Let’s face it: You’re not reading this recap because you want a lofty deconstruction of the symbolism and philosophy behind Empire. You’re reading because you just watched the latest over-the-top episode and you thought, “What the hell was that?!?” as a billion GIFs exploded in your brain. So every week, instead of a traditional recap, we’ll give you the latest edition of Empire: How Crazy/Awesome Was It?, in which we rate this week’s episode in terms of relative genius/insanity. Add your own ratings in the comments below.
How crazy/awesome was he? Crazy enough to order a lap dance for his devout son
What the heck happened with him this week? He nursed his God complex. And maybe he truly is a god, because he’s creating some unbelievable miracles.
Last week, when Lucious left Vernon’s corpse in the passenger seat of Roxanne’s car, it didn’t look like the smartest move. The only guy who could’ve testified against Lucious was suddenly, conveniently dead, and nobody except Andre and Rhonda knew it. Until Vernon ended up riding shotgun with Roxanne, he could’ve been sipping blood-orange margaritas on the beach in some country that Thirsty’s GPS tracking system couldn’t reach, for all Roxanne knew. So why did Lucious take a murder that he probably had a solid alibi for and make it look like he killed Vernon to get revenge on Roxanne?
Roxanne should’ve come at Lucious hard this week. But the characters on this show don’t have long memories, and neither does the show itself. (Remember Lucious’ long lost daughter, Lola? Where is she now that he’s been talking about his legacy? Remember how Lucious’ dad was killed by the Nation of Islam? What’s the backstory there? Maybe Empire forgot.) From the moment we met Roxanne, she was the new Carter, who you might remember as the woman from season 1 who was pressuring Cookie for inside intel on Empire before she suddenly disappeared from the plot. And now there’s bound to be a new Roxanne next season, since the old one got scared off by Vernon’s body and took a leave of absence. The authorities believe that Vernon killed himself, which is strange, since there’s no evidence of a suicide — unless, of course, most suicides end with the dead guy hankering to go on a little road trip.
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It’s a disappointing twist. There have been so many family feuds and reconciliations in every single episode of Empire this season that there hasn’t been a chance for the drama to escalate into a full-blown war, which the show really needs in order for there to be a real emotional impact when the Lyons finally join forces again. Last week, they had the perfect enemy to unite them — the FBI — and now that enemy isn’t a threat anymore. Sigh. So this week, Lucious is back to bickering with the family. He tells Jamal not to bring Michael on tour, because the junior Lyon needs to be “in seduction mode” on stage. Lucious might’ve gotten Thirsty to rob Lyon Dynasty and steal their tracks. (Or does Thirsty have ulterior motives, and he’s lying about that? Would a man in a velvet suit lie to you?) And Lucious walks out of church in the middle of Andre’s baptism, troubled by memories of the time his bipolar mother held him under the water in the bathtub. Good thing he’s got a surrogate daughter in Freda, whom he just signed to his new label, Gutter Life, even though she keeps asking about her dad. You know how Lucious welcomes you into his family? He murders someone you love.
Most tweetable quote: “You asking me to come to the church and watch people dunk you in tap water?”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Walking into that church looking like the Devil himself
How crazy/awesome was she? Crazy enough to let Whoopty Woo serve as her personal bodyguard
What the heck happened with her this week? She got a dog. And if her luck doesn’t change, that dog’s head is gonna end up gift-wrapped in a box by the end of the season.
Somehow, even though Cookie runs a fledgling label that’s gotten no radio play, other people still see her as a major threat. Beyond revenge — does everything come down to revenge with Lucious? — it’s hard to explain why Lucious spent so much energy stealing Valentina when the girl hadn’t even recorded a single yet. It’s even harder to understand why Cookie hadn’t forced a record contract on Valentina from the very beginning — or on Hakeem, for that matter, since Cookie knows that Lucious and Jamal try to convince him to go back to Empire every other week. Now we’re supposed to believe that some masked villain is roughing up Tiana and trying to extort money from Cookie, just because the Lyon Dynasty chief is Lucious’s ex-wife and might be “swimming in cash”? Wouldn’t it be safer to mark a different label’s boss, one whose husband wasn’t recently accused of killing someone?
