Empire recap: 'Civil Hands Unclean'
Nothing brings the Lyons together like a shared enemy.
This episode opens with Lucious and Jamal in a crunch to finish their albums. Problem is, neither one of them can find the perfect song, even with Snoop Dogg helping Lucious and Tinashe trying to work her magic with Jamal. The pressure is on for both — Lucious, who has taken the Vegas residency for himself, needs a hit for Inferno to build the show around, and Jamal needs to find a closer that brings When Cookie Met Lucious to a grand finale, which is a bit of a problem since she isn’t getting that happy ending with Angelo after all.
Lucious is also trying to convince Snoop to invest, but Snoop is a businessman, and he knows what Inferno needs: Jamal. “Jamal brings another audience, a different demographic,” he tells Lucious. So Lucious calls Jamal into his office. “You will be on Inferno,”he demands. But Jamal laughs it off. “You are not the only CEO at this company,” he says, telling Lucious they should both stay in their own lanes.
Meanwhile, Nessa apparently tipped Cookie off that she thought Andre might do something “reckless.” (Like, uh, commission Shyne’s army to kill Lucious?) She marches into one of Shyne’s laundromats to tell Andre to hold off — but while she’s there, she recognizes a handful of Shyne’s guys from her old neighborhood in Philly. “I heard you’re back!” “You look good!” “How’s your sister?” She invites them all for dinner and then tells Andre they can run Vegas like a family — especially after Lucious kicks Giuliana to the curb. To her family comment, Shyne says, “That doesn’t help me.” Cookie has a great reply: “As far back as we go, you’re like a distant cousin.”
Over at Leviticus, Hakeem is whining to Lucious about why he should have his name on Bella’s birth certificate (seriously, it’s weird to withhold a child from an adult like that), and Lucious still doesn’t believe he’s ready. But soon they’re interrupted by firefighters and the fire marshal, who tell Lucious and Thirsty there’s a violation, so the club is closed tonight. Turns out Angelo is behind it, of course, laughing on a couch and drinking Lucious’ brandy. Lucious stays calm and buys him another round on the house.
But inside, he’s fuming, and he storms over to Cookie. “You know what he did was about you! You know me too well, Cookie. I can’t let that go,” he tells her. Of course, at that moment, Anika comes in to tell Lucious she’s on the way to the hotel where she’s staying; and then Giuliana comes in to tell Lucious she’s heading to the airport to get back to Vegas. Lucious is surrounded by his three past, present, and future women (seriously, all three of these words apply to all of them at the same time), but he juggles as well as he can. He tells Giuliana goodbye and tells Anika she can move back into the mansion because G will be gone. (“Oh, so she up in the mansion already?” Cookie hollers.) Cookie stomps out, saying she guesses they can handle this Angelo stuff another time then.
On a much lighter note, Hakeem comes home to find Tiana and Tory nuzzling in his giant marble bathtub. He’s not mad, except about them being distracted while he’s trying to have a serious conversation about Bella. (And that they’re going to a girls-only party later that night.) In fact, he’s comforted by the same logic he used back in season 1: “Your girl got a girl? That’s two girlfriends.” I mean, it works: Eventually he gets in the tub with them, and… You can fill in the rest.
Over at Cookie’s, she’s put together a feast of home cooking for her old friends and Shyne and Andre. “Somebody needs to marry this woman immediately!” Shyne says upon tasting Cookie’s food. Ugh, how ironic. Anyway, she convinces them to put the murder stuff on hold and let Lucious set up for Vegas. If his show makes money, they all win. And if he can’t get it together, they can take it from him. Seems like a smart, bloodless solution to me.
A brief but potentially important scene for the future: Snoop tells Lucious that his investment banker has also advised him not to put his money into Lucious’ Vegas deal. Who is this banker, it turns out? A Mr. Ezekiel… DuBois. As Lucious says, “Ain’t that a coincydink?”
Again, Lucious yells at Cookie, deciding he wants to take real action against Angelo. She says she’ll try first and tracks him down trying to apologize. What if she makes a public statement saying everything he said on the hot mic was just in the heat of the moment? But for Angelo, that’s not even what it’s about. He thinks that Cookie’s Lucious drama destroyed generations of work his family has done. (Okay, dramatic much? Jeez.) Then Angelo’s bodyguards — and mama — march over and start pulling Cookie away. “When my family decides to shoot, your entire family will burn to the ground,” his mom hisses. Well then!
