Before we dive into all the death, birth, and drama that’s been missing from our lives since Empire’s season 2 finale, let’s talk about what I missed the most: COOKIE’S FURS. God, I don’t know how we’ve lived without them for four months. In this premiere alone, she wears natural-hued furs and colored furs, dressy furs and casual furs (over sweatpants!). Yes, I may watch this episode again on mute just to admire them once more…and/or attempt to make a supercut of every Cookie fur-wearing scene and imagine all those coats appearing in my own closet this fall.
Back to business: The Lyon family is in disarray, per usual, after Lucious’s quick marriage to Anika…who is having a baby with Hakeem…whose fiancée, Laura, broke up with him at the altar. And things get even worse when we find out the result of Anika and Rhonda’s fight over the balcony, as Rhonda’s lifeless body slams onto the roof of a car in front of Jamal and Lucious. But just as Andre realizes what happened and starts screaming at Anika for killing his wife, Anika’s water breaks. Well, it’s not like anyone expects Empire to start a season quietly!
Meanwhile, Cookie’s at home cutting Lucious’s face out of family photos, and Hakeem shows up at Tiana’s house drunkenly saying he’s always loved her while she urges him to pull his pants back on. Jamal calls them both to come to the hospital — Cookie rushes there; Hakeem passes out and misses the birth of his child.
Everyone else is at the hospital, including Andre, paralyzed by shock. Cookie offers to call Andre’s priest, but he’s over it. “I’m done with God and his plans,” he says, and grandma (yes, she’s still here) chimes in with, “We’re being punished. You’re all being punished.”
In the delivery room, with cops outside the door, Anika pushes. Neither her mother nor Hakeem are there, just her pseudo-but-actually-real-husband Lucious, who’s whispering harshly in her ear that nobody pushed Rhonda, she just fell and Anika was trying to get away from her. When the baby is born and the doctor announces she’s a girl, Lucious gets even angrier and hisses, “You lied to me.” Hey, Lucious is still terrifying!
The next shot sees Lucious at a Gatsby-esque mansion, playing cards with Birdman and French Montana. Lucious talks a big game about his streaming service — which he’s renamed Empire X Stream — and tries to get them to sign on, but Birdman laughs him off. “Empire’s falling to the bottom of the ocean, man,” he says. Lucious tries to remind them he’s the king, but he’s met with: “We sat there and watched you marry your ex. What’s a king without a queen, man?” Nice to know how much these guys respect Cookie! Lucious leaves the table without signing a deal with any of them, but threatens they’ll regret it when Empire X Stream takes over all of Times Square. Do rappers care about Times Square?
At an Empire X Stream meeting at HQ, the Lyons discuss next steps. Cookie’s wearing a weird robe-type thing, but looks great anyway. Jamal says he’s talked Andre into staying with him for a while, and while Cookie is worried about Andre, Lucious couldn’t care less. He just wants to plan his big launch. He asks Jamal to perform, and then Hakeem starts whining about being a “grown-ass man” and not getting any respect from Lucious (I’m getting really tired of this particular attitude from Hakeem — can we bring Laura back?). “Well grown-ass men don’t miss the birth of their children,” Lucious retorts. He’s got a point. But he still probably didn’t need to put his own name on baby Bella’s birth certificate. (Yes, they named the baby after your trusty recapper here. I know, it’s exciting.)
After everyone leaves, Lucious tries to bond with Cookie, who was defending her sons at the meeting. “I know we’re still good as long as I see that fire in your eyes,” Lucious says.
“I need you to hear me loud and clear,” Cookie replies. “What me and you had is dead. You ruined it. Forever. Enjoy married life.”
NEXT: Cookie’s loyalty is still with Lucious