Empire takes a breath this week, setting up drama as Gladys Knight takes everyone to church (and they are already there).
There weren’t many power shifts in this week’s episode of Empire, as we dealt more with table setting and adding every single guest star imaginable. Let’s break down the action by character:
Lucious: Still trying to consolidate power as he struggles with the encroaching symptoms of his ALS diagnosis. After delivering a tearful eulogy at Bunky’s1 funeral, he invites the entire family to the Lyons’ Den to meet Hakeem’s girlfriend Tiana. While all this is happening, the police are starting to investigate Bunky’s murder and find a drunk, homeless guy who was an eye-witness. Although he speaks in riddles and probably can’t see three feet in front of himself on a good day, he’s able to positively ID Lucious as the shooter. This show is so goofy.
Cookie: Anika has hired a private investigator who spotted Cookie chatting with the feds. Cookie and Anika’s rivalry continues at both the Empire office and the dinner party, so expect that Amanda Woodward dynamic to continue for a long, long time.2 On the music side, Cookie tracked down her old songwriting friend Puma (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who agreed to send a track for Jamal to tinker with.
Andre: The oldest son didn’t have much to do this week. Lucious tasked him with calling in a favor from city hall to get some info about the police investigation. This resulted in Andre having a tryst with a deputy mayor (um…sure?) and then recreating that tryst with
Kelly Ripa Rhonda when she starts to pout jealously. I guess he’s back on his meds though, since none of that came up during the episode. Unless Andre is the second coming of Black Box.3
Jamal: Despite not wanting to collaborate with any songwriters, Jamal offers a demo of Puma’s song at the family dinner. It turns out this track was one Lucious tried to make work 20 years ago, but he couldn’t navigate the hook. Now that Jamal figured out the song, Lucious decides it would be perfect for John Legend. Oh, by the way, Lucious owns the song from when he originally tried to work it out, which apparently escaped Cookie’s and Puma’s memory. Wah wah. Later, Jamal and Lucious get into another fight, but before dad cuts off the finances to the loft Jamal and Michael walk out.
Hakeem: Things are starting to get serious-ish with him and Tiana, but former ladyfriend Camilla (Naomi Campbell) is back in town. Making out on a pool table ensues. He keeps calling her mommy. Later, Andre reminds Hakeem that he will probably be the heir to the Empire throne, which Hakeem doesn’t want. He just wants a gig and a chance to grow as an artist.
That’s what happened on the episode plotwise, but here’s the stuff people are actually talking about:
- Gladys Knight. Lucious managed to line up the legendary singer to perform at Bunky’s funeral. Fantastic.
- Porsha’s Poker Face. Cookie auditioned some songwriters to work with Jamal. We only saw one audition of a rambling track with too many runs and the look of disgust on Porsha’s face was spot-on.
- “Lucious is on some Darth Vader ish.” – Cookie4
- One of my favorite TV tropes is the use of passive-aggressive prayer, usually taking place during grace before a meal. Cookie led the Lyons and Anika in prayer, making sure to go all Real Housewives in the name of the Lord. Amen.
- “Don’t look back there. It’s the bedroom. It’s where we make the gay love.” – Jamal, “welcoming” Lucious into his (now former) home.