At some point I’m going to have to accept that my relationship with Empire is like Charlie Brown and the football. Against my better judgment, I’m always ready to get invested in a storyline, and then the writers resolve it before the commercial break. In this episode, “A Rose by Any Other Name,” Lee Daniels was once again Lucy, pulling that ball out from under me. Let’s look at some of the ways I once again got punked last night.
The juiciest storyline was Camilla’s plot to take over Empire. Let’s think about how Camilla got control of Empire. We’ll suspend disbelief to accept that Camilla was so furious about how the Lyons broke up her relationship with Hakeem that she concocted an elaborate plan. When she married investor Mimi Whiteman, Camilla had no reason to think that Cookie would end up courting Mimi to help fund a hostile takeover. Then Camilla had to predict that Mimi would double-cross Cookie, team up with Lucious, double-cross Lucious, call a vote to depose him as CEO and then leave for breast-cancer treatment, assigning Camilla as her proxy. Then Camilla had to predict that the board would go along with installing Hakeem as CEO.
Surely the Lyons will battle Camilla all season, right? Daniels would never pull away that enticing football, would he? Spoiler: You’ll never see Camilla again.
Well, at least we’ll get to see all the huge changes Hakeem makes at Empire. He’s barely qualified to run a lemonade stand, so just imagine the chaos he’ll cause for his family as they try to pull him away from the dark side. Oh, wait, Andre will stay on as CFO, Cookie will lead creative direction as head of A&R, and Jamal will give up being vice chairman—the role he never wanted—to focus on his new album and the ASA nominations. The biggest change is Hakeem unveiling a new logo featuring his face instead of his dad’s.
Now that Lucious is out in the cold, what will he do to get his company back? Since Cookie made the gracious and baffling decision to let Lucious work out of her Lyon Dynasty studio, he focuses on throwing more shade at Hakeem in the press and comparing himself to the late Steve Jobs, the titan of Apple. You know what Jobs wouldn’t do? He wouldn’t put on some armor or a breastplate or dress like he’s in Gladiator 2 for the “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” music video. Last week he threatened his son with a gun; this week he’s just sitting around playing dress-up.
The Lyons do make Hakeem see that Camilla is not to be trusted and will turn on him, so he finds a way to get rid of her. For all her scheming, Camilla is easily undone. Hakeem secretly records a video of them having sex. (She asks: “Am I still your mama?” Eww!) Conveniently, she says mean things about Mimi, making it clear that she wants to be rid of her sick wife. Hakeem sends the tape to Mimi and it works. Mimi dumps all of her shares of Empire and the Lyons can buy them and that’s that.
What will Camilla do? Will she have another plan to bring down the Lyons? No, she slips Mimi poison and submerges her in a bathtub. Out of nowhere, Lucious shows up with a gun and says he knows that Camilla killed Mimi. He tells her that prison life brings the threat of rape and murder—plus it’s unsanitary. He really says that.
Rather than deal with prison cooties, Camilla drinks the poison and that’s that. She’s gone and we’ll probably never hear another word about Camilla again. You know, if this storyline had played out over several episodes, it would have been terrific, but once again, that football is taken away.
I miss the way stories played out in the first season. Jamal letting the world know that he’s gay took a season and culminated in that memorable rendition of “You’re So Beautiful,” during which he changed up the lyrics to out himself. Now Jamal is dealing with bizarre demonstrations. He slept with a woman, and now his fans are in an uproar. The gay community has more important issues to deal with, right? Wrong.
As Jamal is leaving the Empire headquarters, he’s ambushed by demonstrators who encircle him, singing “Flip-Flop, Flip Flippity-Flop,” and it concludes with them tossing colorful rubber sandals into the air and rushing off. Becky speaks for all of us when she says, “That’s not even his song, stupid.”
Jamal’s response is to perform an angry song with the lyric “People tell me I’m just like my daddy.” Jamal tells the crowd that Lucious Lyon isn’t even his dad’s real name, drops the mic and stalks off. Well, that should bring back the gays. The whole thing works out to Lucious’ advantage: He seizes the day and prepares to tell the world about his rags-to-riches story. Yes, I’m excited about this. Yes, I’ll probably be griping to you next week when they drop it.
The story I have the most hope for is the one focusing on Andre and Rhonda. Despite the fact that she’s bounced back from getting pushed down stairs, ending up in a pool of blood and losing the baby, Andre isn’t dealing with it well and he suspects that she was pushed. The show is still featuring his struggle with bipolar disorder and religious fervor. He’s paranoid, accusing Rhonda of cheating on him, and that pastor who counsels him strikes me as sketchy, so that could turn into something, but I won’t be fooled again.
OMG, you guys, the previews from next week look great!
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.