'Empire' Season 2 Premiere: 5 Craziest Moments

Chuck Hodes/FOX
Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon and Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon in the “The Devils Are Here” Season Two premiere episode of "Empire" on Sept. 23, 2015.

Empire returned to television Wednesday night (Sept. 23) with a second season opener that deftly straddled the line between TV melodrama and social consciousness -- the season 2 premiere covered everything from a Shakespearean beheading to a succinct indictment of the American prison system's reliance on African-American incarceration.

That being said, it certainly wasn't a subtle hour of television. Understated moments were hard to come by -- and insane moments plentiful. Here's the top 5 craziest. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Cookie Dresses Up as a Caged Gorilla

From King Kong to horrifically racist comments about President Obama, the history of African-Americans being likened to gorillas/monkeys is a sadly storied part of American history. So it was fairly shocking when the season 2 premiere opened with the image of a person in a gorilla suit dangling in a cage above the screaming fans of Empire Records -- as in, yeah, they went there. It was especially crazy when the gorilla mask came off to reveal Cookie beneath. "How much longer are they gonna treat us like animals?" she asked. "The American correctional system is built on the back of our brothers, father and sons." For a primetime network drama, that's some blunt truth.

Further confusing the situation -- the fact that Lucious Lyon is, you know, definitely guilty -- which the episode quickly alludes to. Empire, why you gotta make things so complicated? 

Every 'Empire' Character Ranked By Likability 

Chris Rock Is Supposed to Be Intimidating

"You inspire fear -- that's how you win on the streets," Lucious Lyon (now imprisoned) welcomes Chris Rock's character, Frank Gathers, to the slammer with that quote. The problem -- the moment Chris Rock enters the prison, you can't stop thinking of Chris Rock being ridiculously hilarious. And as the drama heightens, the idea that Chris Rock is a dangerous man to be deathly afraid of just gets more confusing. Maybe they should've kept the deleted cannibal scene, because it was difficult to muster fear toward one of the funniest humans on earth. 

Head's Up

As Shakespearean as Empire can be (it is explicitly inspired by King Lear), it was still fairly shocking to see a scene end with a severed head inside a wrapped box. After all, before that, warnings of danger to Cookie were signified by flowers -- a chopped off head is quite the step up from that.

Sexual Designs on a Teen

The most uncomfortable moment was a throwaway line from Lucious to his foe (played by Rock), delivered just before Lyon orders his henchmen to murder Gathers. Some set-up: A previous scene established that Gathers had a young daughter with an interest in rapping. Just before leaving Gathers to die (loudly and painfully), Lyon said this about his rival's underage daughter: "I'm gonna sign your baby girl -- and then Imma slip her my bone." Just. Ugh.

11 Best Moments From 'Empire' Season 1

Next Episode Tease

According to the brief teaser for next week, Cookie branches out apart from Lucious to start a new record label. This is crazy because if this plotline will have any semblance of reality, there's no way this can be resolved within the arc of several episodes. Perhaps it won't. But it's likely that two-three episodes from now, we'll have forgotten about a subplot that, in real life, would involve years of business machinations and legal fallout -- all of which will presumably be squished into a few days. Yes, it's a TV show, but still. 

What did you think was the craziest moment from the season 2 premiere of Empire? Special shoutout to Marisa Tomei who was perfect as the double-crossing investor.