Empire is just as crazy as we remember it, if not crazier. I don’t know how the writers managed to top themselves from last season, but they did. Once again, I’m going to use bullet points because there were so many random things happening in this episode and I need to keep my thoughts straight.
•The guest stars in the first episode was enough for a full half-season. Andre Leon Talley reading Cookie’s last season Gucci was great. The inclusion of Rev. Al Sharpton at the Free Lucious concert seemed like a very subtle in-joke about the near-fatal career turn he had after the Tawana Brawley case, particularly since, as we know that the Free Lucious movement is a sham (Lucious actually did kill Bunkie) and because Sharpton said he wasn’t going to help Cookie. (As a sidebar, Brawley is now paying defamation payments for her story, which a jury ruled as a hoax.) Don Lemon was thoroughly shaded for his antics in Ferguson while he probably loved every minute of getting his spotlight. Marisa Tomei played an over-the-top lesbian stereotype named Mimi Whiteman. And Chris Rock appeared as hardened gangster Frank Gathers, who puts people’s heads in gift boxes. Overall, things were out of control.
One more note about the Free Lucious concert—WTF was that Cookie-in-ape costume-in-cage thing? Why? What was I supposed to feel from that? Because it could be interpreted as a “monkey in a cage,” if I’m allowed to be a little politically incorrect here. You know what “monkey” means. What was the idea behind it? I didn’t understand that AT ALL.
• Frank Gathers came with a bang, seemed to run the yard a bit, and then got killed by Lucious in prison. Will he somehow stay around longer? Like, will he show up in flashbacks? Because you can’t just get Chris Rock and just use him for one episode. You especially can’t make Chris Rock a cannibal and only use him for one episode! Also, his lyric-spitting daughter seems tailor-made for a revenge story, yet I read from an interview one of the producers did with the Hollywood Reporter that Lucious isn’t going down for another murder charge. I find that…interesting…but I’m glad it is said that Lucious will have to pay for that in other ways. That has to involve the daughter signing onto Empire Records to kill Lucious or take him down in some way, right? I can’t even fathom how this can’t happen in some shape or form.
• Jamal is a fool. I’m just going to say it. At the beginning of this entire show, including the first season, I would have bet that Hakeem would become the loose cannon. I would have never pictured Jamal being so idiotic as to take up for the parent that hated him the most. In the interview, it’s stated that Jamal wants to do whatever it takes to keep Empire going because he finally has what he’s wanted for so long—Lucious’ love. But does he have Lucious’ love for real? Lucious can’t love; he’s a narcissist. But he can sense opportunities, and he knows Jamal is the only one in the same creative league as him. He’s the only one who would be able to effectively keep Empire the creative force it is. But Jamal’s a fool not to at least side-eye his father’s quickness to reach out to him, especially in the opportunistic fashion he did last season.
Meanwhile, Cookie, the only parent who ever loved him like a parent, is out in the cold. Normally, I don’t go in for parents hitting their children (or spanking or whatever euphemism you want to use), but I completely understand Cookie slapping Jamal. It was out of hurt and anger. She was trying to knock some sense into him the only way she knew how at the moment. Jamal, you aggravate me so much. Now, Cookie has to turn to Hakeem to release her maternal tendencies. It’s nice to see them as mother and son instead of adversaries. It’s also nice to finally see Hakeem act like a kid and call his mother “Mom.” I like this development, and I hope to see more of it.
One more thing about Jamal? When did he get back with his original boyfriend? And why? Questions….
• Cookie sure knows how to handle a variety of things, doesn’t she? First, she creates a Playboy Mansion-esque party for Mimi and pimps out Anika (who is inexplicably called “Anita”), then later has to handle Frank’s clear warning about snitches getting stitches with his rose and carefully curated gift box of a severed head. Even the packaging was high-end; I’m always on the lookout for good gift boxes. Perhaps I need to know where Frank shops for his craft supplies. Meanwhile, her poor sister is a wreck. How gangster is Cookie to go from being a madam to a person ducking from a killer and asking Lucious to put a hit out on him in jail? She’s got nerves of steel. Also, I’d love to see an alternate universe show of Cookie as a high-end madam to the stars. I feel like she’d put Heidi Fleiss to shame.
• Andre’s going to be suffering from guilt and whatever other emotions over burying (literally and figuratively) Vernon from the family. When will the family start asking about him? They should have already started asking about him, to be honest. And how well will Rhonda keep the secret? Andre, what with his newfound Christianity, already seems like he’s going to crack. And he just might, if he can get Jennifer Hudson back from the Devil’s Lair (i.e. the glitz of being signed to Empire Records) and get clear within himself that he might need to report his wife to the police, even if that means he also goes to jail for acting as an accomplice.
That’s about all I’ve got. Overall, it’s just what you’d expect from Empire, which is to always be too much (which is a good thing, most of the time). What did you think of the season premiere? Tell me about it below!