Chuck Hodes/FOX
Isabella Biedenharn
November 15, 2017 AT 11:15 PM EST

Empire

type
TV Show
genre
Drama
run date
01/07/15
performer
Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Jussie Smollett
broadcaster
Fox
seasons
2
Current Status
In Season

We gave it a C

I’m just going to come right out and say it: This episode was boring. You’d think dedicating almost an entire hour to Bella’s custody hearing would mean there were crazy twists and turns and edge-of-your-seat drama, and I guess there were some twists. But none of them were really all that…believable. Instead of sitting here and continuing to scratch my head, let’s just get into it.

It’s the morning of the hearing, and all the Lyons are dressed to the nines. Jamal has rushed to the courtroom from his studio session with Warren, where they’re recording their manly duet, and Andre made his way there after a therapy session with a new psychiatrist, who ups Andre’s prescription and listens to him talk about how obsessed he is with Detective Pamela.

The courtroom is already a circus. Cookie is yelling out left and right, and Hakeem’s “Free Bella” protestors have shown up in full force. One gets kicked out.

The judge seems like a tough customer, which is one strike against the Lyons. The next strike? When Angelo gets up to give his opening statement, she gives her regards to his mother. DIDN’T KNOW YOU KEPT IN TOUCH WITH SATAN, JUDGE LYDIA!

Angelo launches into a speech about Anika’s elite pedigree, as compared to Hakeem’s drug-and-sex-fueled criminal exploits. He’s setting the tone he’ll take during the whole trial: The Lyons are criminals and thugs, not fit to have a child around. Never mind that that child’s mother was just in jail for murder!

Unfortunately, the fact that Anika was in jail and had a baby with her almost-stepson right before marrying his father doesn’t seem to put Hakeem in higher standing. Witnesses speak to her character, and everything seems to be in her favor.

Then Angelo calls Tiana to the stand and immediately launches into an attack about the threesomes she and Hakeem have and all the drugs they do. Tiana tries to say they don’t do drugs, but Angelo is screaming in her face so ferociously that she just starts to cry. “Mr. DuBois, this is a witness, not a punching bag,” the judge reminds him.

Unfortunately Hakeem can’t summon the same compassion for his girlfriend, and he yells at her during a recess for crying instead of fighting back. Tiana says that isn’t fair of him, but he says he should have dropped her when she snitched to Cookie about his Cuba trip. Tiana tells him he’s under a lot of stress right now, but that when his brain comes back…he doesn’t need to call her. This is all extremely abrupt. Good on Tiana for having self-esteem, and I get that Hakeem is worried about his baby, but is this really how Hakeem would react? I don’t think so!

Next, Angelo calls Cookie to the stand, and obviously prison comes up right away. Cookie gives a great answer about how Hakeem is a wonderful father, the kind of parent she couldn’t be for Hakeem. She cries and says she paid for her mistakes. Angelo reminds her of the times she and Anika have fought — verbally and physically — until Cookie alerts him to the time that Anika was going to kill herself and asked Cookie to take care of Bella. Knowing that he’s losing, Angelo suddenly brings up the fact that Cookie had thugs beat him up. Why hasn’t Cookie — or anyone — alerted the judge to Cookie and Angelo’s relationship? Wouldn’t that be a reason to recuse him from being Anika’s lawyer? (Is that the right legal term?) This is frustrating!

Lucious — miraculously cured of his amnesia last week and suddenly back to his old self — puts himself on the stand. When Angelo asks Lucious about his past as “the scariest man in music,” Lucious feigns ignorance and lost memory, and launches instead into a speech about how much he loves Bella and all the memories she’s given him. Because of Bella, he wants to try and heal! The speech is fine. It’s fine. But somehow this renders brilliant bulldog Angelo utterly speechless. Like, he says nothing else and lets Lucious sit back down. Is that all you need to shift the winds in a custody hearing? A nice speech from Grandpa?

This isn’t enough for Hakeem, though, because he decides to fire his lawyer and speak for himself (a choice the judge and Thirsty advise against). But he gets Anika on the stand and starts softly asking personal questions about Bella — What is she afraid of? What’s her favorite color? What does she call her grandfather? What time does she go to bed? — and Anika doesn’t even pretend to make up answers. Then Hakeem reminds her that his door was always open; he wanted her to get to know Bella, but she had to go slap this custody suit on him. It’s sad, and it’s about to work…

Until good ol’ Phylicia Rashad returns as a surprise “rebuttal witness.” Is anyone shocked Angelo called Mommy? Nope.

Mrs. DuBois gets on the stand and talks about how she finds Hakeem a very pleasant young man, which she knows because he’s spent every Tuesday afternoon with her for the past five months. Oh, and she’s videotaped the sessions, where he just happens to say terrible, damning things about every single member of his family: Jamal has his pills, Andre has his illness (he also says Andre’s baby dying was “probably for the best”), Hakeem wishes Cookie was still in jail, and Lucious is a monster.

For some reason, Hakeem fails to explain that he was coming to see Bella because Mrs. DuBois got her taken away from him in the first place and was blackmailing Hakeem so he could see Bella at all. Honestly, this and the Cookie-Angelo relationship — how did you guys not bring this up?

Obviously, the judge rules in convicted murderer Anika’s favor. So, the conclusion here is that not only has Hakeem lost Bella, but now he’s earned the ire of literally everyone in his family, plus Tiana. All he has left is Chicken — who, by the way, is not only extremely loyal, but seems to have the easiest job on this show. AzMarie literally just gets to sit in the background in cool outfits in every episode. (Recap continues on page 2)

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