One would think after last week’s jaw dropping debut of Empire (which turned out to be a ratings smash, with 9.8 million people tuning in), we would be ready for all the foolishness that would take place in this week’s episode.
One would be wrong.
This episode of Empire wasn’t a hot mess, it was a nuclear one.
Let us begin with the family patriarch.
Lucious be tripping, but probably with good reason. He is stressed out because as he continues to push to take his company Empire Entertainment from “the street” to “Wall Street” (as one newscaster notes), he is getting ready to showcase his son Hakeem at his nightclub, the Biblically-named Leviticus.
Hakeem’s performance is going to be the thing that makes him a star, and Cookie wants Lucious to consider including Jamal performing alongside his brother. Lucious shuts it down out of fear that his gay son performing is going to make Leviticus appear as a gay club. Not only is this another wildly ham-fisted way to remind us that Lucious is homophobic, it also makes you wonder how Lucious ever became the powerful businessman that he is. Wanting to keep his son in the closet and out of public sight because of his lifestyle is flat-out horrible and insensitive, it also doesn’t make any business sense whatsoever. Lucious is clearly ambitious and wants to make a lot of money, but only if his cash cow doesn’t fall in love with other bulls. It’s an ongoing plot point that is irritating because in every other facet, “Empire” wants to look modern and up to date, but in this specific way – the tension between Lucious and his talented son Jamal, who just so happens to be gay – it’s a lazy way to create tension.
Instead of Jamal, Lucious wants Hakeem to be backed up by one of his other artists, a rapper named Kid Fo-Fo who fashions himself rap-game Ghandi. Kid Fo-Fo had a shoot out in a mall, bringing heat on Empire, the label that puts out Kid Fo-Fo’s music, and thus is indirectly responsible for the rapper’s behavior. Now Cookie is even more fed up because not only is Jamal being kept off the stage, the rapper who is backing up Hakeem is in her opinion, garbage. It also doesn’t bode well with prospective banks who were going to help get Empire on the market, which means Lucious must depend on his business-savvy son, Andre to get the banks back to the table.
Fun fact about Andre that we learn: He’s bipolar. We don’t know whether or not Lucious knows this, since keeping secrets from one another seems to be family tradition, but it could be a reason Andre isn’t fit to run the company. Still, Lucious keeps dangling the character of inheritance to his son and makes him get to work.
The entire family seems to be coming undone, until ironic tragedy brings them together: Bunky’s dead.
As you recall last week, Lucious is the one who killed Bunky, but nobody suspects Lucious was responsible. He is so unlikely of a suspect that Vernon Turner (Malik Yoba), Lucious’s most trusted confidante notifies Lucious first, who notified Cookie, who as it turns out, was cousins with Bunky (she was his “favorite,” of course). This calls for a house meeting in which Lucious plays emotional and dumb, crying and saying he will get to the bottom of who killed Bunky.
Great meeting. Now it’s back to business for the Lyons clan.
Kidd Fo-Fo has agreed to backup Hakeem, so everything seems to be going smoothly. That is until Hakeem decides to act a plum fool at a fine dining establishment. Hakeem is gone, probably off that Goose (we don’t know), which means it’s turn up time. For him, turning up is taking a piss right at the bar in front of all the customers. Then, when he sees they’re all uncomfortable, tells the white people who voted for Obama that the joke is on them since “Barack Obama ain’t nothing but a sellout.” Of course, Hakeem — being a modern-day rapper — has to get this all on video and that video has to be posted on the web. It was a damn shame none of the writers thought to have someone yell “Worldstar” in this scene.
Naturally, more controversy ensues because of Hakeem. The President of the United States is so pissed, he calls up Lucious to ask him what the deal is. We don’t hear what Obama says to Lucious, but when Lucious says, “C’mon Barack, you know you don’t have to use that kind of language” we can assume it got very real.
Hakeem’s actions force Lucious to go on the fictional Kelly McGann show. The timing of this scene couldn’t be better since in real life we just witnessed Nancy Grace and 2Chainz facing off on her show in a debate about pot. Spoiler alert: The Grace vs 2Chainz > Lucious vs McGann.
Meanwhile, Cookie still has not given up on putting Jamal on stage with her brother, and she’s devised a plan to thwart Lucious’s efforts by staging a show right outside of Leviticus. But it turns out to all be for nothing. Kid Fo-Fo is dropped from the label after disrespecting Cookie in front of Lucious and Andre.
Minutes before his set, Lucious basically forgives Hakeem for his ratchet behavior in the restaurant and empowers him to shine on his own, telling Hakeem he doesn’t need anybody to play with him. Hakeem is still shook at this idea, and goads Jamal into backing him up.
The performance, of course, tears the roof off the place. Lucious apologizes to Cookie and admits, “they look good together.” Cookie admits to Lucious that Hakeem got it. It seems like things will end happily ever after, until Cookie leaves the club and is picked up by a federal agent. Apparently, Agent Carter and Cookie struck a deal (which is maybe why Cookie got out of prison) that is now being reneged. Cookie will have to testify to a grand jury. Cookie doesn’t want to do it because if she testifies, she’s dead, and we have to wait until next week to find out what that all means.