Empire Power Rankings: The Outspoken King

Jamal and Hakeem perform together at Leviticus on Empire.
Empire (Photo: Chuck Hodes / Fox)

Lucious has simultaneous PR fiascoes to deal with: a rapper with gun charges pending, a son whose drunken antics goes viral, and Cookie’s favorite coming out with a coup.

This week on Empire: We learn that Lucious has been diagnosed with ALS and has maybe two years, tops. Meanwhile, bad boy Kid Fo Fo (who’s on the label) may have been involved/inspired an armed robbery, stirring up all sorts of controversy which blindsides a reasonably distracted Lucious. Rather than ditch the act, Lucious wants Fo Fo to perform with Hakeem at Leviticus. Speaking of Hakeem, he stirs up controversy of his own by getting drunk at a hoity toity restaurant, calling out the white patrons there, and dissing Obama. Oh, and video of the incident went viral.

Cookie sees these dual PR storms as an opportunity to position Jamal by having him deliver a coming out performance. Lucious gets wind of this and threatens to cut off financial support if Jamal goes through with the plan. Lucious further mitigates his damages by dropping Fo Fo from the label, thanks to some urging from Cookie. In the end, Hakeem performs with Jamal at Leviticus and the family seems…well, not happy, but minimally tolerating each other. This will probably be short-lived, as the episode ends with Cookie learning from the Feds she will need to testify to a grand jury about someone who will probably have her killed.

Now that we know how the game pieces moved this week, which Empire players are in a power position?

  1. Lucious
    Despite his diagnosis, Lucious made some big moves this week. He handled his appearance on “White People TV” well and dropping Kid Fo Fo was probably the best decision for the company in the long run.1 He managed to keep all three sons in check: threatening Jamal’s finances, stringing along Andre by delegating appeasing the banks in charge of the IPO, and not eviscerating Hakeem when he could have during an apology phone call with Obama. The winning power move was Lucious being able to shed tears while pretending(?) to mourn the untimely demise of Cookie’s cousin Bunky, whom you may remember was shot in the face by Mr. Lyon last week.
  2. Cookie
    Cookie is arguably the best character on television right now. She doesn’t give a fig about non-disclosure agreements, walking in on her son while he’s in bed with his boyfriend, or throwing her shoe at her ex-husband when he walks away from her. Her plan of having Jamal come out during the PR nightmare would have been a great move if it didn’t fall through, though she did manage to cause some damage by indulging Fox News with her opinions of what was going on at Empire in recent days. Her Achilles’ Heel this week may have been in hiring Porsha, the Rosario to Cookie’s Karen Walker. Awesome for viewers, but not the strongest power move.
  3. Hakeem
    Of the three sons, Hakeem kind of fell into the higher power position this week. His drunken tirade was the byproduct of someone who reads his own press exclusively but didn’t seem particularly calculated. However, the incident boosted ticket sales for his performance at Leviticus, so there’s that. To be fair, Hakeem is the only one of the kids who did something this week.
  4. Jamal
    Jamal almost did things this week. He almost did the press conference, he almost defied his father, he almost was true to himself. The only reason he isn’t at the bottom of the power rankings this week is because of his performance with Hakeem, which was both entertaining for the viewer and should get him some notice in the world of the show. Not as much notice as he would have gotten had he followed Cookie’s plan, but Jamal’s still a player in this game.
  5. Andre
    This guy is the Lady Edith of the ensemble so far. His primary functions are scheming without action and making out with his wife Kelly Ripa Rhonda. He does spill the beans about Jamal’s press conference (Rhonda was somehow involved?), so I guess that is some action. However, it knocks Jamal down a peg without Andre rising, so…yeah. Oh, and Andre is bi-polar and off his meds, as required by the laws of TV dramas in the 2010s. He will probably be in charge of Empire’s jazz label by episode six.
  1. Although Cookie does get points for the assist.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles

Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it “TV Camp.” After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv