EMPIRE: “Dangerous Bonds” Review
I have to admit I’m a little disappointed with this latest episode of Empire. While there’s a lot of great drama, there a few things that stretch the limits of credibility.
Let’s start with Lucious (Terrence Howard). With only a few years to live, he asks Anika (Grace Gealey) to marry him. No surprise, she says yes. But he wants to break the news to people gradually, starting with her parents. On the business side of things, Empire Records can’t go public unless Lucious has a document signed by a doctor stating that Lucious is in perfect health. Conveniently, Anika’s father is a doctor. So Lucious convinces the man to commit fraud and risk everything because Anika will inherit billions from Lucious’ death. If you think that stretches credibility, keep reading: it gets worse.
Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) and Jamal (Jussie Smollett) are racing each other to get product out before the other: Hakeem a video and Jamal a single. Sneaky Andre (Trai Byers) is determined to drive a wedge between them. He does this several ways.
Hakeem’s video is over budget, but getting Tiana (Serayah) involved frees up some money to make the video happen. But Cookie (Taraji P Henson) will only let Tiana do the video if she gets a seat on the board of directors, a small plot tidbit that gets passed over far too quickly, and she is granted her seat far too easily. Also, Andre mentions that the video is supposed to shoot that same day. In what universe does production move that quickly? Hakeem presents his idea in the morning and by the afternoon, they’re already shooting? No. Plus there’s no way that Tiana was just hanging around with nothing to do waiting for the phone to ring.
Except it would seem that she was. Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) takes a video (same day) of Tiana making out with a woman, and she leaks it during the video shoot. It nearly stops production when Hakeem finds out.
First, that’s a bit too much extra drama for me. There are already so many balls in the air plot-wise, do we really need Tiana to be a lesbian too? It’s also a crazy double standard that Lucious is okay with it when he still hates Jamal’s homosexuality, but then again, that’s a double standard in modern society. Second, as Tiana points out, Hakeem has been sleeping with Camilla (Naomi Campbell), so why can’t she have a piece on the side? Now to play devil’s advocate, Camilla and Hakeem weren’t publicly outed, but it still doesn’t really make any sense for Hakeem to be hurt because he’s falling in love with Tiana, since he and Camilla have been together for a long time.
Through some finagling, Tiana returns to set to finish shooting the superhot video, “Drip Drop”, which, like most music on Empire, could be a bona fide radio hit right now. But Andre isn’t done stirring the pot.
Jamal has been in a ghetto studio the entire day, working on a new single. It’s coming along quite nicely. Until Andre gets involved. Andre mentions on a “phone call” very loudly that Jamal is working at that studio. (Funny enough, he doesn’t ever actually know the exact location of this studio, but I’ll ignore that for now.) He also mentions that Jamal is wearing some very fancy clothing and jewelry that costs tens of thousands of dollars. He does this deliberately in earshot of some thugs that Hakeem apparently hangs out with. It’s important to note that we have never seen these thugs before. Andre mentions Hakeem’s “posse”, and I automatically thought of the three posers that are always hanging out with him, not three street criminals, but apparently they hang out with Hakeem too. I guess they were just way, way, way, way, way in the back.
So these thugs, show up at the ghetto studio, guns out, threatening everyone. Jamal recognizes one of them as part of Hakeem’s crew (naturally), and stands up to them. The studio owner ends up shutting down the stand off with his own shotgun, but not before one of the engineers gets shot in the arm. Jamal is required to nearly start from scratch with a new group of musicians and engineers to get his single done, and it turns out great.
When Hakeem gets home that night, he finds Jamal waiting. Jamal threatens and punches Hakeem, warning Hakeem not to underestimate him. Hakeem calls Andre wanting money to get his video out ahead of Jamal’s single. Andre is satisfied: he was won.
Get all that? Video production all in one day, lesbianism and hypocrisy, Hakeem’s thugs that we’ve never seen before betray Hakeem and go to a studio in some undisclosed location and try to rob Jamal, and Jamal has to start all over again but still gets his single done. All of this in the same day.
And then we come to Cookie. That’s right. There’s more. Cookie has had a very busy day as well. She was supposed to be working on the track with Jamal, but she gets pulled away by Agent Carter (Nealla Gordon), who tries to convince her once again to testify in front of a grand jury for something we don’t know yet. Turns out, the grand jury is today! So Cookie testifies, and then finds out that she’s fingering a criminal who’s behind bars for the murder of a federal agent. Now she’s pissed. Gangsters who kill feds are connected and fearless, so she’s a “dead bitch walking”.
She goes home to get a gun and money and finds a red rose on her doorstep. It’s the calling card of the gangster. Word travels really super duper fast apparently. So Cookie hops in a cab and takes off to Philadelphia. Yup. That’s right. A cab from NYC to Philly to visit her sister Carol (Tasha Smith). I guess Cookie just has that kind of time on her hands. After convincing Carol that they’re both in danger, they hop back in the cab to see an old drug associate of theirs and pay him to kill the gangster’s man on the outside.
Now I know that NYC and Philly aren’t that far apart, but Cookie has managed to go from the studio to a grand jury back home to Philly back to NYC, then back to the studio. They are playing fast and loose with the concept of time here, folks.
Once Cookie gets back home, she pours herself a drink, but there’s a pounding on the door. At first, she’s afraid for her life, but it turns out it’s just Lucious, there to reminisce. After all, it’s their anniversary. Because of course it is. Lucious reveals that he’s the one that left the rose for her. Cookie frantically calls Carol to try to call off the hit, but it’s too late: Cookie very well may have just started herself a gang war. Because there wasn’t enough going on already.
I still love this show. I love the music, I love the dialogue, the acting, even the ridiculous, over the top drama. But this week was really pushing it in terms of believability, and I really hope they rein it in a little in the weeks to come.
Did you spot all the plot holes too?