All together now: The pieces are falling into place on Empire.
It’s been observed that Empire’s sophomore season has been off-key. In last night’s episode, “The Tameness of a Wolf,” the writers remembered their own history, and the plot points started to come together.
Last week Jamal, who was angry with his dad, announced publicly that “Lucious Lyon” isn’t the patriarch’s real name. This episode picked up on that. We’re starting to find out more about Lucious. He is still working on the “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” music video as part of his American Sound Awards competition. I don’t understand why the nominated artists have to come up with something new if they are already in contention to win an award, but that’s the story and Empire is sticking with it.
Cookie, who is apparently totally cool with her ex-husband at the moment, accompanied him to the filming location, which holds significance for Lucious. Earlier in the season, there was a shot of young Lucious sleeping under a stone lion; the runaway, Dwight Walker, changed his name to Lyon. The video is autobiographical and addresses all of those flashbacks we’ve seen of Lucious’ mom exhibiting mental-health issues and ultimately putting a gun to her head.
The video ties it all up by re-creating the scene with a child actor playing young Lucious—or Dwight, I guess—and an actress playing his suicidal mom. It leads to Cookie finally learning about her former husband’s past. You’d think that Cookie, who was married to Lucious long enough to have three kids with him, would have known all this, but now that it’s been revealed, it’s turned into something that, at least for this episode, affects the Lyon-family dynamic and Lucious’ relationship with his bipolar son, Andre.
Cookie is celebrating her birthday and wants a party, but with her ex-husband and sons constantly at each other’s throats, it doesn’t seem likely. She’s surprised when Lucious, Jamal, Hakeem, Andre and Rhonda gather for a sweet family dinner. At the party, Lucious plays his music video and Andre immediately figures out that his grandmother had bipolar disorder, just like him. We get another flashback to the season 1 scene when a distraught Andre held a gun to his own head.
The first season focused on Jamal and this season is about Hakeem; I hope the next season features a lot of Andre’s story. Trai Byers is a talented actor and shines in Andre’s critical moments, but we don’t get enough of them. Because Andre is a suit, not a singer, he’s left out of a lot of the entertaining storylines. With all the double crosses and plotting to control Empire, it would be nice to see him spearhead corporate intrigue.
The story about Lucious mentoring Freda, Frank Gathers’ daughter, is finally going somewhere and is linked to the family story. When Lucious was at odds with Hakeem, he took Freda under his wing, pitted her against his youngest son in a rap battle and treated her like his replacement child. Hakeem and Jamal warned Freda that Lucious would start treating her shabbily, which he did when he dropped her from the “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” video (which might actually be merciful). So now she’s working with Jamal and Hakeem. Cookie finds out and knows that this spells trouble, since Lucious orchestrated her father’s murder (to save Cookie). I really want Freda to turn out to be Lucious’ daughter; she could stir up all kinds of family drama.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that Hakeem’s protégé, Laura, isn’t going anywhere. Last night he gave her a romantic proposal in an alley at the backstage door—at least the diamond was big. Expect Laura to be drawn into the Lyon battles after their dream wedding in a parking lot or strip mall or wherever they decide to tie the knot.
It looks as if Empire, after speeding through plots all season, is in a hurry to slow down, let stories play out and hopefully get its groove back.
Elaine G. Flores is a New York writer, editor and bon vivant. She’s a hard-core shipper and excommunicated soap opera reviewer. Her fictional dinner-party guests include Omar Little, Buffy Summers, Abigail Mills and Ichabod Crane. You can visit her site, TV Recappers Delight.