Reviews

EMPIRE: “Out Damned Spot” Review

Empire is back in form this week, bringing the drama and the music without stretching the bounds of credibility…for the most part, anyway.

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Cookie (Taraji P Henson) is hustling from the start this week, as she prepares to attend a dinner that Lucious (Terrence Howard) invited her to. Based on the rose that he gave her, she thinks it’s a sexy dinner for two. Little does she know that all her sons are there, since this is the dinner where Lucious announces his engagement to Anika (Grace Gealey). Naturally, Cookie is pissed, and she shows the lingerie she had planned for the evening, slapping her own ass on the way out. In typical Cookie fashion, she steals the scene so hard that you almost miss Jamal (Jussie Smollett) trying to bury the hatchet with Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), but Hakeem is having none of it.

Hakeem, after all, is working on a new song in addition to prepping the release of his video for “Drip Drop” (which I’m still bouncing to a week later). He’s full of swagger, and his new song is full of lyrics disrespecting women, given that he’s mad at Tiana (Serayah) and Camilla (Naomi Campbell) is ignoring him.

Jamal has his own drama to deal with. Cookie gets a DJ to spin Jamal’s lastest song “Keep Your Money” at a club and gets a popular football player to tweet about it, causing the song to trend. Hakeem drunkenly congratulates Jamal, asking for his help on a track, but this time it’s Jamal that shuts down peace negotiations with his brother.

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But it’s his home life that is stressing Jamal more. Michael (Rafael de la Fuente) is concerned that as Jamal gets more famous, he will get left behind, and Cookie echoes that sentiment. And throughout the episode, it starts to prove true. Michael wants to go away for a weekend together, and Jamal promises that they will. But when “Keep Your Money” starts to blow up, Cookie gets him on a Sirius XM Radio Show with Sway to keep the promotion going, leaving Michael disappointed and Jamal frustrated that Michael is being unsupportive. At the event, Jamal sings another song, “I Wanna Love You”, (a song that Smollett wrote himself) but when Sway asks him who the special lady in his life is, Jamal ruins his chance to come out to the world by claiming that there’s no one special in his life. Things are not looking good for Michael.

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Jamal isn’t the only artist that Cookie is humping. Washed up rocker Elle Dallas (Courtney Love) is about to get cut from the label, but Cookie offers to take on managing her. Elle is pissed, since Cookie hasn’t produced any real hits yet, but Cookie sees right through all of Elle’s anger, as well as through the facade of makeup, fake hair, jewelry and clothes to the broken, addicted woman in pain inside. It takes some doing, but she gets Elle to a place where she is ready to pour her soul into her music again. Cookie now has three artists under her wing, and counting.

The storyline that seems to be wrapped up this episode is the investigation into Bunkie’s murder. After Lucious catches a detective snooping in his trash, he comes clean to Vernon (Malik Yoba), and tells him to take care of it. Vernon goes straight to Andre (Trai Byers), since Andre had covered for Lucious when the cop came asking questions about the night of the murder. After nearly choking him out, Vernon lets Andre go and sets off to take care of the problem. He enlists some shady people to convince a con to admit to the murder and go to prison for it in exchange for providing his family with money.

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Andre comes to Vernon and tells him that he knew nothing about Bunkie’s murder and threatens Vernon: “If you ever lay a hand on me again, I will slit your throat.” Cold words to say to your uncle. Though it would seem that Andre knows more than he’s telling. He immediately calls Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), telling her that his suspicions about Bunkie’s death have been confirmed and she’s seems pleased by the news. Master manipulators, those two.

So it looks like the Bunkie storyline is over, but that seems unlikely. Chances are it’ll be coming back to haunt the Lyon clan before too long.

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The real star of the episode this week, though, is Porsha (Ta’Rhonda Jones). Throughout the course of Empire, she’s provided comedic relief anytime she’s shown up on screen, but this episode really takes the cake. When Cookie is trying to sweet talk the football player, Cookie gets two hot girls to dance together, claiming that a good song can make girls do almost anything. Porsha has a quick answer: “What, you mean rubbin up on each other? That’s nasty.” It is her commentary that gets the player to agree to tweet the song. Porsha is the perfect simple and honest foil to Cookie’s calculating and shrewd personality, and I’m so happy every time she shows up on screen….which is why Anika is also looking for a way to get Porsha to turn on Cookie. Don’t do it, Porsha!!

At the end of the episode, the whole family is together at Empire Records, having just had a small debate over Hakeem’s new song, but all fairly amicable with one another, when a woman tries to get through security. Surprise! It’s Raven Symone! She’s playing Olivia, who apparently was once in a relationship with Jamal (??!!), and she’s bringing her daughter, Lola, along: “She wants to meet her Daddy.” WHAAAAT???!!! If for some reason I was brain damaged and wasn’t going to come back next week, I sure as hell would be now!!

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After last week’s sad lack of realism or continuity, I’m glad to see Empire back to normal this week. Just enough crazy, just enough Cookie, and just enough music to really keep things interesting. No updates on the potential gang war that Cookie started, but that’s fine with me.

What did you think of Raven’s surprise appearance at the end of this episode?

The Author

Mike Bowers

Mike Bowers

Mike is a TV-obsessed actor and writer living in Los Angeles, California.

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