Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) is getting some bad advice from new mommy Camille (Naomi Campbell).
Fox

Empire’s midseason finale featured two juicy cliffhangers: the fallout of Hakeem’s deciding vote to oust Lucious as Empire’s CEO and the fate of pregnant Rhonda, who was pushed down a staircase by a mysterious assailant. We got answers last night along with style no-nos, iffy parenting and eye-rolling moments. Let’s go!

Investor Mimi Whiteman schemed to get Lucious ejected as head of his own company, then departed for breast-cancer treatment, leaving responsibilities in the hands of Camilla Marks, her wife and Hakeem’s ex-cougar. Hakeem—influenced by Camilla—voted against Lucious. It goes like this:

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Lucious: I can’t believe Hakeem turned on me after I treated him like garbage all season.

Cookie: I’ll beat him with a broom. That’ll help.

Parenting fail No. 1.

Meanwhile, blood-covered Rhonda manages to trigger the security alarm to summon help. At the hospital, Cookie again sweet-talks Hakeem by literally shoving him away so he can only watch Andre sob from a distance. Parenting fail No. 2.

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Predictably, Rhonda miscarried. She probably sustained an injury that will require months in a medical facility, right? Nope. Women look more banged up after a face-lift. Rhonda gets a visit from her “friend” Boo Boo Kitty, who may have pushed Rhonda but is in the clear for now because Rhonda thinks she just tripped.

Lucious, who was so delighted about being a grandfather that he bought Andre and Rhonda a mansion, pays more attention to Empire, whining to Cookie: “I don’t know how our son turned out to be so rotten!” But Lucious, you were such a good example. Parenting fail No 3.

Camilla is Hakeem’s mommy now, and she orders him to dump boring Laura. Good for Camilla. Parenting win.

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Lucious targets any board member who could be CEO, so he channels Michael Corleone and we get a scene of Lucious playing the piano as his goons carry out scare tactics, which include hanging a cat. Animal abuse? Lucious has zero rooting value. None of the terrorized CEO candidates wants the job, so Hakeem steps up. Actually, he jumps on the table and struts about, praising himself and striking a messianic pose. Hakeem is as qualified to run Empire as that obnoxious Cheez Doodle is to be president, but everyone goes along with this.

Rhonda arrives home on a Hoverboard. OK, she does have a cane. There’s a heart-wrenching scene of Andre sobbing alone in the nursery. Some writer came up with that poignant moment for Trai Byers and then somebody else said, “Sorry, we have to trim this because we need to show the dead cat.” No wonder there are rumors about Byers leaving. The rumors are false, but his agent should yell at somebody. Even Laura gets more airtime. Sad.

Also sad, the effect that Camilla is once again having on Hakeem’s wardrobe. That suit looks like the Sunday funny pages. Did Family Circus explode on his collar? Is Camilla just passive-aggressive and expressing her true feelings about Hakeem? Does she simply have bad taste? That’s probably it. Maybe it’s the lighting, but her makeup bordered on Kabuki. Cultural appropriation strikes again.

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To talk sense into Hakeem, Cookie, Jamal and Andre show up with news: Jamal’s latest album was a joint project between Empire and Lyon Dynasty; Jamal can release it with Lyon Dynasty or just leak it. It won’t look good for Hakeem to lose Empire’s biggest act. Hakeem agrees to a deal: Cookie gets to run her own company under Empire and be in charge of A&R for the whole company. Camilla goes off in a huff.

Afterward, Hakeem is summoned to meet Lucious. It goes like this:

Lucious: This is the same spot where I shot your Uncle Bunkie. Here’s a gun. I dare you to shoot me. I double-dog dare you.

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He basically threatens to kill Hakeem, who tosses the gun and leaves. Hakeem has more sense than Lucious. Parenting fail No. 786.

The main focus of the episode was about another Lyon family battle to control Empire. That’s the same focus as the first season and the first half of this season. When Empire started, the boardroom drama was balanced with Jamal’s coming out. So far, this season hasn’t had a compelling subplot. Other things did happen:

In response to criticism from gay marketing executive Jameson, who was in a snit because Jamal slept with Skye, which Jameson thinks can harm the movement, Jamal performed a new song, “Freedom,” with men and women gyrating all over him. Jameson seemed to like it. … Cookie and Lucious reconciled enough to spoon in bed, and she invited him to work out of the Lyon Dynasty studio. … Hakeem and Laura broke up, then made up, and Laura gave up her virginity. None of that was gripping. The storyline with Camilla de Ville will undoubtedly be entertaining, but Empire needs a new tune because it’s getting a bit one-note. 

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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.