We gave it a B-
Last week, we ended with Dwight telling Cookie he wanted to know everything about her time in prison — and this week picks up right where we left off. Cookie recounts scenes from that time as we watch them in a flashback: She explains which groups she and her Philly women got along with behind bars, and which were their enemies.
One particular woman from D.C., Poundcake, seemed to hate Cookie for no reason, and the two got into a rough physical fight just before one of Lucious’ visits. As she tells the story, Dwight starts remembering it on his own and chimes in about a time little Jamal came to visit his mom behind bars. Dwight (it’s easier to refer to present-day Lucious this way since that’s how he refers to himself) starts apologizing for Lucious’ behavior toward Cookie all those years ago. He refers to Lucious as “him” — a totally separate person — and says that he’ll try to be a better man for Cookie now. He wants to come to Empire with her today.
Dwight enters Empire to wild applause, as people like Becky and Porsha give him squealing, chatty hugs. But things are less nice when they go up to listen to Hakeem’s new song, which is full of the toughness that makes Dwight cringe now (ironic, since Hakeem is the Lyon who takes after Lucious the most musically). “I didn’t like the nature of the song, but he was so passionate in how he delivered it,” Dwight says diplomatically. I know I’ve said this in every recap, but I really like amnesia Lucious — even though, as Mrs. DuBois points out in yet another info-gathering lunch with Warren and Angelo, the whole amnesia thing is little too “like a soap opera.”
Empire is having a tough time deciding which artists will be part of the 20 for 20 series, so Andre pretends it’s Dwight’s idea to have them compete with each other for the top spots. This turns Empire into American Idol for a bit as different artists perform for the judges (Cookie, Lucious/Dwight, Becky…and Porsha?). Tiana is consistent as usual; Cookie kicks Tory Ash off the stage immediately. (“No. The first one out the gate cannot be a white girl,” she says, to which Dwight argues, “That sounds really unfair…”) A guy comes out and gets accused of stealing a beat, so he’s out, and then Empire’s answer to Janelle Monae confuses everyone with her concept album about warriors in space who have left Earth. (Dwight’s response to this: “Was there a problem on Earth, why the warriors had to leave?”)
Then some dude named “Tommy” — who apparently is Empire’s most Grammy-winning artist even though we haven’t seen him until season 4 — does a show-stopping vocal run. The judges all decide he’s The One, until Dwight tells him he saw “visions of burnt umber mixed with a deep magenta” while Tommy was singing, “like hope coupled with a tremendous amount of fear.” “Are you suffering?” Dwight asks. As a matter of fact, Tommy’s brother was shot last week and they’re not sure if he’s going to be okay — so Dwight tells him to go be with his family, and Empire will be here to support him when he gets back. It’s a wonderfully compassionate response as a human being, but not so much as a CEO who needs strong performances for this crazy 20 album push.
Dwight is disturbed by Cookie’s attitude all day, yelling “NEXT!” every two minutes and cutting people down left and right. But she reminds him that not only is she running a company — but she’s acting like him. Well, like Lucious. She sends him home, which is probably for the best.
While all this has been going on, Jamal and Tory started working on a duet about love being like a drug, as if they’re the first artists to ever put that simile together, Hakeem has been planning Bella’s Prince-themed first birthday party, and Anika runs into Angelo DuBois on the street, who reminds her that the Lyons will bite her eventually, and she should call him when she’s ready to bite back. (Recap continues on page 2)