It’s hard to believe Empire is a mere three weeks away from from the last show of its first season. Drugs, money, power and sex are just a few of the things that have earned the Lyon family a No. 1 primetime television spot on Fox.
This week’s episode went deeper than familial greed. The show kicks off with a powerful scene reflecting back on the day Cookie was sentenced to 17 years in prison. The root of the Lyon’s family dysfunction is coming to light. Co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong didn’t leave the viewers guessing here. Andre, Hakeem and Jamal all have mommy and daddy issues, but the show’s writers focus on why the eldest and youngest Lyon brothers’ problems are more serious.
First, Hakeem was just a baby when Cookie went to jail. He’s been angry ever since his mom came home, but it’s not because she wasn’t around while he was growing up. It’s because he thinks she doesn’t love him. In his words, Cookie “only cares about Jamal.” As a response, Cookie quickly turns on her nurturing side and tells Hakeem it’s not that she doesn’t love him, but she doesn’t know him — and Hakeem hasn’t exactly given her a chance. So with the help of Lucious, the two agree to work on their bond. But in true Hakeem form, he finds a way to use his sob story to manipulate his mother’s guilt at the perfect opportunity.
Then there’s Andre. The intelligent, well-educated eldest brother whose goal is to find a way to be “accepted” in a majority white society. To do so, he became as talented — in the classroom — as he could. Unfortunately, his talent doesn’t fall in line with the rest of the family’s idea of what success means. And for that, he’s convinced his family hates him. So as Andre and his brothers fight for the right to the Empire name, Andre feels obligated to make sure he is the one to carry on his father’s dream because that’s the only way he can make sure he “stays” in the family. He’s tired of being the Lyon’s black sheep. By the end of the episode — as a way to cope — Andre finds himself playing Russian Roulette in his father’s studio.
We all know what Jamal has been facing this season. He enjoys the company of another man and his father can’t handle the thought. What finally brings them together is Jamal’s daughter, who popped up during episode six. Since then, Lucious has opted to give Jamal — and his music — a chance. But before Lucious gives his middle son the golden opportunity to shine, Cookie offers the idea of completing a Lucious Lyon legacy album with a family remake of his single, “You’re So Beautiful.” Side note: Cookie only makes this offer after she tells Lucious, “You want Cookie’s nookie, then ditch the bitch.”
As part of the legacy album rollout plan, the family is scheduled to perform the revamped version of “You’re So Beautiful” during Empire’s all-white party. Of course, a feud breaks out over who gets to sing the final verse on the track, which causes everyone to back out. During the party, Lucious pulls Jamal to the side and tells him, “Go impress me.”
In response, Jamal sings his version of the family song. Lucious loves the performance until his son uses his father’s classic hit to “come out” by singing, “This is the kind of love that makes a man love a man.” While the rest of the family, including Vernon, applaud Jamal’s bravery, Lucious can’t handle the disappointment. As a result, he tells Cookie the Lucious Lyon legacy album is dead. “This is not a family, this is a disgrace,” he says.
Stay tuned until next week to find out what brings this family together or moves them further apart.
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