Here we are. Another week of Empire drama to talk about. Over the last three episodes, we’ve watched a story develop that becomes more sophisticated with each episode (as least as sophisticated as it can get Fox).
As mentioned before, at first glance Empire looks like Starz Network’s 50 Cent produced Power. Both are black lead shows with central conflicts between the leading actors and actresses. While Power displayed a passive aggressive tension between Omari Hardwick and Natiri Naughton, Empire has Terrence Howard and Taraji Henson duke it out on every episode. And each week they nearly come to blows literally.
Now, as I said, I am a supporter of black Hollywood, but at times it seems Lee Daniels and the writers are simply relying on the chemistry Howard and Henson had in Hustle and Flow instead of creating believable dialogue and demanding competent acting from the other characters. I mean really, the previews for the following weeks are more intriguing than the actual episodes. But I digress.
Anyway, getting on to the recap, this week opens up with two of Empire’s female artists performing together. One of them bumps into the other and she gets mad. Her manager wants to talk to Lucious because he’s has some things to discuss. Lucious speaks to him in his trailer where he proceeds to beat the hell out of the guy with a crowbar. Really Lucious? Ya had to let him know whose boss huh? I guess it is true, you can take the nigga out the hood but… well you know the rest.
We are taken back to Philly for Bunkie’s funeral in this episode too. Gladys Knight makes a cameo as a church singing mother. Tasha Smith pops up as Cookie’s sister (interesting) and… are you ready for it… good old Lucious himself speaks at the funeral. Smdh… Grime just oozes from this dude. For the record, I still don’t feel Howard in this role completely. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an incredible actor and Lucious does feel dangerous and deceptive, but for all of Empire’s attempts to portray him as a lying, murderous, arrogant homophobe, they aren’t convincing me to hate him. He’s obviously the villain of the show, but Howard’s charisma wants us to see him win.
The detective investigating Bunkie’s murder visits Lucious to see if he might have any idea who would want to do murder his friend. Lucious tries to throw him off the scent but it is obvious the cop suspects him. A homeless man later confirms to the detective that the “lion” he saw the night of the killing was indeed, Lucious. How you gonna get out of that one Lu?
Cookie continues her campaign for Jamal to be recognized as an artist by his homophobic father, recruiting the services of Puma, a retired songwriter from the hood, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. She wants him to write a hit for Jamal. It is apparent that Cookie and Puma share a past, the depth of which is still unknown at this point. The introduction of Puma is good too because her character desperately needs a love interest and this show desperately needs at least one sane black male character.
Cookie continues to support Jamal’s career and gay lifestyle, opposing Lucius vehemently which leads to one of the major conflicts of the episode. Puma gives Cookie a song for Jamal which happens to be one he wrote about her all those years ago. Jamal performs it at an intimate dinner in honor of Hakeem and his new love interest Tiana, thrown by Anika but run by his mother. The look on Lucious’ face says it all as the tune is familiar to him. After hearing his son play it, he says to Anika, right in front of Jamal, that he never liked the song until he heard Jamal’s arrangement and that it would be really good for John Legend. COME ON Lucious. Are you that cold and calloused? Jamal and his “bitch” Michael storm out, back to their apartment.
Now Lee Daniels said that this show was going to address issues ignored in the black community such as homophobia. Another issue that I’m assuming to be addressed is mental health. As we learned last week, Andre is bipolar. This week, he called in a “favor” to the Deputy Mayor Alverez (which involved him turning her around on her desk and hitting from the back during work hours… must be nice) at the request of his father to find out what the cop snooping around about Bunkie’s death has uncovered. His story really didn’t develop much, although we did find out that he and his wife Rhonda are obviously into role playing. And by role playing I mean she pretends to be the Deputy Mayor and Andre calls her “Deputy Mayor Alverez.” Um letting your man call you his ex AND knowing that he boned her earlier that day…White girl problems.
Lastly, and easy to forget, is the punk ass rapper, Hakeem. Side note: I don’t understand why the writers want his talent to rival Jamal’s. He’s a rapper and his brother a singer. There’s no comparison. The only thing that was interesting here is that his mommy issues come to light in a much more obvious way because he secretly has a fling going on with a much older, sexy woman played by Naomi Campbell.
This episode ends with Jamal getting a visit from Lucious, they argue and daddy Lyon exclaims how he doesn’t know his son. He then says something about paying the bills for his apartment which causes Jamal to throw the keys at Lucious feet, grab his bitch… I mean Michael… storm out with his things and declare, “I’m going to take his empire.”
Fade to black, roll credits, see you next week.