Empire Recap: It’s Good to Be the King

For Lucious, orange is the new black.

Last season, Lucious gave us a taste of what was to come when, in the final scene, he turned to the camera and menacingly notified us, “Game on, bitches.” Well, the game’s afoot, everyone is scrambling for control and Lucious is still winning.

Cookie unleashes the beast. It’s three months after Lucious’ arrest for Bunkie’s murder, and Cookie manipulates the situation for her own gain by stirring up the inevitable #FreeLucious movement at a star-studded rally-concert. (It’s all to impress an investor.) Don Lemon makes a cameo, and his role is to look awkward as Porsha and Cookie take him to task for his CNN antics. You have to wonder if he was even in on the joke.


The rally scene will be remembered for Cookie’s on-point speech about how the odds are stacked against black people when it comes to the incarceration system. Years from now, we’ll all still be talking about this appeal for justice. No, we won’t. We’ll say, “Hey, remember that time when Cookie descended in a cage, dressed in a gorilla suit? What was that all about?”

If you come at the king, you best not miss. Cookie snuggles up to venture capitalist Mimi Whiteman, played by Marisa Tomei. Cookie wants Mimi to help back an Empire takeover. Cookie, Andre, Hakeem and Boo Boo Kitty in this corner, and Jamal and Lucious in that corner. In addition to a lot of rubbing up against Mimi, Cookie entices her with a party filled with hoochies, but Mimi only has eyes for “Anita,” aka Anika, aka Boo Boo Kitty. Pressed into service, Kitty shakes it on the dance floor and goes to bed with Mimi.

Cookie may be the queen, but Lucious is still the king. All the maneuvering is in vain; Jamal—whom we’ll get to—is now Lucious’ pawn and entices Mimi to switch sides. Team Cookie finds this out in a board meeting, which Lucious is able to attend via Skype or something so he can gleefully put Cookie in check. Of course, Cookie blames Boo Boo: “You can’t even dyke right.”

Lucious looks good; federal prison agrees with him. He’s settled on a closely shaved head over the pompadour from season 1, and the orange jumpsuit is more flattering than his Las Vegas-chic getups. Actually, his hair did change from scene to scene, but it’s still an improvement. He’ll probably go back to using product when he gets out, which will be any day now because the case rests on the late Vernon, who is mentioned in passing.


The little prince. Back to Jamal. He is working on some sad little beard of evil and has made a 180-degree turn from the endearing season 1 underdog. He’s doing his best to transform himself into Lucious, and it’s not a good look. Jamal, who has taken up again with his old boyfriend Carlos, has gone into some sort of power-trip mode. He’s distancing himself from his old identity, his family and his sense of humor—who wouldn’t enjoy arriving at the office to find Miss Lawrence belting out some Sylvester? Jamal also blows off GLAAD. Miss Lawrence speaks for all of us when she advises Jamal, “Don’t be shady.”

Checkmate. The most dramatic turn of events is when Lucious and Cookie’s former boss Frank Gathers arrives in prison. He is supposed to be terrifying. When he walks through the hall, a sea of orange jumpsuits parts. He is played by Chris Rock, who is an unconvincing source of terror. He mostly just scrunches up his face a lot.


Frank learns that Cookie got out of jail early because she ratted him out. Remember that time Cookie got a rose and freaked out because she thought it meant that Frank was trying to kill her and organized a hit on some extras? That was all a misunderstanding. Now that Frank knows she’s a snitch, he sends a real gift—a severed head. Cookie sends everyone to Lucious’ house to stay safe and sound.

Cookie then turns to Lucious, who warns Frank not to hurt Cookie. Frank gives a little villain speech and orders his men to kill Lucious. It turns out that the men are on the take from Lucious. Frank’s screams can be heard as Lucious strolls down the hall back to gen pop.


With the threat over, Jamal kicks his brothers and Cookie out of his father’s house, and he has the nerve to shut the door in his mother’s face. This won’t end well.

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.

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