Cookie is back and more bad ass than ever. For past references to my never dying love for Cookie Lyon, click here.
It’s been a solid three months or so since the first half of Empire’s season two ended, and while I didn’t necessarily miss it, there was a significant hole in my life every Wednesday night at 9/8c (on FOX).
The first half ended on a giant cliffhanger, where a pregnant Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) was left at the end of a staircase after being pushed by an anonymous source, and Lucious (Terrence Howard) had just been knocked off his throne at Empire Records with a vote from his youngest son, Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray).
This episode picked up right where we left off.
Cue Thirsty brandishing a gun, with an, “I’m with you, Lucious,” another gun and a, “No, really,” dialogue that is just so very Thirsty, but also the epitome of the humor Empire brings.
Camilla (Naomi Campbell) is not only a nuisance and back with an even bigger vengeance (she’s been plotting Lucious’ demise since he kicked her out in season one), but she’s threatening to sue and the police are tagging along. The writers of this episode did a superb job of foreshadowing the end of the episode while Lucious sits on his “throne” and says that they’ll have to drag him out.
Nothing comes between Lucious and his throne as CEO. It’s chilling, disturbing and the most beaten to the ground plot point Empire uses.
Spare us, Lee Daniels.
Despite this, the hospital scene that reveals the “Did Rhonda lose the baby?” question had me in tears. Once again Trai Byers (Andre) laid down the gauntlet of best actor on this show and it is devastating but brilliant to watch. It’s easy to forget with the cringe-worthy one-liners and the social justice speeches littered throughout it, that Empire has a team of impeccable writers and actors on their side.
Then you get the honor of watching Andre curl in agony over his kid’s bassinet and it’s no wonder how this show has gotten to where it’s at now. It’s no wonder that Taraji P. Henson received that Golden Globe.
And then you get to Hakeem and you scratch your head a little bit.
Hakeem had some interesting plot lines last year that allowed Gray to showcase his talent as an actor, and for the most part, pulled it off quite well. His relationship with Laura (Jamila Velazquez) hits a rocky point this episode where he gets drunk and makes a dig at her virginity status, and that’s not the worst of it: by the end of the episode, that status is defiled.
In the end, it’s also hard not to be aware of how alone, desperate and damaged Hakeem is as a character. He’s clinging to an idea that ultimately will screw him over by his own family, and he just wants the world the way it was before. The fact that Hakeem is so neglected and his maturity level is far below that of his brothers, makes it easier to remember that Hakeem is still a kid.
On the other hand, we see Jamal (Jussie Smollett) sing a few songs and look sad for a few scenes and make a social justice speech. Although this one is a lot more tastefully done than previous ones.
From the looks of upcoming episodes, we see a return of Michael (who cheated on him), which will (probably) last about two episodes and then dive off the deep end (again). The writers of this show have a huge responsibility with Jamal’s story lines and the fact that, 1. He has a very unhealthy relationship with his abusive, homophobic father, 2. He is the most boring character of all of them right now and 3. He’s unaware of these two things, has me dumbfounded.
All that’s left is Lucious: other than being a bully, murderer and all around awful person, his character was somewhat tolerable throughout this episode. It’s revealed that Cookie had a miscarriage before the three Lyon brothers were born, and the clear devastation on Cookie and Lucious’s face when they hear the news at the beginning of this episode solidifies their potent grief for their unborn daughter, and now their grandson.
The foreshadowing I mentioned earlier comes full circle as Hakeem walks up to Lucious where he stands overlooking the water. The sounds of the subway roars in the distance and then we see a gun glint in the light.
Lucious recalls the moment he killed Bunky, standing in that very same spot. He tells Hakeem to shoot him, passing over the gun from the beginning of the episode. He tells Hakeem that if he doesn’t, Lucious will not hesitate to kill him for taking his position as CEO. (Hakeem also wears a really ugly suit in his first scene as CEO, FYI).
Hakeem doesn’t shoot him, but a chilling threat pierces the air behind him as he walks away: “You better watch your back.”
And isn’t that what they tell everyone in this show?
No one ever does. That’s the point.