Empire midseason premiere recap: Show returns for first time since Jussie Smollett scandal
The Lyons are finally back.
Empire has been in the news for all the wrong reasons over the last six weeks as the Jussie Smollett controversy has continued to evolve with each twist and turn. But now, more than three months after the midseason finale, the hit Fox series returns for the final nine episodes of season 5. Ahead of the return, EW exclusively chatted with Empire showrunner Brett Mahoney about the effect that Smollett’s legal woes have had on the series and what’s to come. And here’s a reminder that, despite Smollett being sidelined for the last two episodes of the season, he will still be plenty involved in the seven that were previously filmed, which is very evident in tonight’s episode, “My Fault Is Past.”
Now to catch you up on where we left the Lyon family: Jamal and fiancé Kai are on the rocks; Andre was flatlining in a flash forward; a return to Empire was within grasp; Lucious and Becky were accused of data mining; and Kingsley announced to the Lyons — and the world — that he’s Lucious’ illegitimate son.
The midseason premiere picks up exactly where we left off, as the Lyons deal with the aftermath of Kingsley’s public declaration. Son or no son, Cookie tells Lucious that they need to take down their enemy, to which Lucious agrees. Andre feels similarly, later telling his brothers of the newest Lyon, “If he’s telling the truth, I say we treat him like family… tear his ass down.”
Meanwhile, Jamal is more worried about losing the man in his life. He meets with Kai, asking him to help Lucious prove his innocence in the data mining scandal (weird move considering this is at the heart of their relationship problems). Kai seems turned off by this request, and yet, he still shows up to assist Lucious and Andre, bringing the two of them to meet with a source. Andre promptly dangles the man out of a window until he confesses that Kingsley was behind the setup. “Welcome to the family,” Lucious cracks to a horrified Kai. Lucious then takes this evidence to Kingsley and gives him the option of signing a confession or getting his “ass beat, again.” Adds Lucious, “I’m giving you a choice because you are my son.” Kingsley smartly opts for the signature.
As father and son aren’t quite bonding, Cookie goes to see Kingsley’s mom, Tracy, for herself. Tracy, a junkie who has suffered multiple strokes, says she was pregnant with Kingsley when Cookie met Lucious. When Cookie brings up how she went to jail and missed out on raising her kids, the women agree that they both “lost everything.” Opines Tracy, “I guess the day Cookie met Lucious wasn’t so pretty after all.”
Thanks to Kai and Gisele’s help, the Lyons are officially back home at Empire, where Lucious is rallying the troops, while Cookie seems troubled, having flashbacks to some of the darker times for the family. But there’s nothing a big party can’t solve! It’s there Cookie gets to meet Teri, Andre’s new girlfriend, a.k.a her “No. 1 son.” And it’s also where Hakeem’s performance with Maya gets Tiana jealous.
Lucious gets pulled away from the festivities when Kingsley asks him to meet in the studio. Kingsley apparently has a program in the Empire network that is deleting all of Lucious’ old music, proclaiming, “You made me. And now I’m erasing you.” Lucious isn’t sweating it, until Kingsley reveals that he knows about the secret server in London. “You want my blood?” asks Lucious. “I am your blood. I’m your fresh and blood!” Kingsley fires back. Lucious promises that he would have been there if he knew and that he sees himself in Kingsley, affectionately saying “You’re my son.” It’s really a great scene between Terrence Howard and new addition A.Z. Kelsey.
Jamal doesn’t make the party because he went looking for Kai. He finds him, but Kai is troubled by the whole “hanging a guy out of a window” thing. “Violence doesn’t scare me…but your family does,” he says, begging Jamal to let them go back to London. Sorry, not sorry, Kai. “I’m a Lyon — and I’m done apologizing for that,” declares Jamal, taking off his engagement ring and giving it back to Kai.
The relationship drama continues at the Lyon mansion as Cookie expresses some doubt to Lucious about their return to Empire, comparing themselves to junkies chasing that first high. Her words say she’s with him, while everything else says otherwise. Oh, and Andre and Teri don’t have relationship drama per se, but his nose does start bleeding as he drives, resulting in him passing out behind the wheel. Damn, this dude really can’t catch a break.
What did you think? Are you glad to have the Lyons back? Let us know in the comments.