Finally, the Lyons — minus Hakeem — hold a meeting. Cookie is in rare form (well, not that rare): She’s raging mad at Mrs. DuBois and wants to take a stand. “That bitch better ask about me!” she yells. It’s fun to watch, but as Jamal explains, this is not how to handle that family. “They’re going low. Now we can go high for once,” he says. (To which Cookie replies, “Oh, that’s cute. You learned something from Michelle Obama.”) Jamal says he can go talk to them, and Lucious asks Andre, “You’ve lived in their world. Do you think Jamal’s right?” He nods lightly.
Jamal finds Angelo at WOKE and apologizes with class. “I wanted this for my mom so bad,” he says. Angelo says Cookie was right all along — they are from different worlds. Then Jamal hands him a $5 million check, which Angelo tries to reject until Jamal says it’s for an anonymous scholarship fund. Every kid in WOKE will get a free ride to the college of their choice. Can Angelo seriously turn that kind of money down? Especially if the Lyons’ name won’t be attached? Nope, he cannot. Success! (For now.)
Meanwhile, Hakeem has been live streaming from his apartment, chattering to his however-many millions of fans about Bella and being a father. Then he has an epiphany while watching some lions (actual animal lions in Africa). “The way how that mama lion was protecting her baby lion… the connection was so deep! Lion baby. What’s the name of that? Lion pups? Whatever.” No, he’s not on drugs. Anyway, somehow this inspires him to realize family is over everything… rising above it all… elevated. Sorry if that is confusing, but I’m just transcribing his exact path to the word “elevated,” which inspires a pretty great song of the same name. He performs it on that gorgeous, raised marble bathtub and compares parenthood to “leveling up” — which is actually sort of brilliant.
In the studio, Jamal is still having problems, and Cookie’s losing her patience. Then, right on cue, the most perfect beat wafts into the room. Jamal and Cookie follow the sound, which is coming from Becky’s computer. “That’s exactly what I’m looking for! Who made that beat? I want it!” Jamal says. Then Lucious pops in, and we all know the answer. “Is it his?” Cookie asks. “You know it is,” Becky says.
So Jamal makes a move: Lucious is in the studio recording, but when it’s time for the guy singing the hook to come in, Jamal starts belting from outside the booth. The other singer speaks first when it’s done: “I think you just found what you’re looking for.” Father and son perform for Cookie, and everyone knows they’ve finally found their hit. And Lucious remembers that regardless of what Snoop’s DuBois banker said, he was down to invest if Jamal was involved. And now Jamal has a killer final track for his album — the song will go on both. Not only that, but Jamal asks his parents to put the past behind them, have Lucious make a conscious effort to be a better man, and just make good music. Lucious says, “I’m down,” but Cookie isn’t having this “kumbaya” moment. She leaves Jamal and Lucious to keep perfecting their song.
Later that night, the whole family gathers for dinner — Anika and Leah included. Lucious wears glasses and looks like a normal family patriarch as he bestows gifts on his people. Anika gets divorce papers and a $25 million settlement. (“That’s more than you gave me!” Cookie huffs. “I gave you half the company,” Lucious replies, to which Cookie reminds him, “I worked my ass off for that.”) And Lucious, moved by Hakeem’s “podcast” (“you mean my live stream?”) gives Keem his Empire Xstream channel back, and… his name on Bella’s birth certificate.
But the peace and happiness doesn’t last long — this is Empire after all. The police and a woman from the Office of Child and Family Services burst into the mansion saying there have been reports of child endangerment and that she has an order to remove the child. WHAT THE HECK?! Do any lawyers read these recaps? Can they actually do this? The Lyons try not to give Bella over, but then a whole SWAT team essentially storms into the residence and takes her while Anika sobs (great acting from Grace Byers here — her sorrow is realistically messy and just so tragic). Lucious asks if they work for the DuBois family, and the woman firmly says, “No, sir” before walking out the door. I’m inclined to believe her, only because the rest of this episode wants us to believe Angelo would be behind this. Wouldn’t that be too easy? I wonder if there’s someone else behind this. Giuliana? Or maybe Mrs. DuBois, but Angelo has no idea? Tariq? (He would have cop connections.)
Guess we’ll find out next time.