Empire season finale recap: Broken hearts, broken vows, and a breakthrough
The season 5 finale of Empire is finally upon us. Last week’s episode left me on the floor (much like Andre), and I’ve been counting down the days to when all of these storylines will either be tied up or left flailing in the wind. Life, death, and love are all on the line, so I’m eager to jump right into the juicy stuff.
Andre is unconscious on a hospital gurney as his parents frantically crowd the doctors. The Meredith Grey in me desperately wants to sequester them to the waiting room. Initially, Andre doesn’t have a pulse and isn’t responding to the defibrillator. The doctor’s look ready to give up, but Cookie and Lucious pressure them to try one more time. They give Andre’s body another jolt and his pulse jumps into a rhythm. He’s alive, but a transplant is still his only hope of survival.
As we know from the exclusive clip shared Tuesday morning, Cookie is pissed at Lucious for agreeing to help Andre take his own life. She’s convinced she could have talked him out of it if Lucious had told her what was going on. Cookie’s sisters Carol and Candace play angel and devil on her shoulders, respectively. Carol can see why Lucious thought he was doing the right thing, but Candace points out how selfish and irresponsible Lucious is.
The excuse for Jamal’s absence comes by way of an emotional, one-sided phone conversation between him and Cookie. There’s a storm raging at his honeymoon locale, and he can’t catch a flight.
Teri is by Andre’s bedside as he blinks awake. She’s overjoyed that he’s alive, but upset that he didn’t tell her what he was dealing with. He distracts her by asking about the pregnancy that his mother blurted out before he blacked out. She tells him they’re having a boy, and he seems genuinely excited.
Kingsley has arrived at the hospital to show his support, but Hakeem reminds him that he isn’t family and tells him to leave. On his way out, Kingsley runs into his father. Luckily, Lucious is happy to see him. Since Cookie isn’t allowing him near her eldest son right now, Lucious’ eldest son persuades him to leave the hospital and get some fresh air.
While on their walk, Kingsley and Lucious pass by a music stand. Lucious is cool with the owner who lets the music mogul go through the bins of LPs and spin tracks on his player. Kingsley remembers playing Lucious’ music over and over looking for some sign that his father knew he was alive. He’s hurt when he finds out one of his favorite songs was inspired by the birth of Lucious’ firstborn, and he’s referring to Andre. Lucious doesn’t mean it maliciously, but even I felt that sting.
Back at Empire headquarters, Becky and Gisele are brainstorming ways to make the relaunch of the streaming service Empire Extreme (which will take place after the Trust tour’s final show) a success. This is crucial not only for fan retention following the Trust tour, but also because Becky has been offered a job at Def Jam, and she’ll be forced to take it if Empire doesn’t get its s–t together.
They decide that the best incentive to encourage fans to subscribe to the service is to essentially pull a Beyonce: they’ll release a compilation of live tour performances as well as behind-the-scenes videos, all exclusive to the service. More goodies will be released each month to encourage retention.
The promise of a new child has encouraged Andre to seize the moment. He spontaneously proposes to Teri with a “quartz” ring he asked Hakeem to buy from the Hospital gift shop (not a move I would have expected from a couple rich kids, but we’re living in the moment!). Teri resists. She’s still holding on to hope that Andre will get better, but he wants to ensure that she and their child have legal rights to being taken care of no matter what. She relents but makes him swear that they’ll have a huge church wedding when he’s better. He makes a promise he likely won’t keep, and they have a small marriage ceremony in the hospital room with their immediate families (including Lucious).
Kingsley visits his mom at the rehab center. Her doctors have cleared her to go home, but her son is worried she’ll relapse just like every time before. He lets it slip that he went to the hospital for Andre, and Tracy goes into a frenzy. She says Kingsley is pathetic for “shucking and jiving for the devil’s (Lucious’) approval” (a little cringey coming from a white woman, but go off). She slaps him and tells him that she should have taken the money Lucious offered her to abort him when she had the chance. Ouch.
Cookie’s sisters find her asleep at Andre’s bedside and send her home to freshen up and get some rest. Once she’s home, Cookie draws a bath but ends up collapsed in tears on the bathroom floor. Also at home, Lucious is trying to get some work done in the Lyon’s den (sorry, couldn’t resist) when Kingsley walks in. His emotions are clearly running high and he needs to speak with his father. Lucious tries to brush him off so he can focus, but Kingsley pulls a gun out of his jacket pocket to amplify his sense of urgency.
Lucious calls him on his bluff, so Kingsley points the gun at his father’s face to prove he’s serious. He needs to know if what Tracy said about Lucious wanting to abort him is true. He needs to know if Cookie’s children will always come before him. Lucious tries to assure Kingsley that he would never do such a thing; a boy needs his father. He dares him to shoot him between the eyes so that his heart can go to his son. Kingsley agrees that a boy needs his father, so he instead turns the gun on himself and the blood splatters across an image of Hakeem and Jamal mid-performance on the TV screen behind him.
