Empire’s midseason finale opens with a dream: Andre’s on stage singing, imagining that he’s Empire’s latest star artist. (Side note: Since Trai Byers can actually sing, why do we have to pretend Andre is the Lyon with no talent?! Are they saving this for a season 5 plot?) He starts screaming for “Daddy!” which breaks him out of the dream: Now we’re in a hospital room where he’s strapped to a bed, and a nurse is explaining to Lucious that they have to purge all the psychotropic drugs from Andre’s system so they can see what the permanent damage to his brain might be. Lucious tells Andre that the people who did this to him are going to pay dearly.
Cookie, of course, is also ready to take down the DuBois family in the most vicious way possible. And it turns out they might have the perfect opportunity: Diana is hosting the Captain’s Ball again this year. But she’s having all of the wait staff and hotel workers thoroughly vetted specifically to keep out any Lyons.
Over at Empire, another party is going on, as Eddie’s leaving his temporary post at the label. Cookie still isn’t convinced that Lucious is really back, but when Lucious plays an old song with Eddie at the party, it does seem like he’s here.
After the party, Lucious and Cookie brainstorm about how to get into the DuBois party, and they realize (in cheesy Empire fashion) that “it’s music that gets us in there”…so they’ll figure out a way to get in via the New York Philharmonic.
A still-bruised Warren shows up in Jamal’s apartment — apparently by giving Jamal’s doorman the $10,000 Diana gave him to leave town. Should I become a doorman? Warren apologizes again and says he deserves everything that’s come to him, and Jamal just agrees (and then some): “You and every bitch like you deserves to die!” Warren says he has something important to tell Jamal, and Jamal brushes it off at first. But as Warren leaves the apartment, Jamal finally comes to his senses and asks, “What is it you need to tell me?”
The time for the Captain’s Ball has finally come, and conveniently, Angelo is outside of the event space. Cookie and Lucious pick him up in a limo, and Lucious bloodies him into signing a confession that he was in on Bella’s kidnapping. (Which seems to be the only thing he wasn’t actually in on at the time Diana conceived of it.)
Once it’s signed, they drive him back to the ball, where of course Diana is shocked to see what’s happened to him. But she’s even more shocked when Cookie and Lucious show up and take over the dance floor with a tango, then cede the spotlight to Jamal and Hakeem, who perform the new version of “Love Is a Drug” to a very lukewarm crowd of rich socialites.
Then, the fun really begins: Jamal and Hakeem tell the crowd about everything Diana has done, like putting Andre in the hospital and kidnapping baby Bella. But the clincher is when Warren Skypes in on the big screen and tells everyone his own side of what happened, and the way Diana treats her own family. “She’s one of the most disgusting, violent people I’ve ever met,” he says. Cookie joins in on the speeches, and finally, the crowd starts to turn on Diana — as Angelo heads out to try to get vengeance on Warren. By the time the cops show up to arrest Diana, the whole audience seems to be Team Cookie. (Recap continues on page 2.)
Upstairs, Hakeem heads to where Anika and the nanny are to pick up Bella once and for all. He says he’s taking her — but since he grew up without a mother, he’ll still let Anika be in her life. The way he’ll keep control, though? He has videotapes of Anika and Diana from when Bella was supposed to be missing. That makes her an accessory to kidnapping — a crime for which the statute of limitations doesn’t expire. Anika sobs anyway, and I can’t summon a MODICUM of pity for her.
And over on Long Island, Angelo and Jamal show up at Warren’s motel room at the same time. But Angelo is at rock bottom, disturbed, and has a gun. He’s so disgusted and angry at Warren, like he’s been all season, it almost makes me wonder if they had some sort of Game of Thrones-style affair. I really don’t think they did, but why is he more angry at Warren than at his other cousin or his mother? I don’t understand it!
Anyway, he ends up shooting Warren in the shoulder before Jamal tackles him to try to wrestle the gun out of his hands. But in the scuffle, it goes off — right into Angelo’s stomach. Jamal starts crying and apologizing before immediately dialing 911. But it seems like it’s too late…Angelo just might be dead.
Back at the event, Cookie and Lucious are as happy and proud as ever. Cookie still doesn’t quite believe Lucious is back, but he’s been violent enough tonight that we can probably assume he is. He tells Cookie she either needs to move back into his bedroom or move out of the house, and surprisingly, she chooses moving out. “If you’re really back, I think we should take our time this go-round,” she says. They say they love each other, and then Lucious heads to the hospital to check on Andre.
In a weird scene that’s definitely just a setup for the latter half of the season, Eddie’s fur-clad ex-wife storms into Empire just as he’s leaving and tells him that they’re all broke because their money ended up in some sort of Ponzi scheme. So Eddie is going to try to stay at Empire now. (But is he going to betray the Lyons or start embezzling funds somehow? Who knows. Do I care? Who knows.)
Shine beats Lucious to the hospital and starts whispering to an unconscious Andre. “You been keeping your mouth shut? I didn’t think so, either,” he says. Just then, Lucious arrives and wonders how they became friends. Shine says Andre’s his boy — they squashed their beef long ago. (Yeah, right!)
Shine leaves and Lucious tells Andre that he clapped back at the people who put him in the hospital. “I’m back now, and I need you to come back stronger than ever,” he says to Andre. Just then, Andre starts to stir. And sleepily, he ends up confessing: “Pop…please don’t hate me,” he murmurs. “The bomb…I tried to kill you. The bomb…”
But before Lucious has a chance to take it all in, there’s a needle in his neck and he falls dead asleep. Of course, we all know who this has to be: Crazy Claudia’s back for her Dwight. And a scene later, we see what’s happening. She has him strapped to a bed (though it’s a little less fancy than Andre’s) and is cooing, “It’s me, my sweet Dwight. I told you I would never leave you…never.”
And with that, all the plotlines are in place for the back half of the season. Will Lucious forgive Andre (that is, if he even gets out of Claudia’s grasp at all)? Is Angelo really dead? Will Diana become the queen of her prison? Will Jamal and Warren get back together? Will Anika ever be punished for killing Rhonda?! Hopefully our answers will come in 2018.