Let’s face it: You’re not reading this recap because you want a lofty deconstruction of the symbolism and philosophy behind Empire. You’re reading because you just watched the latest over-the-top episode and you thought, “What the hell was that?!?” as a billion GIFs exploded in your brain. So every week, instead of a traditional recap, we’ll give you the latest edition of Empire: How Crazy/Awesome Was It?, in which we rate this week’s episode in terms of relative genius/insanity. Add your own ratings in the comments below.
How crazy/awesome was he? Crazy enough to force Thirsty’s head under a board member’s skirt, just to secure a $10 million vote to keep him at Empire. He got ousted anyway. As the board member said, the hook-up was good, but it wasn’t 10 million dollars good.
What the heck happened with him this week? Well, he claimed that Skye “fixed” his gay son, he shot up his family’s house, and he helped push the WTF midseason finale into official WIHTTS territory. (That’s my new Empire acronym for What Is Happening to This Show?) But the most insane thing that happened to him was that he earned a Song of the Year award nomination for “Boom Boom Boom Boom.” What industry insider in her right mind would cast a vote for that song?
This week’s episode was mostly devoted to the American Sound Awards nominations special. Let me repeat that: It was just a nominations special, not an actual awards ceremony. And yet, the execs behind ASA got Jason Derulo and Charlamagne Tha God to make cameos, aired a full performance of Jamal and Alicia… I mean, Skye performing “Powerful” (which, to be fair, is a great song), and somehow spaced out the nominations over a period so long various members of the Lyon family had time to perform in a prison, lose a whole record label, and get pushed down the stairs before the Song of the Year contenders were even announced. Mostly the ASA broadcast was a good excuse for Empire to pass off a real-life Pepsi commercial as an ad from a fictional nominations special. Did I mention that Freda Gatz, who just signed to Empire about ten seconds ago, somehow earned an ASA nod? When exactly did her album come out? Obviously, the eligibility period for these awards is much longer than viewers’ memories.
Anyway, while the nominations were being ever-so-slowly announced, we learned that Lucious was telling everyone about Jamal’s relationship with Skye, hoping it would make for good press. We also learned that Mimi double-crossed Lucious by recording a video of him ignoring the rules of a publicly traded company and airing the footage for board members (including Hakeem!), who voted to replace him with Mimi’s wife — who just happens to be Hakeem’s ex, Camilla. (More on that later.) All of this is too much for Lucious, who ends up opening fire on the Lyon estate and threatening to kill Hakeem until Cookie calms him down. Was it insensitive of Empire to air that scene on the night of the real-life California shooting? We can argue about that in the comments. But chances are good that, like so many characters and plotlines on this show, the whole thing will be forgotten by the time Empire returns next year.
Most Tweetable Quote: “Is you is or is you ain’t my Mimi?”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Putting down the gun and sobbing in Cookie’s arms
How crazy/awesome was he? Crazy enough to challenge his dad in the Song of the Year category. Lucious has killed people for less significant rivalries. There’s no way that Jamal’s acceptance speech wouldn’t be interrupted with an “Imma let you finish…” and gunfire.
What the heck happened with him this week? We learned that, even after hooking up with Skye, he still considers himself gay, which was a relief. Between Mimi, Camilla, Anika, and Jamal, it was getting harder and harder to tell if anyone on this show isn’t bisexual.
Earlier in the episode, Charlamagne Tha God challenged Jamal during the ASA special, implying that Jamal wasn’t really gay, just as Skye wasn’t really black. (She’s biracial.) But later, Jamal told Skye the truth — he just isn’t that into women — and she accepted it gracefully. Lucious might’ve insisted that Skye “fixed” Jamal, but Lucious has a better chance of getting “fixed” himself. Hasn’t Cookie always claimed that he’s a dog?
Most Tweetable Quote: “I’m still gay, alright? So don’t get weird.”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Dancing on the subway… or, wait, was that Jussie Smollett in the Pepsi commercial?
NEXT: The other Lyons
How crazy/awesome was she? Crazy enough to pick a fight with Da Brat in prison
What the heck happened with her this week? She basically staged a very special episode of Orange Is the New Black.
Poor Cookie lost her boyfriend and the Cookie’s Cookout concert venue in one week. So instead, she planned a Family Day performance at the prison where she spent so many years locked up, hoping to get Hakeem and Laura in front of the crowd and livestream the whole thing for fans. It’s hard to understand the logic: Why would Cookie intentionally return to the prison that gives her major anxiety attacks, especially on the day when the ASA nominations will be hoarding all the music press? I cringed a little when Cookie opened Hakeem and Laura’s performance with a self-pitying monologue about how she lost her Cookout festival. Boo hoo. Cookie’s old prison buddy just received a life sentence for killing her girlfriend. Something tells me that these inmates have bigger things to get depressed about than missing their chance to hear “Drip Drop” one more time.
Most Tweetable Quote: “Lyon Dynasty is our company. But Empire is our legacy. And anybody that tries to steal that from us is our enemy.”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Spitting in Camilla’s face
HAKEEM, ANIKA, AND CAMILLA
How crazy/awesome were they? Crazier than ever, especially if that was Anika pushing a very pregnant Rhonda down the stairs.
What the heck happened with them this week? They were all bent on proving that Hakeem is to older women what pizza is to Pizza Rat. Seriously, what kind of power does Hakeem wield over his exes? These gorgeous, successful women are willing to cheat, lie, and commit crimes for this sweet but simple twentysomething kid who rides a hoverboard? Hasn’t anyone told them about Tinder? How sad that both Anika and Camilla are willing to do anything to get Hakeem back — or maybe just to take control of his birthright. Camilla has married Mimi and convinced Hakeem to side with her against his father, allowing her to take over Empire. And judging by Anika’s expression when Rhonda was bragging about the Baby Lyon To Be, she has a good motive to claim her place as the sole pregnant mama in this family and help Rhonda take a tumble — and maybe even to kill her. When Empire returns next year, the first episode is called “Death Will Have Its Day.”
Until then, we’re left with so many questions. Can Rhonda survive the fall? Will Lucious make good on his threat to kill Hakeem? And most important, as this season continues to go off the rails, will you still be around to watch?
Most Tweetable Quote: “Ahhhhhhh!” —Rhonda falling down the stairs
Most GIF-worthy moment: Camilla’s claws gripping Hakeem’s crotch