Lucious denies that he was involved in Tiana’s purse-snatching — with the same tone of voice he used to deny that he ever touched Vernon. Though, as with most of the telenovela-worthy plot developments on Empire, thinking about it too much spoils the fun. Besides, it gives Cookie a chance to hire Laz Delgado (Adam Rodriguez from Magic Mike XXII), a concert promoter who’s also an ex-NYPD cop. Is it a little fishy that Delgado happens to be packing at the exact moment when thugs bust into Cookie’s room? Maybe! But shhhhhh! about that because it’s so nice to see Cookie with a new love interest. “I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty,” he purrs at her. “Really,” says Cookie, no doubt fantasizing about him fingers-deep in…a pot full of gardening soil, right?
Every week, it gets harder to side against Team Cookie. And the heartfelt speech she gives to Andre during his baptism just makes her even more lovable. She might be terrible at contract negotiations. But she’s pretty great at being a mom.
Most tweetable quote: “God knows your heart… Now keep your mouth shut”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Pulling a gun and making “You packin’?” sound like a pick-up line
NEXT: The other Lyons
How crazy/awesome was he? Crazy enough to think monogamy might work
What the heck happened with him this week? He got betrayed by both Michael and Chase One, a guy who’s so fond of sticking himself into whatever slot’s available, his name actually sounds like a type of debit card.
Lucious tried to warn Jamal against staying loyal to Michael, but Jamal wouldn’t listen, and who can blame him? Ne-Yo gives good romantic advice, judging by everything I’ve learned from listening to Year of the Gentleman, so when he tells you to stick with your man, you pay attention and you don’t let any scheming Rolling Stone photographers-slash-painters take advantage of you. It’s unsettling to hear Chase One argue against gay marriage, not just because he’s obviously trying to manipulate Jamal into cheating on Michael, but also because the scene continues this season’s questionable habit of using politics for self-interested reasons. When Chase One ends up hooking up with Michael instead, it’s a shocking twist that’s actually not all that surprising, considering how many times Empire zags when we expect it to zig.
Chase One, we hardly knew ye, and we suspect ye won’t return. Michael might be gone, too. And the way Jamal has been drinking lately, that’s good reason to worry. He used to be the one inspirational story line on this show. Pray that this doesn’t send him into a downward spiral that would rival Andre’s from season 1.
Most tweetable quote: Sorry, Jamal, but it’s hard to top Mr. Sleazy Photographer, who scores the line of the week with “A mouth is a mouth”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Almost getting caught with his pants down
How crazy/awesome was he? Crazy enough to try to pull a Tiana with Laura
What the heck happened with him this week? Karma.
After basically trying to sleep with every female pop star in the business, Hakeem finally gets called out, and it’s such a satisfying moment. Tiana tells the new Mirage a Trois singer, Laura, that the Lyon Dynasty mogul is a player, and he proves it by dancing up on all three members of the girl group, one right after the other. When Laura tells him to back off, he apologizes, but as everyone knows, telling Hakeem you’re not interested is the best way to get him to want you even more. Laura might be the rare Empire character who’s playing the long game for more than a few episodes. We already know that Empire creator Lee Daniels has scored a pilot order for a potential series about a girl group that’s trying to make it. Could there be a Mirage a Trois spin-off?
We’ll have to wait a while to find out, due to this week’s cliffhanger: Hakeem gets kidnapped. I really don’t want to see the Littlest Lyon get tortured next week because he’s the most likeable, pure-hearted character right now, but I do want to know who’s responsible. The Lyons all have so many enemies, it could be anyone. Maybe Whoopty Woo is involved.
Most tweetable quote: “I’m on my mogul swag now”
Most GIF-worthy moment: Dancing up on every woman in the room
How crazy/awesome was he? The least crazy we’ve seen him all season. Thank goodness.
What the heck happened with him this week? He went to confession.
After taking over as the president of Gutter Life, Andre meets with his pastor, who urges him to come clean about his sins before he gets baptized. That means telling Jamal and Lucious about all the bad things he’s done and resolving to unite the family rather than pitting his brothers against each other. He’s feeling so saintly, he even refuses to help Thirsty steal from Lyon Dynasty. It’s looking like his relationship with his family is finally turning around, until Lucious walks out of his baptism. Poor Andre. He was willing to dig up a body and possibly go to jail, just to help exonerate Lucious, and Lucious still can’t be there to support him? Seriously, Dre. When no one has your back, it’s time to move your back, far away from Empire.
Most tweetable quote: “Ya house ain’t clean if the closet is dirty.” —the pastor to Andre
Most GIF-worthy moment: Rhonda’s face when Andre mentions the baby. She’s gotta be faking this pregnancy.