It’s gotta be the season finale of EMPIRE because we open with a branded “Empire helicopter” flying over the Las Vegas skyline. The finale is big and boisterous, but most of it is a mess. It relies on concluding plotlines without mending all of the logical loopholes you have to suspend to get there. In all honesty, I think the season finale might be the worst episode of the season. It’s just not fun, or even interesting. The whole time you know these plot lines are ending, and you can’t help but feel like Empire set up more than it could chew. And the parts that are fun, namely Leah’s deceitful maneuverings, are confusing and short lived. Why Lucious wouldn’t do more to punish his mother for Tariq’s murder, I honestly am not sure. But regardless, it’s the season finale of Empire, and that means it’s a celebration.
The main idea behind this episode is that Empire has moved to Vegas. The deals are done. Leviticus, Empire’s club, will open and all the pieces are in place. But there are many agents willing to stop that from happening. There’s Cookie, who’s only goal in life is to run Guisi out of town and out of Lucious’ heart. There’s Hakeem, who only cares about finding his daughter, and then there’s Andre. Andre is the most serious threat. Determined to kill his father, Andre reups on his agreement with Shyne, who happens to know a terrorist named Franco with a penchant for blowing stuff up. Franco will plant a bomb on Lucious’ car that will end his life and land Empire into the hands of Andre once and for all.
But Andre has another play up his sleeve. Hooking up with Charlotte has created an interesting opportunity for Andre against the rest of the family. But filming Charlotte and himself hooking up, well, that’s a lifetime’s worth of blackmail. But like most plots, that’s how Empire chooses to end her character: very unceremoniously. That’s how Guisi ends as well. For a number of episodes now, we have seen Cookie pitted against Guisi and, for the most part, Guisi has had the upper hand. So, when the hammer drops and Lucious admits this whole thing was nothing more than a (not) clever ruse, I’m left incredibly confused. I mean, of course Lucious was using her, but there was no plan, no clues, nothing Machiavellian about it. It was simply, “she stole money from me, so I lied to her and she was too stupid to pick up on it.” Is this what Empire has been trying to tell us all along; that Guisi is just too stupid? It’s hard to say, but I feel like this is how the show wants you to remember her. Stupid and broken. Empire signed her out of any stake in Vegas and Guisi leaves, threats on the table, as Lucious professes his love to Cookie.
Love for Cookie is rampant throughout the episode. If there’s one thing this finale does right, it’s let you know who Cookie Lyon is and why you should love her. From the deepest, darkest reaches to now, Cookie and Lucious have both fallen and risen together, and they are truly devoted to each other. Lucious unveils the ultimate surprise: this is not an “Inferno” release, it’s a release for “When Cookie Met Lucious.” Serenaded by Jamal, Cookie is taken aback by the spectacle of it all. It’s a sweet, powerful moment and the culmination of a lot of things. All those flashbacks, the journey of Cookie and Lucious’ relationship, Jamal’s drug addiction and stage fright, all overcome, or at least fought, in one single performance.
Hakeem’s obsession with finding his daughter leads him to follow Anika to the home of the DuBois family. Why Anika is there – I have no idea. Was Anika in on it? Then why the show? There’s no need to sell the Lyon’s on anything when Anika knows Leah would never change her tone. Not only does Leah not change her tone, but Leah goes as far as to frame Anika for the murder that Leah convicted. I do not feel sorry for Anika. She did commit murder, she murdered Andre’s wife at the beginning of the season. It took an entire season finale for us to get a murder conviction on a different body, but I guess it’s justice. Meanwhile, Hakeem makes a secret deal with the DuBois family in exchange for protection of their daughter. Another plotline that resolves, but doesn’t give us the information we need.
What’s left is Andre’s plot to kill his father. At this point the only person who can foil it from happening is Lucious himself, and he does just that. Lucious and Cookie decide to step down from Empire in favor letting Andre play king. Andre is touched, Lucious goes on and on about his son’s ability and promises to be committed to helping him in times of turmoil. Andre can’t believe it and quickly runs outside to cancel the assassination attempt. Shyne disagrees, holds Andre at gunpoint and fires the bomb as Andre screams to get away from the car. In a selfless act, Lucious pushes Cookie away from the blast, as he is brutally damaged in the process.
We cut to three months later, Lucious is in a coma. I hate these conventions, but for a season finale that didn’t feel the need to properly wrap up nearly anything, it feels fine. For some reason the family is OK with Andre’s assassination attempt and they rally around their father as he opens his eyes for the first time. Does he say “Hi,” “Andre, why,” “Where am I,” or anything of the sort? No. Lucious looks into the eyes of each of his family members and gasps, “Who are you?” That’s right. As soon as Lucious has buried his demons, made up with his family and embraced his life for what he is – he loses his memory. I’m not sure if I love this choice, but it sure is very Empire.
Season 3, Episode 18 (S03E18)
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