Empire is an unprecedented success. This latest episode is the fifth time that the ratings have increased. For a freshman drama, those sorts of gains just don’t normally happen. Empire is seeing a 52 percent increase in viewers compared to its lead-in, which oh, by the way, is a little show called American Idol. 11.5 million can’t be wrong, Empire is television’s hottest show.
It’s also becoming its most ridiculous, and I mostly mean that in a good way. In some aspects, I’m amazed at the pace of the show and the way that it’s constantly finding interesting ways to complicate matters for the Lyons family across the board. The amount of struggle so far for Cookie and Jamal has made them such lived-in characters. Taraji P. Henson continues to astound, as she sinks deeper into the skin of Cookie.
In this episode, we see Cookie frightened for her life and defensive after testifying before a grand jury in a case against gangster Frank Gathers. We’re used to seeing Cookie as the head bitch in charge, solving problems with the no-nonsense common sense like she does: solving Jamal’s studio issues, Tiana’s lesbian relationship, and Andre’s monetary issues in regards to Hakeem’s video, which in turn earns Cookie a seat on Empire’s board. Seeing her resort to paying for a murder added new layers to Cookie, or at least shined light on aspects of the character that have only been alluded to.
Terrence Howard, on the other hand, continues to keep me on the fence. In some scenes, he evokes a relaxed smoothness that realistically feels like he can manipulate characters, like he does with Hakeem when he’s angry about Tiana, Cookie when he’s sweet talking her, and more seriously, Anika’s father when he needs a fake clean bill of health in his IPO pursuit. But Howard has this other version of Lucious, like at the top of the episode, which is dour, preachy and dramatic like a bad actor doing Shakespeare. I like the former version of Lucious much more.
For me, the most important aspect of this episode is the acceleration of Andre’s evil. Forget the plotting; he engineers both the Tiana discovery and the robbery at Jamal’s studio as a further means of pushing his brothers apart. I still think actor Trai Byers is playing Andre a little shallowly compared to what Jussie Smollett is doing with Jamal, but the fact that Andre is willing to put his brother’s life completely in danger proves just how far he’s willing to go and how quickly.
The murderous Lyons are really gaining numbers, as Cookie now inadvertently gets herself involved in a murder. It’s interesting that her and Lucious now both could be suspects of separate investigations, all while dealing with all the other drama that the writers are throwing at them. It’s all so much, but so fun. Empire is taking the late night soap world by storm, and the winds keep picking up.
The Best of the Rest
- John Singleton directed this episode, which is honestly a perfect fit for this show.
- Lucious’ gross reaction to Tiana’s lesbian reveal, which was a pretty suspect new development to begin with, only further proves his warped, homophobic nature. He takes no issue with attractive Tiana being a lesbian and tells Hakeem not to worry, that he can just have two girlfriends, and Tiana and her girlfriend India JUST GO WITH IT? Wait, is it Lucious or the writers I should be angry with?
- The music really didn’t do it for me this episode. Jamal’s song has a cool beat when all is said and done, but the lyrics this time just seem to be a little too literal and on the nose, and Hakeem’s “Drip Drop,” well, that just sounds like you need to go see a doctor, kid.
- This is the first episode where the character’s reference real hip hop artists.
- Yes, you heard that right,, Lucious called Tiana a “thot.” I’m dying.
- The fact that Jamal’s song is conceived, recorded, mixed, and mastered in a day after being interrupted by a shooting and having to get a completely new group of musicians and engineers in the middle of the process is a pure work of fantasy.
- Porsha continues to be golden as comedic relief.