducing the base concept of Empire to the viewers. I get that it’s been a long time, but the dialogue is so clunky in these moments that I would rather have given myself up to the confusion.
With that being said, this week’s episode brings no new plots to the table, instead it focuses on finding answers to a midseason’s worth of arcs. The short of it is, nothing gets resolved, but massive strides are made. I think if the return of Empire wanted me to feel or recognize anything, it’s that the rest of this season is going to focus on couples, and the hills and valleys of relationships as only Empire can do. There are a lot of important couples. Hakeem and Tianna, Andre and Nessa, Cookie and Angelo, Lucious and Anika, Jamal and his music (kind of a cop out), and the most important one, Cookie and Lucious. No matter what we are told, it doesn’t take much to realize that Cookie and Lucious are very much not over.
Most of this episode is very easy to follow, whether we were brought in via handholding dialogue or not. What’s not easy to follow is this Lucious indictment case. I don’t understand how Lucious and his lawyer (Bubbles from The Wire) figure out any of this stuff. Somehow, they both deduce that the feds are about to stick them for the murder of Freddie Grey. And from there, Lucious and Bubbles come to the conclusion that some guy named Bam-Bam is going to testify, and they need to make sure he doesn’t. I don’t understand how they make those leaps and I don’t even understand if the audience is supposed to get it. The whole thing feels like a faux-reveal at its resolution and though it definitely has some major consequences for Tariq, who is put on paid leave, the whole thing feels needless.
The rest of the episode delivers. In classic Empire fashion, everyone is feuding with everyone. Andre is still unhinged and committed to killing his father, which freaks his new business partner Shyne Johnson out a little bit. And that’s saying something. Shyne Johnson loves violence, so for him to have a look of tepid enthusiasm on his face when Andre reasserts his dream of murdering Lucious, says a lot. The partnership is an interesting one as well, and it will be exciting to see how Andre decides to play his hand in the future. Andre is unhinged but he’s also very smart, and he has to realize that the only person Shyne Johnson cares about is himself. Family and Nessa are really nothing more than a front, because if Shyne could sell Nessa out for his own success he would in an instant – oh wait, he already did that. Andre manages to trick his father into giving Nessa a solo concert instead of Hakeem and Tianna, and when they crash it on the orders of Cookie, Nessa and Andre play it cool… to a point. You see Andre’s psychotic notions are only matched by his own calculating nature, but unfortunately Nessa isn’t all the way there yet. She lets Tianna get under her skin and in classic Empire fashion the two of them fight for all of the world to see.
Jamal is finding himself in rehab and truly seems to be in a better place. So, when his entire family (including Lucious) go to visit him, they’re surprised when Jamal says he needs to leave in order to work on his music. Although the show tends to focus on Cookie in these moments and her lapse of judgement in giving Jamal the pills she flushed down the sink, it’s Lucious who’s the one to focus on. For the entirety of this season the only two things Lucious has cared about are Empire Records and Angelo DuBois and Jamal is an obstacle in the way of both of these objectives. His PTSD has lost Empire millions of dollars and his preference for Angelo and Cookie over Lucious leaves him at a disadvantage. So when Lucious seems to truly have Jamal’s best interest at heart, it’s quite telling. Maybe when the going gets tough for his kids, Lucious really does step up and be the father they need.
But even if Empire is willing to show us a portrait of a good father out of Lucious, it’s clear that he is nothing but a bad husband. In reversal that causes Cookie to lose her mind, Lucious fires Xavier and replaces him with his “loving wife, and muse” Anika. Cookie has been going to battle against Lucious all season but it’s clear that this is the point of no return. Cookie goes full Ice Cube and takes a bat to Empire records, destroying everything she sees fit to while screaming at Lucious, “WHO WAS YOUR MUSE ON THAT?” His words about Anika have clearly gotten to her and although Lucious at first seems pleased, even he realizes that he might have gone too far. Cookie takes the bat to his head causing him to bleed and breaks nearly every window she comes across, causing Lucious’ hands to bleed as well. It’s not until Lucious stumbles into his penthouse and finds her hacking away at his grand piano that the two of them calm down and share a moment. It’s gross when he brushes her face with his bloody hands, but the two of them start kissing until Cookie pulls away, and leaves him with the mess to clean.
Season 3, Episode 10 (S03E10)
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.
Follow Arman on Twitter: @armanbfar
Keep up with all of Arman’s reviews here.
Arman Mohazzabfar | Contributor