This week, we saw the second episode of the Lee Daniel’s Fox hip hop drama Empire. If you missed the pilot, allow me to do a short recap. Empire tells the story of ailing hip hop mogul, Lucious Lyon, (played by Terrance Howard) and his running of a music company which he has to eventually pass on to one of his three sons, all while dealing with his recently released from 17 years of prison ex-wife Cookie Lyon (played by Taraji P. Henson), who is coming for the business she helped fund (which is also the reason why she went to prison in the first place). Now that we have caught up, let’s talk about this week!
I will be honest, I was not sure about Empire when I saw the premiere and to be brutally open, I am still not sure. People have been comparing it to 50 Cent’s Starz drama Power, starring Omari Hardwrick, and by people I mean Mr. Curtis James Jackson himself. But’s that a whole other commentary. Nonetheless, after watching the show, I don’t feel the two are the same at all. In fact, Empire, a network program thus making it limited in some elements that cable shows aren’t, isn’t executed as stylishly and the characters are too “over the top.”
For the record, I don’t consider myself your average television watcher or movie goer. I have studied screenwriting and have written screenplays so I look at more than just the drama and the scandal. But I am also a supporter of black Hollywood so I tuned in for the second week and will more than likely keep tuning in.
Last Wednesday the story line was fleshed a little more and we started to see Lucious and his crew really get into it. We learned (spoiler alert) that the sickness he has is Lou Gehrig’s disease and he still has not told anyone. Albeit the only person who knows about it is Becky (played by Gabby Sidibe) because she snooped around in his bathroom and found the meds he was taking.
Of course Cookie brought the drama as expected, determined to make Lucious and everyone else see and acknowledge Jamal’s talent and potential as a viable and bankable artist who doesn’t need to stand in the shadows of his rapping brother Hakeem. She found herself a ghetto fabulous assistant, Portia, and continued to take aim for “what’s mine,” even joining Lucious and his “pretty little thang” Anika (played by Grace Gealey) for breakfast where she revealed that it was her $400,000 in drug money that started the record company in the first place. I’m pretty sure she didn’t know that part of the whole crazy ex-wife story
One of the developing story lines from the first episode which left us pretty much saying “dayuummm” was the killing of Lucious’ s right hand man AND Cookie’s cousin Bunkie (played by Antoine McKay) by Lucious. When the report that his body had been found made its way to the hip hop king, he showed just the right amount of remorse in front of the fam to ward off (for now) any suspicion of being the one behind the trigger. This scene was particularly interesting because at one point Cookie tried to console Hakeem and he angrily told her to (pretty much) “back the fuck off.”
And let’s talk about Hakeem. He is probably my least favorite character. His hostility toward his mother is too much and whenever we see it, it just doesn’t feel right. Like it’s not real. Hakeem’s whole persona as a spoiled little rich kid is totally annoying and way over the top too. I mean really, he is going to pull out his dick and just piss in the middle of the floor of a restaurant with all these white people around eating dinner and then end it all with a video (Worldstar!) where he disses Barack Obama which by the way, caused his daddy to get a phone call from the POTUS upset about the whole thing. I am sure that Obama has more to think about and deal with than some little punk being an asshole.
Next there is Andre who we found out (spoiler alert again) is bipolar. His wife works to convince him to go to the doctor and to take his meds, which apparently, if he doesn’t do, he gets… creepy. His plan of putting Cookie and Jamal against Lucious and Hakeem (all so he can be the one to take over the company) comes to a full blow with mommy and daddy arguing over Jamal performing, as well as Hakeem, at some big club. Lucious is not too keen on letting his gay son be seen on stage at such a big event for the label.
Alas, in the end, the performer who was supposed to back Hakeem up was fired by Lucious because, get this, he disrespected Cookie. Hmmmm. This caused the two brothers to, unbeknownst to the world, decide to perform together, surprising everyone in the room especially dear old dad, and launching Jamal out in the forefront with his brother.
The sneak peek for next week does look promising and appears to bring about another level of drama that can’t be good for Lucious’ health problems. All I’m going to say is it looks like they may have a lead on who killed Bunkie and the terms of an apparent deal Cookie’s made with the feds has taken an unexpected turn.