By Derek Lawrence
December 17, 2019 at 10:00 PM EST
Chuck Hodes/FOX
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Could Lucious and/or Cookie not make it to the end of Empire?

The hit Fox series’ sixth and final season started with Lucious (Terrence Howard) getting shot in a flash-forward, and now Tuesday’s midseason finale ended with White Tracy (Amanda Detmer) pointing a gun at Empire’s first couple.

But there was plenty of drama before that in “Cold Cold Man,” so let’s quickly recap: Tiana (Serayah) and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) are brought back together; Yana (Kiandra Richardson) realizes that Lucious used her and tells her father Damon (Wood Harris); Andre (Trai Byers) realizes that Ghost Kingsley (A.Z. Kelsey) is doing a lot more than just talking to him; Bossy Media gains a star in Melody (Alexandra Gray) and possibly loses a partner in Gisele (Nicole Ari Parker); and Lucious’ refusal to sign divorce papers leads to an emotional fight with Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). “We ain’t done yet,” declares Lucious, and it seems like it may be working — until Tracy walks in.

To break down the midseason finale and what’s to come in Empire‘s final 10 episodes, EW chatted with showrunner Brett Mahoney.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’ll start with a really easy one: Who does Tracy shoot?
BRETT MAHONEY: [Laughs] I guess we will tune into episode 611 and see.

Okay, you can’t blame me for trying. You previously told me that we will learn the identity of Lucious’ flash-forward shooter in episode 11, which is the midseason premiere, so is that still the case?
That is correct. We will learn who is holding that gun and shooting Lucious, and we will also learn who is responsible for the bomb in Cookie’s car.

Will the full flash-forward mystery be resolved at that point? Or will that still continue to unravel leading up to the series finale?
We will continue to unravel that as we lead up to the series finale.

What should we expect from this cliffhanger? It’s kind of more about how they get out of it, right? Because we’ve seen both Lucious and Cookie alive in the flash-forwards, at least briefly.
I don’t know that you can say for a fact that what’s happening with White Tracy isn’t linked to the flash-forward that we’ve seen. But I will say what happens with White Tracy will have ramifications for the entire family.

Jumping to right before Tracy shows up, that was a really big, emotional scene between Cookie and Lucious. They really can’t quit each other. Cookie demanded a divorce, but it seemed like Lucious might have been getting across to her as she put her hand on his face. What should we read into that and how we move forward with them? If they both happen to still be alive, of course!
Both Terrence and Taraji really brought it in that scene; it was powerful and the performances were amazing. I think the issues are that, even though Cookie wants that divorce, she doesn’t doubt that she loves Lucious. Her question is whether that love is healthy and whether it coincides with her journey in trying to find herself and make things right. She knows very well what it is to be sucked in by Lucious. But Lucious feels like he’s done everything right over the last season and a half, and he can’t understand why Cookie won’t come back to him. So I think the love is undeniable, but I think the question is, is it a healthy love, is it a love that fulfills both of them, or is it something that could tear them apart?

Something that could also tear them apart will presumably be Damon coming back after them upon learning of his daughter’s relationship with Lucious. What will it mean to have Damon’s energy being refocused on the Lyons?
It’s an added complication and a very dangerous factor to have Damon back in their lives. Particularly because Yana is Damon’s soft underbelly, that is his vulnerability, his Achilles heel. So to have her hurt by Lucious, I don’t know what that might do in terms of what Damon might want to do to get revenge.

The Ghost Kingsley plotline really jumped up a level here, with Andre seemingly blacking out and making violent threats that he had no memory of. What should we expect from that story now that Andre is aware of Kingsley’s “power” over him?
It’s all about what Andre is going through psychologically. At this point, Andre is someone who has everything that he could have wished for: he’s got Empire, he’s got a beautiful wife, he’s got a baby. But it just goes back to who Andre is at his core and he doesn’t feel like he’s worthy. So he’s created this Kingsley persona to take these things away from him. And, of course, he has to take all those antirejection meds and that can mess up the calibration of his bi-polar meds, so there’s also a chemical basis for these types of hallucinations that he’s experiencing.

A few episodes ago, you introduced Melody, a transgender singer who returns to the Lyon orbit after years out of the picture. Why was this storyline one that you really wanted to spotlight in the final season?
The show always tackles hot button issues and things that are going on in terms of the culture and what’s happening today, and so I think that is what Melody represents.

With only 10 episodes left in the series, what should we expect from this final run to come?
It’s all about family. It’s such an explosive family with so much drama but also so much love for one another, so the question is, will the love they have for one another be able to withstand all of the drama that they bring to it? And will they come out of these last 10 episodes standing, or will they come out of it torn apart? It’s really getting to the core issues of family and the Lyon family, right where we started.

Empire‘s final season returns in 2020.

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