If there was ever a family whose members will stab each other in the back but then fight to protect each other, it’s the Lyon family. Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), Lucious (Terrence Howard), Jamal (Jussie Smollett), Andre (Trai Byers) and Hakeem (Bryshere “Yazz” Gray) put the “dys” in dysfunctional, but in Empire’s third season, they really only have one another.
At the end of Empire’s second season, we were left the a cliffhanger of all cliffhangers. Let’s take a quick minute to recap what happened during that season, and in no particular order, because keeping up with the Lyon family is a task in itself.
First there was the fight scene between Anika (Grace Byers) and Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), which ended the second season. As Andre rushed onto the balcony, we were left wondering who had survived. Then there was Hakeem. Poor Hakeem was left at the altar after his about-to-be-wife, Laura, decided that she couldn’t take any more of the Lyon-family drama when a fight broke out at their wedding. And speaking of weddings, Anika and Lucious tied the knot, in order for her to be granted immunity from testifying against him in a federal case.
And let’s not forget about Jamal and his relationship with Lucious. “You ain’t nothing to me but a disappointment … the day you die from AIDS, I’m gonna celebrate,” Lucious told his son after he found out about his relationship with D-Major. But ironically, it was Lucious’ gay son who took a bullet meant for him when Freda Gatz (Bre-z) aimed and fired.
Remember Lucious’ dead mother, Leah Walker? Well, of course it turned out that she wasn’t really dead at all but was locked up in a mental hospital. The family was shocked when Andre brought Leah (Leslie Uggams) home one day, and Lucious definitely wasn’t happy. Why? Because Lucious wasn’t lying when he said his mama was crazy. And then there’s Cookie, who’s had it with Lucious, especially since he decided to marry Anika (again). That torch she’s been carrying for Lucious has finally gone out.
And … finally … there’s Lucious’ half-brother, Tariq (Morocco Omari), who plans on taking down the Lyon dynasty and putting Lucious behind bars for good. In a nutshell, season 2 was all kinds of crazy, and the season premiere of season 3 picks up where the crazy ended.
The Lyon family is back in the third season’s premiere, “Light in Darkness,” and they’re still trying to keep the family intact (this is a no-spoiler zone). Poor Jamal is obviously still trying to cope with being shot, while Lucious is trying to cope with being targeted by his stepbrother in his federal investigation. And then there’s the matriarch of the family, Cookie, who is constantly trying to figure out how to stop the family from going to s–t.
I was once again shocked at how the series’ writers are able to tie in current issues like gun violence, and even how a big music mogul started his own music-streaming service (ahem, Jay Z), into their storyline. The show still puts its own spin on “ripped from the headlines.”
One aspect of Empire that initially drew people in, and will do the same this season, is the celeb cameos and music. Last season ended with Xzibit busting onto the scene as one of Lucious’ henchmen from back in the day—and as the reason Hakeem’s wedding was destroyed. Well, Xzibit is back, and of course he’s laying claim to his piece of the empire. But it might actually do Hakeem some good in terms of his music and love life. Hakeem lays down one track in the premiere that will probably be music to his fans’ ears. And as Jamal copes with his rehabilitation from the shooting incident, his new song “Need Freedom” echoes the sentiments of Black Lives Matter and calls for justice.
In the third-season premiere of Empire, you get to see just how far the Lyon family will go to appear to be perfect and to save their own from one of their own. This season already seems to have all the makings of the best Empire yet.
Empire returns Wednesday, Sept. 21 (9 p.m. ET/PT), on Fox.