Alright, people. We are back with season three of Empire and per usual, it is all over the place. Not as much as the beginning of season two, but there’s a lot going on, and it’s choppy. If you remember where the Lyon gang left off, Lucious married Anika (to Cookie’s consternation) in order to prevent her from testifying against him. Laura ran out on Hakeem during their wedding because it’s all just too much; and Rhonda got some balls, confronted Anika (who is the reason she lost her baby), and we are left not knowing which one of them went over the side of the building. This is what you need to know going into episode one of the new season. Here’s what went down this week.
We pick right back up at what should have been the wedding of the year. Hakeem jets out, and as he does, we find out that the unlucky lady that took the plunge is Rhonda. Yes, she is gone ya’ll. She hits the top of a car right in front of Lucious and Jamal. I guess this means people will never know the truth about what Anika did to her. That girl is just becoming more and more ruthless.
As the rest of the family deals with Rhonda’s death AND Anika going into labor, Hakeem, drunk, visits Tiana at her house. He tells her that she is the one for him and has been all along. She doesn’t want to hear it. Just as he passes out on her couch, pants down and all, Jamal calls. He doesn’t answer leaving everyone to wonder, “Where’s Hakeem?”
At the hospital, the family tries to console Andre as he sits in a silent gaze. They push him to pray buy he says he’s done with God. While Dre deals with the loss of his wife, Lucious “helps” his during labor. And by help I mean as she brings life into the world, he threatens hers. He tells Anika to say that Rhonda jumped and tried to take her down as well. As he’s demanding her compliance, the baby is born and surprise- it’s a girl. Oh Lord, why did this woman lie to Lucious by telling him it’s boy? Doesn’t she know he’s crazy? Lu is not pleased, but baby Bella is here.
Scene switch and this is the choppiness I’m referring to; Lucious entertains French Montana, Fetty Wap and Birdman. He wants them to agree to give him the rights to their catalogues for Empire Up Stream, the replacement for his failed and sabotaged attempt last season. Things are going okay until he tells them that he’s the king. This doesn’t sit well with Birdman, and ultimately, they tell him, “I’m good.”
Back at Empire, sometime after this meeting, the family is missing Andre. Cookie is worried, but Lucious is still all about business. He wants something big for Empire Up’s launch, but Hakeem is too butt hurt to care. He and Lucious can’t get on the same page, and I’m sure it has everything to do with losing. In the midst of all this, Lu still wants Cookie as his queen. However, she’s no fool. He thinks everything is good between them, but she reassures him, that what they had “is dead.”
To blow off steam, Hakeem goes to the studio. While there, Moonshine (Shyne), Lucious and Cookie’s old “friend” crashes the session. This guy stays crashing shit. As Hakeem gets in his face, Lucious shows up and tells him to get out. Moonshine says no and beats up the engineer instead. He tells Hakeem “You’re dope, don’t let anyone tell you different” then he leaves. But not before letting Lucious know that he has until tomorrow to make him a deal for his new artist, Nessa.
Lucious decides to oblige Moonshine by giving her a feature on and Empire song. He also agrees to let her perform at Leviticus. Shyne is happy, for now. He goes back to the studio to let Hakeem know the change in plans. He also totally revamps the track, and it is dope. By the way, for the record, from the sound of the music so far on the first episode, it is going to be one hell of a season three soundtrack.
Let’s talk about the music for a second. One of the best tracks out of all the seasons is a song that Jamal sings about the loss of black lives in America. It is powerful; it is beautiful, and it is needed. It is not just great because of the message, but also the arrangement and everything is fire. The music very well may be the best part of Empire this season. But that’s just my two cents.
Another scene switch brings us to Cookie, and she seems to be getting along with her sisters. As they sit on her couch and reminisce about old times, they keep bringing up Tariq. Cookie catches on to what they’re doing and knows that he’s gotten to them. As she kicks them out of her house, he’s at the door. They urge their sister to snitch on Lucious. Cookie isn’t having it.
The next day, as Lucious goes to pick up Anika from the hospital (Cookie still by his side), he’s upset to find that she’s gone. He and Cookie are hell bent on getting to her before Tariq, so he moves her into his house. His mother doesn’t give her the warmest of welcomes as she clearly makes it known that she doesn’t like her.
Speaking of people not liking Anika, Cookie is really being a trooper. She helps get things in order at the house so that the Feds, a.k.a Tariq will believe Lucious’ charade when he comes for dinner. Tariq, who we found out, is Lucious’ half brother, immediately goes in on everyone. But when he comes to Cookie, the Lyon men draw the line. Her sons are ready to spring into action, but she handles it like a boss. They all play it real cool, and it’s one of the best moments of the show.
The Lyon family is good at putting on a show, so it’s no wonder that the launch for Empire Up is a blowout extravaganza. As Jamal readies to sing his new song, without Lucious’ authorization, he has a panic attack from the flashing lights. He experiences PTSD from the shooting and rushes off the stage. Nessa saves the day by stepping up and doing the song alone, which essentially makes her the face of Empire Up Stream. Lucious is pissed! The crowd’s response to her performance only gives Shyne the leverage to negotiate a better deal.
