So, Empire made its return to the FOX network last night after a nearly four-month hiatus. The best we could hope for is that Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Ilene Chaiken spent much of that time fixing that which was wrong.
For much of its sophomore season, one of the most buzzed about shows on network TV sputtered along with badly-written scripts that fueled poor performances from a cast that was overacting to compensate.
In last night’s episode, Lucious (Terrence Howard) officially loses his company after his youngest son, Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), voted against him at the board meeting. Camilla (Naomi Campbell) becomes the chairman and hires Hakeem as CEO, a move that so upsets Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) that she gives him an old school ass-whooping with one of her designer handbags.
Lucious actually spends most of the episode sulking over the loss of Empire and threatening to ruin Hakeem. Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is too busy campaigning for his ASA award to get too involved with the family drama, but he does side with Cookie in her attempt to remove Camilla. Andre (Trai Byers) learns about the loss of his child on a day that he apparently hasn’t taken his bipolar meds. And the episode ended with Lucious handing Hakeem a gun and daring him to kill him.
Even though that move was way over the top, after having seen the first three episodes, it does look as though some of the aforementioned issues have been somewhat resolved.
It looks like we’ll get some more hints as to why Lucious keeps having those flashbacks about his mother. Lucious and Cookie are finally on the same page when it comes to Empire and their family. Henson’s character has been toned down a bit, allowing her real talent to flow through for a more nuanced performance.
Gray’s acting is still weak but better than it was before the break. Still, when he’s paired with Campbell’s character, it’s just plain painful. This situation with Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) and Anika (Grace Gealey), who pushed Rhonda down the steps resulting in the loss of her unborn child, is truly annoying. Mostly, it’s because neither have the chops to make this storyline really effective. You don’t care about either of them.
(Becky) is still being wasted. The Oscar nominee is actually the only thespian on the show that is consistently believable. And, sadly, the writers are borrowing (stealing) way too much from The Godfather movies. Empire could stand on its own with far fewer over-the-top scenarios.
That patchwork cartoon suit worn by Hakeem last night. Honestly, I thought it was kind of fly in a West Philly kind of way, but Gray got ripped a new one on Twitter last night. Cookie and Lucious hooking up again? A tap on the behind here, a loving glance there. Hmmm. Byers made some news last month when he reportedly went off on the set, saying he wanted off the show because he was being underused. He later refuted those reports and it looks like The Lyons’ bipolar older son will be plenty busy in the coming weeks as his condition worsens after the loss of his baby. Look for there to be one less cast member after next week’s episode.