From its King Lear-inspired beginnings, Empire has always leaned toward the Shakespearean — but this episode might be its most Bard-centric yet. Among the plays referenced: Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, King Richard II — and those are just the overt nods. A case could probably be made for Andre experiencing some Othello-like tendencies as well. Any students in need of an English thesis? This week’s show might be one to consider.
We start with the new king, Hakeem Lyon, giving a press conference from his gold lion-adorned office. He announces Cookie’s new role as head of A&R for all of Empire, Andre’s continued position as CFO of Empire and president of Gutter Life Records, and Jamal’s decision to step aside as vice chairman to focus on his album (and his ASA nominations… Do Grammy nominees take time off to “focus” on their nominations?). Hakeem gives an impassioned speech about continuing to make Empire the most relevant, most innovative company on the planet — all with a red lollipop in his mouth.
When a reporter notes that Hakeem hasn’t mentioned Lucious, Cookie jumps in and reminds the press that Lucious is producing half of Jamal’s Black and White album and working on the video for his no. 1 hit, “Boom Boom Boom Boom.” Hakeem adds that Empire “will always support Lucious Lyon.” It’s a convincing show — but once the press leaves, Cookie smacks Hakeem on the back of the head and reminds him that he has to do what they discussed — get Camilla out — if he wants to stay CEO. And alive. Shortly after, Hakeem debuts a new song about “Power”… and a new logo, replacing Lucious’ face in the Empire record with his own. Bold move, young Lyon.
One of the reporters from the press conference — Harper Scott from the creatively named Q&A News — ends up covering Lucious’ video shoot, where he’s working with a King Richard II theme. He’s Richard (obviously), and protégé Freda Gatz is Bolingbroke. But Harper Scott has an ulterior motive: “How are you going to get Empire back from Hakeem?” she asks. Lucious predicts they’ll come crawling back to him in three months, the way Apple crawled back to Steve Jobs (Kanye, is that you?). When Harper remarks that Mimi and Camilla’s plan seemed a bit personal and asks if Lucious saw it coming, she gets escorted out. Later, Cookie shows up at the shoot and works her usual “Get rid of this, add this” magic on Lucious’ concept to make it better. Unfortunately, Andre brings word that a vindictive Camilla has slashed the budget for Lucious’ video — so the Lyons’ plan to depose her becomes even more urgent.
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Meanwhile, Andre and Rhonda are dealing with the fallout from Rhonda’s “accident.” Rhonda wants to go back to work, and asks Andre if he can get her in with Camilla’s new high-end clothing line, Antony & Cleopatra (so-named, supposedly, for Camilla’s relationship with Hakeem). Rhonda’s also worried because Andre seems to be acting paranoid — he’s had visions that Rhonda’s fall down the stairs wasn’t an accident — but Rhonda sees it as a sign of an impending mental break. Andre swears he’s been taking his meds but asks Rhonda to come with him to see his pastor.
NEXT: Jamal fires back at Lucious[pagebreak]
Jamal has his own problems — less life-threatening, but still serious for his career. Walking out of Empire with Becky, a fan asks Jamal to autograph a pair of flip-flops. Jamal is gracious… until it turns into a flash mob of gay former fans holding up flip-flops and singing a parody of “Drip Drop” to protest Jamal. When they drop their flops and disperse, Becky yells, “That’s not even his song, stupid!” But the damage has been done. Jamal goes to see Jameson, who doesn’t have much sympathy for Jamal because Lucious has been bragging about the hook-up with Skye. Jamal is like, “He did that on purpose because we’re nominated against each other for the ASAs.” Jameson, who strangely did not seem to realize this before, finally understands, and agrees to help Jamal get his fans back. Jamal says, “I still can’t believe he’d do that to me.” Really, Jamal? Lucious has never really been a shining example of fatherly love, especially to you!
Camilla’s next move? Refusing to approve another budget, this time for Tiana’s tour. But when Tiana — who is hard at work rehearsing a catchy banger while dressed in Britney Spears’ diamond bodysuit from the “Toxic” video — hears about it, she thinks Hakeem’s the one who canceled her tour to give more money to Mirage a Trois. Cookie doesn’t correct her because she has a plan.
Cookie goes straight to Camilla (but not before doing the sign of the cross — ha!) and suggests Mirage a Trois opens for Tiana: This way, not only can the artists get paid for their tour and, you know, eat, but also, Hakeem’s girlfriend Laura gets out of Camilla’s hair for months. Camilla agrees, and later Hakeem is furious at Cookie — but Laura says she and the girls agree it’s a huge opportunity. When she leaves, Cookie reminds Hakeem that he’s going to lose not only Laura but also his entire family if he doesn’t catch Camilla on tape confessing her plans to sabotage Empire.