After things die down, Cookie finds Lucious with their Bella in the nursery. She tells him that she has to focus on her future and he corrects her with “our future.” Cookie maintains that she can’t do “this” and wants to walk away, but he talks her into staying. She agrees to only if he stays out of her face.
Since no one is really grieving for Rhonda, Andre is left to do so alone. He has a breakdown and repeats to himself, “Andre messed up.” He then hallucinates that Rhonda is speaking to him, blaming him for not protecting her. Jamal walks in on his brother and the eldest Lyon boy immediately tries to save face. This is going to be a tough season for Dre, poor thing.
In the end, Lucious talks to little Bella, and we find out that one of her stuffed animals has a camera in it. Yes, Tariq is a dirty mother (watch yo mouth). And from what we gather, Lucious has no idea he’s being watched. I hope he doesn’t say anything too incriminating.
Oh the hell to pay when he finds out what’s going on. This is going to be an interesting season.
Empire showrunner Ilene Chaiken talks about killing off Rhonda and the rest of Season 3
Rhonda is quite likely not out of our ‘Empire’ world just yet. I don’t want to say how long Andre will have this unusual relationship with his deceased wife, but there’s a good chance that we will see more of her.”
Chaiken also reveals that at the time the Season 2 finale aired, she and the “Empire” writers — let alone the cast — did not know if it would be Rhonda or Anika who would be killed off. They just knew that one of them had to die, in order to serve the story of the upcoming third season.
“It was a really, really tough decision because it wasn’t as if we had an agenda last season. We love the character, and we love the actress, and we didn’t want to lose her from the show. It was really the story that led to the decision, Chaiken explains. “That fight on the balcony, it just happened. It wasn’t in the original finale script, and as Lee [Daniels] and I were working on it, we loved it, and we said, we have to do it. And then I said, ‘Lee, you realized that means one of these women will be killed off?!’ Lee and Danny [Strong] both said, ‘No! We love them both! They can’t die!’ But after much anguishing, we came to the very, very tough conclusion.”
I can’t believe you truly did not know who was being killed off when the Season 2 finale aired!
The finale aired and we didn’t know who died. We knew that one of them did. As we started breaking Season 3, we delved into the stories we were telling, the stories we had set up and the opportunities for all of our characters, and obviously made decisions based on where we thought we had the richest stories to tell.
Rhonda’s death is clearly impacting Andre in a harsh way — he is hallucinating that she’s still alive. How will he continue to cope with her being gone?
It’s obviously taking a large toll on him. He’s bereaved deeply and profoundly, and he’s also a man with a delicate psychological constitution who, apparently based on that scene, is going to take this very hard and might face challenges that other people don’t face. It’s going to be an ongoing challenge for Andre. The way that he regroups and goes forward is going to be very stunning.
Is Anika really off the hook? Andre did see her push Rhonda over the edge, right?
He didn’t see that Anika set out to hurt Rhonda — in fact, I think Andre knows that Rhonda came for Anika. I would venture that he knows that Rhonda came for Anika so although he’s deeply upset at it, I don’t think he’s looking at Anika as someone who came after her to kill her. But regardless, Anika is in a pretty uncomfortable situation, stuck in that family and stuck in that house.
So is there any fear of Anika being charged with Rhonda’s death? Or is it just understood that there was a fight and no one is at fault?
It will have repercussions for her. It will absolutely have ongoing ramifications.
Anika lied to Lucious (Terrence Howard) about having a baby girl. Where does their very twisted relationship stand now, especially with Lucious’ mother (Leslie Uggams) living in the house?
You’ve identified a source of conflict and story for us! Not only are Lucious and Anika locked in a loveless and conflicted and contentious marriage, but Anika is unwelcome in that home and unwanted by Leah who seems to have taken pretty comfortable to her role as woman of the house. They’re going to make one another’s lives hell.
Jamal chooses to perform a song that includes lyrics about the Orlando tragedy and Black Lives Matter. Why did the writers decide to incorporate those events?
We believe that’s what Jamal would be singing about — it’s who his character is and it’s his story and his drive for the season. He even stated it in the Season 2 finale that his intention is to make music with a view of doing good in the world. That’s what motivates him, and he’s taking it all with a sense of mission — to change the narrative of his family and to lead his family away from these dark currents to Lucious has drawn him toward. That’s Jamal’s goal and his mission.
Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) is really trying to separate her relationship from Lucious. Will that last throughout the season?
The relationship between them is powerful, and the things that draw them to one another won’t easily be vanquished, but her determinations are steadfast and sincere, so I would say that it will be a source of tension between them. Lucious is really throwing down and much of his drive for this season is to win Cookie back, but her drive, which will evolve, is to try to start a new life and to cut herself loose from something that’s brought her pain.
Do we need to be worried about that Teddy Bear that Tariq (Morocco Omari) planted a camera inside?
We need to be worried. Tariq is very determined and he’s going after Lucious with a vengeance and I’m sure the teddy bear isn’t his only move.
Will Tariq continue to be an important character through the entirety of the season?
He’s an important character and it’ an important storyline for us and it will play throughout much of the season.