Lucious rides to the hospital with Kingsley in an ambulance, but there’s nothing to be done. He’s gone. When Cookie finds him washing blood off of his hands in the kitchen (because she didn’t hear the gunshot because of the running bath water? Or is their home just that big?), her questions about what happened quickly turn to accusations about what Lucious could have done. He only has one answer for her: “We have a heart for Andre.”
They arrive back at the hospital at nearly the same time as Tracy, who’s hysterical at the news of her son’s death. She lunges at Lucious, accusing him of killing her son, but he insists it was her lies that made Kingsley want to take his own life. Cookie sends Lucious away and tries to reason with Tracy herself. She appeals to the fact that Lucious has lied to and hurt them both, but they had nothing to do with her son’s death. She needs her to understand that their children are innocent and that only Tracy’s son can help her son right now.
Tracy is initially unmoved by Cookie’s speech, but when she finds her praying at Andre’s bedside later, she changes her mind. With a shaky nod of the head, Tracy agrees to let Andre have Kingsley’s heart (Lucious says he signed consent forms, but it seems that Tracy truly had the final say), but she says it won’t be free.
While Andre is in surgery, Cookie, Lucious, Teri, and Hakeem sit restlessly in the waiting room. Cookie demands to know whether Lucious killed Kingsley; she needs to know if she just lied to Tracy about how her son died. Lucious quickly shuts down the idea that he could murder his own son, but Cookie isn’t inclined to believe him, considering that’s what she believes he almost did to Andre. Andre has explained to her that what Lucious was trying to do for him is a form of love, but she can’t accept that. Their fight is cut short by a doctor’s announcement that Andre’s surgery was successful. It appears miracles do happen for Andre after all.
The final concert of the Trust tour was also a success. Devon and Tiana sang a sultry duet. The Three Black Divas, led by Tisha Campbell-Martin, gave a rousing performance with an assist from Blake. At headquarters, Gisele happily announces that the Empire Extreme subscriptions are pouring in in droves. They’ve done it! But Beck is less enthused. Public perception is that Cookie and Lucious saved Empire, and to her point, perception is reality in this industry. Once again, she and Gisele won’t get the credit they deserve for all of the work they do while the Lyons are drowning in personal drama.
Gisele has a trick up her sleeve to calm her girl’s dissatisfaction. She brings Becky to an empty office space and pitches her the idea for their own music label; for women, by women. She’s withdrawing her equity share of Empire and putting it toward their new venture. Becky is hesitant to agree to such a risky move, but the idea of being able to call her own shots and finally be recognized for her hard work is too sweet to pass up.
At Kingsley’s funeral, Lucious asks the pallbearers to open the casket so he can see his son one more time. He looks down on him with a tear-stricken face and slips a flash drive of his music in Kingsley’s pocket. I’m very suspicious the flash drive doesn’t contain music at all, but I suppose that’s a mystery for another season.
The FBI shows up at the funeral (because of course), and Agent Conway tries to rile Lucious up by telling him that Cookie and Damon Cross have been sleeping together. She presents photos as proof, but Lucious accuses her “flunkies” of playing with photoshop. He isn’t falling for it.
Speaking of Damon Cross, he’s waiting for Agent Conway in her office when she returns. He’s willing to “donate” $20 million to her campaign for governor if she’ll get off his back. He’ll even help her take down Lucious. Conway picks up on the fact that he just wants to get Lucious out of the way so he can get “another nibble of the Cookie,” but she accepts his offer.
The idea of Damon trying to steal his wife throws him into a rage. He rushes home with Thurston to retrieve his gun and a couple racks of money from his safe. His plan is to kill Damon and then get out of dodge long enough to figure out what the feds have on him. Thurston is able to talk him out of playing into Agent Conway’s hands and killing Damon. Somehow he’s already heard that Damon is helping the FBI get a warrant for Lucious’ arrest. Lucious makes Thursty promise that he’ll take care of his sons while he’s gone.
Lucious has Cookie brought to a helicopter hangar. He explains to her that they need to get away ASAP, that the FBI has resorted to using “fake” pictures of Damon and her to tear them apart. But Cookie doesn’t plan on going anywhere with him. “Ride or die is over.” She says he hasn’t changed (you still don’t even know about the man he beat to death in an alley, girl. WHEW). She refuses to sacrifice herself or her sons for him and Empire anymore. He still tries to persuade her, so she’s forced to lie to him to get him to back off: Cookie tells Lucious she had sex with Damon Cross. Lucious falls silent, stunned at the betrayal. Cookie runs back to the car, and as she’s driven away, Lucious is flown to God knows where in the helicopter alone.
Is this truly the end for Cookie and Lucious? What did Tracy mean when she said Kingsley’s heart wouldn’t be free? Will Andre find his happy ending? Will Jamal ever return from his honeymoon??? Lucky for us, Empire has been approved for a sixth season, so I’m crossing my fingers for (believable) answers to all of my burning questions. Sound off on your feelings about the finale below.