EMPIRE Reviews: “Civil Hands Unclean”

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Last week’s episode introduced such a shift in plot and focus that it comes with no surprise that this week’s episode of feels somewhat different than the rest. And that’s not a bad thing. Empire has gotten meaner, goofier and more direct with what it wants and what it expects out of itself. The back and forth boring drama involving Cookie, Anika and Lucious’ mother feels like a thing of the past. Unfortunately, this episode dedicates an entire quarter of itself to a subplot about live streaming, but the rest of it feels like either an emotional choice or pushing the plot forward.

If anything doesn’t fall into positive writing for this week, it’s definitely Hakeem’s storyline. None of it made sense to me. I almost felt like I was missing something. Hakeem approaches Lucious and is like, “Hey I want my name to be on my baby’s birth certificate,” and Lucious is like, “We’ll see.” So the goal is clear: Hakeem is going to get his name on Bella’s birth certificate. But the journey is baffling. It begins with Hakeem laying half naked on a pool table and talking aloud about Bella and his responsibilities as a father. As this is going on, for no particular reason, Tianna and Tory Ash are making out in a bathtub. This is too much for Hakeem, so he jumps in and as they start a three way, Hakeem literally says, “vanilla and chocolate.” Well something about this almost Neapolitan hookup really opened his mind because Hakeem decides to live stream for literally hours upon hours of the day. Like, I’m roughly guessing 12 hours of a straight live stream. I know it’s been done before, but just think of the logistics. To talk to your phone for 12 hours without having to charge it… how? How do you pull that off? What magical technology are the Lyons hoarding from us? And how does an A&R not step in and tell Hakeem to stop ruining his voice?

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The Hakeem plot ends, but there is no reason why. Lucious watches about ten minutes of his stream and decides that’s good enough for him. Nothing adds up here. And you know what else doesn’t add up? How Lucious decides to deal with Anika. Instead of being like, “I have a feeling you killed Andre’s white wife…” or Andre being like, “Hey guys, can we just please finally get back to the whole catalyst of this season – Anika was impregnated by Hakeem and killed my white wife and then started screwing our father, like, what the hell?” No, instead of any of that, Lucious hands her “divorce papers” which include a 25-million-dollar settlement and a genuine “thank you.” WHY?! So Nessa’s pill regiment has killed the ghost of white wife’s past and Andre is just good with Anika now? I’m going to be disappointed if this is there answer to this season-long plotline.

Andre is moving forward with his decision to kill his father in a very real way. And by that I mean, him, Shyne and a solid percentage of soldiers from North Philly are loading weapons in the back of a laundromat. Somewhere Cookie figures this out, and this is one of those times where it’s better that we don’t know. Andre tries to keep her from the back but she storms in and defuses the situation a la vintage Cookie. It’s moments like these that remind you why Angelo was so bad for Cookie. He didn’t let her be herself, and by that I don’t mean thuggish or gangster, I mean assertive and a problem solver. You see it again here, when Cookie tries to diffuse the situation between the Lyons and the DuBois, Angelo refuses. But in the back of this laundromat, she is queen, invites everyone over for dinner at her place and effectively puts Andre’s plans on pause.

As I said earlier, the battleground is different from this point on. With Tariq (supposedly) out of the picture, Angelo and his mother are the new enemies and they mean business. Angelo shuts down Lucious’ club on account of “violating” the fire code, and even manages to pull out some of his investors. Jamal decides that it would be best if he dealt with the DuBois. Jamal even quotes Michelle Obama, “when they go low, we go high.” And so Jamal decides to smoke Angelo out with a check for a sobering 5 million dollars. The Lyons would be anonymous donors to the DuBois foundation, and their family can take all the credit. Angelo is reluctant but forced to agree, there’s too much he can do with that money. Jamal’s main interest this episode isn’t watching Angelo make an easy decision though.

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Jamal and Lucious battle over tracks on their competing albums. Most of it is just back and forth nonsense, and some of it involves special guest Snoop Dogg. But the big takeaway here is that, for the first time this whole season, Lucious and Jamal work together. Maybe he’s doing it for his mom’s sake or maybe they’re just both doing it for the music, but there is something to be said: Jamal and Lucious are not the mortal enemies we once thought they were.

So as Lucious is dishing out thanks and prizes to Hakeem and Anika they get a knock on the door. And it’s CPS, ready to take Bella away. You have to think it’s foul play, as do the Lyons. The problem the Lyons make is assuming it’s Angelo’s doing. My bet is that this is a last ditch effort of revenge for Tariq. Knowing that Anika was worried about the safety of her baby, he decided to get back at her the only way he knew would hurt – by taking Bella away. Honestly I had no idea that CPS could act so suddenly with no history of child abuse and no evidence for it either. It seems the battle has changed yet again, and that Angelo and his mother will be taking a hit for something they didn’t do.

TB-TV-Grade-B+

Season 3, Episode 15 (S03E15)
Empire airs Wednesdays 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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