EMPIRE Finale Review
So much happened during Wednesday night’s Empire finale that I’m still trying to process it all. But I’ll try to break it down for you.
Everyone is still mad at Lucious (Terrence Howard) for actual legitimate reasons, but how they treat him causes him to react in completely irrational, childish ways. Pretty much par for the course for Lucious. When he finds out that Cookie (Taraji P Henson) and Malcolm (Derek Luke) went to the Berkshires together, he kicks her out of the company, revealing that she was never actually on the board, since convicted felons can’t serve on boards of publicly traded companies. Malcolm doesn’t get fired, but he’s moving on anyways, to a job in DC and he wants Cookie to go with him. But of course she doesn’t. She still has to fight for what’s hers, after all.
Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) is supposed to perform with Snoop Dogg, but uses it as an opportunity to publicly diss his father. Lucious’ response is to straight up punch Hakeem in the face. Excellent parenting.
Andre (Trai Byers) is trying to find himself in the church, thanks to Michelle (Jennifer Hudson), but Lucious literally acts like the Devil, making a deal with Michelle for him to produce a gospel album for her. Andre gives up the fight for Empire, resulting in Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) leaving him.
Vernon (Malik Yoba) is still on the outs with Lucious, so Lucious has no one left to turn to except Jamal (Jussie Smollett). And while the two still don’t quite see eye to eye, Lucious reverses his position on Jamal’s sexuality and Jamal basks in his father’s approval after an incredibly emotional jam session between the two of them.
Lucious receives some other good news in the first hour: He doesn’t really have ALS. He has a different, easily treatable condition with similar symptoms. His new meds cause insomnia, so he takes a sleeping pill and ends up having incredibly vivid hallucinatory dreams of Bunkie (Antoine McKay), and unbeknownst to Lucious, Cookie overhears him confess to Bunkie’s murder and almost smothers him with a pillow. It comes real close, y’all. I was grabbing my friend’s leg, amazed that Cookie was gonna kill Lucious. She doesn’t, and I almost wish she had.
Lucious tries to make nice with his family at the top of the second hour, making gifts and promises, but no one but Jamal is having it. Jamal has his own hoops to jump through, though. One of Empire’s artists doesn’t like that Jamal is gay, and makes it known publicly. So Jamal goes to an underground club to rap battle him, and clearly wins. More problematic is that Lucious wants Jamal to get his master tapes back from Baretti (Judd Nelson) by any means necessary, and Jamal nearly throws Baretti off a penthouse balcony. Guess there’s a little darkness in Jamal that we’ll get to explore next season. Unfortunately, Lucious discovers that Anika (Grace Gealey) and Hakeem are sleeping together. They only do it once to hurt Lucious, and it works, but it’s clear that they both regret it immediately afterword.
That won’t stop them from working together, though. They bring Andre on board, as well as Cookie, though after a very exciting catfight between the two women, leading to one of my favorite lines of the night: Anika: “Who’s Boo Boo Kitty now, bitch?” They all agree that their hatred of Lucious is strong enough for them all to put aside their differences and try for a hostile takeover of Empire Records.
Meanwhile, Agent Carter (Nealla Gordon) is back and building a case against Lucious. She tries to get Cookie to talk, but as angry with Lucious as she is, she’s still no snitch. But Carter has something else up her sleeve.
Things move forward, and the company goes public on the same day as the Lucious Lyon Concert, a star studded event where Lucious is supposed to perform, but Carter comes by with handcuffs and takes him away for Bunkie’s murder. However her star witness is missing: Vernon.
Where is Vernon? Well, he and Andre had a fight about Empire Records, and it got physical. Then Rhonda showed up, wanting to work things out with Andre and hit Vernon over the head hard enough to kill him. But they didn’t call the police, so we still don’t know how they got rid of the body.
A lot to cover, like I said. At the end of it all, Lucious is in jail, Jamal is in charge with Cookie and Anika producing, and Andre and Hakeem are moving forward with their careers. Oh, and Rhonda’s pregnant. But Lucious isn’t going down easy. His final words end the season: “Game on, bitches.”
The episodes were not without their moments of ridiculousness, but on a show like Empire, riduculous really works. It is a soap opera, through and through. The show is all about big moments, huge twists and memorable lines, and it’s refreshing to have something like that on TV again. Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder come close, but there’s something pure about Empire’s ability to make you tune in every week, breaking all the records by increasing week to week in ratings all the way to it’s final week, making it the top rated show on TV right now, even overtaking The Big Bang Theory. And to do that with a predominantly African-American cast is truly ground-breaking.
Going into the second season, there are so many directions the show can go. Will Lucious escape the charges against him? Will Andre and Rhonda get away with Vernon’s murder? Will the hostile takeover work? How will Andre, Hakeem and Jamal act with each other now that Jamal is in charge at Empire? Will Cookie ever get what’s hers? Tune in next season to find out.
Are you already ready for Season 2?