This Empire review contains spoilers.
Sometimes I feel like I should write two separate Empire reviews. In one, I can take the approach of Empire viewers who live-tweet along with the show, only responding to the show’s most OMG-worthy moments with my own equally nonsensical reactions. In the other, I can do what I normally do and describe how the show is working from a storytelling and character level.
Empire, more than any other show I review, gets the most disparate reactions from my left and right brain. One voice is saying, “YES! COOKIE HAS A SMALL DOG NAMED WHOOP-DEE WOO! THIS IS ALL I’VE EVER WANTED!” while the other says, “Really? We’re just going to jump cut at the end of an episode to Hakeem jogging and getting kidnapped just so the episode can end on a cliffhanger?”
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, because no one should be ashamed to like what they like, but I do believe in things that are simultaneously good and god awful, like the movie Face/Off for instance. You know, Travolta and Cage switching faces in a John Woo movie where doves are constantly flying around epic gunfights. THAT is Empire; you can’t ignore some of the stupidity, but oh my god did you hear that dialogue and see how seriously it was delivered?
That’s my struggle. Because one part of me wants to react like Bill Hader doing Stefon and say “This episode has everything: a naïve wholesome girl with stars in her eyes, Lyon Dynasty getting “marked,” Cookie calling Vernon a “bitch but not a chump,” Green-J’s…..
“What’s a Green-J, Stefon?”
“It’s that thing whereeee a character who looks like Tom Green tries to give everyone blowjobs while casually saying lines like ‘a mouth’s a mouth.’”
Yes, tonight Empire didn’t accomplish much in the way of plot, but after a pretty unremarkable outing last week, the crazy was back in “Be True.” Cookie is given a new love interest and they end up pulling guns on some robbers! Oh, and listen to the way she says Lucious’ name like it’s something disgusting leaving her mouth! Did you see Ne-Yo? He’s an honest to goodness star! And then all the jokes about Lucious being in a church?
See, it’s easy to get caught up in the fun, but in actuality, not a lot happens in this episode. Sure, Lucious ‘ charges are dropped, but most of the plot is devoted to Andre getting baptized, which isn’t exactly pressing stuff. The nice thing about all of this is that it brings out some good scenes between the family, such as Andre confessing to Jamal that he was behind season one’s studio heist, or spilling to Lucious that he tried to kill himself. And the Lyon family at church was more than just satisfying on a base level; it’s the first time this season that Lyons have been brought together in the same room for a real, logical reason.
I usually am not fond of the time spent on Andre, but I feel like the writers may be moving the character in the right direction. Perhaps Andre really can be the person to bring the family back together. The prospect of Andre as a force for good rather than the sulking, hand-rubbing bad guy is very intriguing. In fact, everyone’s characters seemed to progress tonight: Hakeem looks like he may clean up his act for a good girl, Jamal deals with complicated feelings for his boyfriend, and Lucious continues to slide further into amoral egomaniacal behavior. The more I think about it, this may have been my favorite episode of the season, which is either saying that I’m underselling it or that season two has had more problems than I’ve really realized.
Next week, we may be breaking for the World Series, so we’ll have to wait to see how that cheap, shoehorned cliffhanger is resolved, but maybe Empire is just heating up.