But first, another reciprocal act of sabotage, from Jamal to Lucious: Jameson rounds up the gays for a surprise concert, where Jamal premieres an amazing new song with heavy horns and pounding percussion. “People tell me I’m just like my daddy… ’cause I lie like I’m lying on a rug,” he sings with anger. “Made my mama lose her kids / Made her go away for 17 years.” It’s a fierce call-out, and ends on a note of betrayal: “I’d call you Mr. Lyon / If I did I would be lyin’ / ‘Cause that ain’t even your name.” A reporter calls out, “Jamal, are you saying Lucious is inauthentic?”
“I’m saying, Lucious Lyon ain’t even his real name,” Jamal says before he drops the mic and stalks offstage. I didn’t realize Lucious’ birth name was a secret (don’t these bloggers do their research?), but either way, the secret’s out.
Instead of letting it hurt him, though, Lucious decides to get out in front of it, and he calls back the loud reporter from earlier. “Has your family turned on you?” she asks immediately. “Are you going to retaliate?” Lucious shakes his head: “No, I’m going to thank him.” He realizes he doesn’t have to keep his origin story a secret anymore — and he’s giving Harper Scott the exclusive on the Dwight Walker Story, “how a homeless orphan became Lucious Lyon.” Or in other words, Hamilton!
When Rhonda and Andre get to the reverend’s office, Rhonda finds out that they aren’t there for grief counseling as much as an inquisition. Andre asks Rhonda if she’s cheating on him (hello, Othello), which is plainly ridiculous, and she tries to tell the pastor this is why Andre needs his medicine recalibrated. “Of course I’m concerned about his health,” the reverend answers, “But the difference between now and the past is that he’s also in God’s care, which is far more powerful than any medicine.” Well, unless God can prescribe Prozac, I’m not sure how well this plan is going to work out for them. Later, in Cookie’s office, Rhonda asks her to tell Andre where she was the night before, when he thinks she was cheating. “She was in my office snitching on Camilla!” Cookie says. Rhonda’s new job brings her closer to Camilla than any other Lyon — except, of course, Hakeem.
NEXT: And for the shocking final act…[pagebreak]
Jamal decides to convince Hakeem to take down Camilla, but Hakeem is concerned about what will happen to Empire when Camilla’s gone. “Nobody thinks I should have it,” he tells Jamal. “Who cares?” Jamal says. “I’m looking at you right now, and you’re a natural.”
This chat seems to give Hakeem the confidence to make his move: Alone with Camilla that night, he apologizes for how he’s been acting and calls her his queen and his mama (ugh… it’s not Shakespeare, but we’re getting close to Oedipus Rex territory here, don’t you think?). They do the deed, and then Camilla apologizes for not being able to see Hakeem this weekend because of Mimi. “I thought she was sick,” Hakeem says. “Not sick enough,” Camilla responds. Hakeem tells her to come clean about their relationship, but Camilla says she’s too possessive. “I’ve worked very hard for this… be patient,” she says. He sees her out — and then checks the hidden camera, where he got it all on tape.
“Mimi is too sharp to get caught by us saying stuff,” he explains to Cookie and Jamal the next morning. “I changed tactics… I made a tape and sent it to Mimi’s hotel.” Just as he’s finishing his sentence, Andre barges in. “Mimi is dumping her stock,” he announces. “We need to move fast.” But he can’t buy the stock in his name or Rhonda’s — so he ends up putting it in the trust he set up for his son, which brings on a new wave of grief. Luckily, Jamal and Hakeem have a song for that! (“We know you’re going through a hard time, and this is all we know how to do,” Jamal explains.) The song ends up being a slightly jazzy ballad, with lines like “Sometimes it’s hard to pray / Sometimes it’s hard to stay grateful… Why do bad things happen to the good people? … In the morning, it’s gonna be all right.” Hakeem delivers his verse in a half-sung rap, while letting out some tears. It’s an emotional moment for all four Lyons, and definitely makes it feel like they’re closer than ever.
And now for the shocking final scene: Camilla is in the bathroom, frantically wiping down the faucet, as Mimi’s corpse sits in the bathtub. Lucious quietly walks in, wearing scrubs over his shoes. “What was that stuff you poured in her drink?” he purrs. “Was that cyanide or arsenic?” He tells her that the police will not only get the video of her with Hakeem, but also the one he (apparently) made of her last moments with Mimi. “He’ll never forgive you,” Camilla says about Hakeem. Lucious is all too happy to correct her: Don’t you know? It was Hakeem who sent the video to Mimi.
“I would think about offing myself,” Lucious advises. “Police would think it’s a double suicide or murder.” He points a gun at her. “That feeling you’ve got right now? That’s prison. But it’s a million times worse.” He reminds her that she’ll have to worry about being raped and killed, not to mention facing Mimi’s family in court. He’s been pointing a gun at her, and Camilla implores him to just shoot her. “I don’t owe you any favors. You gon’ have to off yourself,” Lucious says. Crying and shaking, Camilla stares and him and gulps down a vial of poison (and here’s Romeo and Juliet — just sliiiightly tweaked).
“Rot in hell,” Lucious tells her on his way out. Whoa — way harsh. What’s worse, convincing someone to kill herself, or killing her yourself? Either way: His hands look clean… but is she actually dead? Guess we’ll find out next week.