Empire: Unto the Breach, Review
Eight weeks in a row! Empire won't stop growing! Read our review here!
There’s currently no television show on the air that can be kindly referred to as a hot mess, besides Empire. Part of the show’s charm is the way that it’s constantly straddling the line between captivating drama and train wreck spectacle. Usually, the meter tilts more in favor of “hot” than “mess,” but not on tonight’s episode. When Anika and Andre are the two focal points for an episode, you know we’re in trouble.
Most of this rests on Andre. The character just hasn’t been compelling from the start, and I think that’s largely due to actor Trai Byers. He’s overly cartoonish when Andre’s in plotting mode and his portrayal of mental illness is a tad shallow. Andre no doubt has just as complicated a relationship with his father as Jamal does, so how do you explain the lack of intensity, familiarity, and sensitivity in Andre’s and Lucious’ scenes compared to the latter’s with Jamal? Byers can yell and flail about as much as he wants, but it’s just not ringing true.
The elevator scene was a step in the right direction for the character, exploring his relationship with his brothers, because until this point we’ve only seen brotherly interaction between Hakeem and Jamal. I realize that Andre is older and not on the musical side of things, but there’s no chemistry, or like I said earlier, familiarity in his interactions with his brothers, so it was nice of this episode to take a moment to explore the family dynamic a bit more. Still, Andre’s scenes were supposed to be explosive, but only warranted unintentional laughter from me.
Fellow lame character Anika got too much screen time as well. As drop dead gorgeous as she is, there’s just nothing the writers can do to make Anika interesting. They tried to make her compelling last week, by having her sneakily run off to Bill Beretti and his Creedmore Records at the end of the last episode, but the first two minutes of this episode reveal her deception right awat and rid of any interesting aspect of this character working against Lucious in secret. Instead, what we get is an amped-up showdown with Beretti and Ankia trying to poach Empire artists and Lucious and Co. trying to court new talent while holding on to their roster.
What this means is that there are a ton of fake artists popping up on screen and being name dropped that the audience are supposed to believe are important only because the characters and some goofy profile screens in the Empire offices tell us so. Sure, we get hilarious scenes like Cookie trying to sip lean to prove she’s a boss (yes, this is why you watch Empire), but we also get luke warm scenes like Hakeem apologizing to Tiana and Jamal geeking over an artist that we didn’t know existed until right now. As I said above, more mess than hot, though I’m glad one of the artists finally acknowledged the sad state of the music industry and why it really doesn’t make much sense to sign with an Empire Records in 2015, rather than pretending it’s the early 2000s music industry like the rest of the episodes do.
This episode was so lackluster, we didn’t even get a new song at the end, they just played a stripped down version of the same exact song from last week. Come on, Empire! You’re better than this! We want less tantrum-throwing Andres and more “take a bite,” spouting Cookies! The best episodes of Empire keep things closer to the family, by having everyone trying to court imaginary heavy weight artists, it takes time away from the real meat and potatoes.