This Empire review contains spoilers.
Empire Season 2 Episode 4
I’m starting to get mixed feelings about Empire. Last year, I found the exploits of Fox’s breakout hip-hop drama to be over-zealous but in all of the right ways. But now the dust has settled, the watermark for crazy has been set high on display; Empire’s rhythms have started to become familiar.
It’s not to say Empire doesn’t have its moments. At a drop of a hat, Cookie could call Marissa Tomei “K.D. Lang” or better yet, totally railroad Lucious’ big Apex Radio deal by lying to Roxanne Ford and connecting it to a crime investigation. In these instances I’m left laughing or saying “oooh” like I’m a part of some big studio audience. But who needs a real studio audience when these scenes get such amusing, emoji-filled reactions on Twitter. In these moments, Empire is fun and really nothing like anything on network TV.
But in other areas this season on Empire, things feel too stagnant. For a show that’s conditioned us to expect full-throttle story all the time, retreading the Cookie and Anika conflict, or Andre begging Lucious to get back in Empire AGAIN gets tedious. Being the show that it is, Empire can’t get away with repeating itself, it’ll be too noticeable.
Luckily, most of the repetitive action tonight meets its end; we just had to sit through it all one last time. Hakeem’s still searching for his leading lady for his girl group tonight, and thank goodness he finds her. The cops are still harassing Lucious until Vernon is located, and finally he is (forget that digging up a body while your being watched so closely by the FBI and throwing him in your car is an incredibly risky, stupid idea, and just go with it). Cookie contemplates what to do with the useless character Anika, and luckily, she just decides to do nothing. What I’m saying is most of the episode was a slog, but we got somewhere, I guess.
Another goofy aspect of the episode was the contrived way that the writers got the Lyon family all in one room. I understand that there’s great explosiveness coming from feuding, one-liner slinging Cookie and Lucious, but if these two are going to be at “war,” you can’t keep coming up with the dumbest ways to get them together. For instance, tonight the two decide that, to get the FBI off their back, that they’ll make Jamal and Hakeem record a video together to prove that they’re a happy talented family. That’s like ’80s movie, “let’s have a talent show to solve our problem!” logic right there. But we do get to watch Jamal and Hakeem really come to blows, and hopefully things only escalate from there. Season one began hinting that these two brothers could actually kill each other, the stakes have never felt that high since, but maybe we can get back there.
Also, I have to say, as much as I really enjoy Jussie Smollett’s voice, his incredible talent, Empire is really leaning on him to fill time. Tonight they crammed in three songs, perhaps because they had nothing else to fill the 42 minutes. Timbaland is going to be working pretty hard this year now that Empire is doing a full 18 episodes, that’s for sure.
But let’s not be all doom and gloom, because Terrence Howard is really pumping great energy into this year. Last season was the year of Cookie, and Howard came across a little too melodramatic and faux fragile dealing with the ALS storyline, but in season two, now that he can be full of bravado and anger, he’s really getting on Taraji Henson’s level.
It’s not time to start worrying about Empire, but the show really needs to start proving that it can fill 18 episodes with the content and quality that we have come to expect. In the music industry, the sophomore slump can be a death knell. Hopefully the energy from the actors and the social media worthy moments can keep the beat going.