FOX’s new series “Empire” is officially a HIT! Entertainment Weekly reported today that with the series’ 3rd episode it has defied the odds and actually grown in the ratings. It’s no surprise really because the show is insanely addictive since it is essentially a modern day soap opera. It’s so over the top, overly dramatic, a little silly at times, but overall it’s a really fun show that doesn’t take itself so seriously but doesn’t forget about important things like acting, pacing, good writing and engaging it’s audience.
I am still HERE for the show, but I have to admit once last nights episode was over I had a minor-complaint that there may be TOO many open plot lines. But like I said before, it’s a soap opera and they have to keep several conflicts and mysteries, manipulations and secrets going, as to not run out of material.
Like our main character Lucious Lyons (Terrence Howard), he has a mountain of secrets, and we the viewers only know a few. He is suffering from ALS and has about three years to live, and currently the only one who knows this is his doctor and his assitant Becky (Gabourey Sidibe). Another BIG secret Lucious is keeping is his murder of his close friend Bunky in the first episode. His body was found on Episode 2, and currently nobody knows anything about Luscious’ involvement except a crazy homeless man. (Sorry, but that detective can’t use the homeless man as a credible witness, especially since he didn’t really ID Lucious. I mean, the detective just showed him a picture and said “is this the guy?”, how on EARTH would that stand up in court?) .
Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) has some secrets of her own, and one BIG secret she’s holding is the reason she got out of jail 10 years earlier. She’s working with the Feds, and now they need her to testify in a grand jury trial which Cookie is certain would get her killed. We the viewers have no idea who she ratted out, but obviously it’s somebody really important. Other than that secret, Cookie is focused on making Jamal (Jussie Smollett) a star by finding the perfect material for him, which includes an old song written by a former friend (a friend who had a crush on her obviously) Puma (Cuba Gooding Jr.). We’ll get into his song a little later, but Cookie is doing everything she can to push Jamal into the world of fame.
The Lyons boys all have their little secrets too. Andre (Trai Byers), the eldest (and OMG he is so good-looking), has some secret mental illness that he is lax in trying to treat. Maybe Bi-polar disorder or maybe something more serious, whatever it is his wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) is on top of it and knows how to persuade him to re-calibrate (and it involves sucking dick with a bib on!?). Aside from that Andre continues to be the son who wants the company MOST and is the puppet master between Cookie and Lucious’ schemes.
Jamal is in a weird space right now, it seems like his character is transitioning from being the sensitive emotional son to the vindictive son with a vendetta. Lucious still can’t accept Jamal’s lifestyle and basically threatens to cut him off if he comes out publicly. Cookie approaches Jamal with the song Puma wrote years ago, a song that Lucious apparently couldn’t arrange correctly before he hit it big. Jamal does an amazing job but Luscious decides he won’t let Jamal keep it. This makes Jamal realize that Lucious isn’t so cold to him just because of his sexuality, but because he’s a lot more talented than Lucious ever was. In the end, in a VERY corny but hilarious scene Jamal puffs his little chest up to Lucious “I’m a MAN!! My obedience will not be bought” (was he EVER obedient though?). Apparently he’s planning on taking over Empire records, so we’ll see how that goes.
Lastly there’s Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), the young entitled brat. He’s the kid who has all the talent in the world, but can’t resist doing young and dumb things like… getting so fucked up at a bar that he pee’s on the floor and is caught on video saying Obama is a “sell out”. (And Lucious’ personal conversation with Obama was a funny touch “you don’t have to use that kind of language Barack” LOL!!). He’s always in trouble, but he’s still Lucious’ favorite. Hakeem has now latched on to a new Empire artists, who is an obvious Rihanna rip off named TIANA (if that name wasn’t close enough, the songs they had her singing were C-rate version of Rihanna’s songs). Apparently that new relationship is all for show because for the past year he’s been with a mysterious older woman played by supermodel Naomi Campbell. It’s his “mama” in the bedroom, but we don’t know much else about that relationship yet.
There’s actually more going on with the show that I haven’t gotten into, but in summary I am still HERE for “Empire”. The show just works. The show isn’t perfect, but it comes really close with a stellar cast, really good writing, and actually fairly decent music. I particularly liked the editing in Episode 2 where Jamal was singing a song “tell the truth”, which was about him coming out but was also meaningful to the revealing TV interview Lucious was conduscting at the same time. It was a perfectly placed song.
Some of the newer cast members are great too. I’m loving Anika (Grace Gealy), Lucious’ wife who has had some hilariously catty verbal duels with Cookie. Cookie’s new assistant Portia (Ta’Rhonda James) is hilarious as well. “Empire” is basically the best guilty pleasure on TV right now!
As much as I’m loving the show, I wonder if any of you can answer some of these questions for me?
a) What’s up with the sporadic use of Lucious’ voice over. Last night it popped up twice (once at Bunky’s funeral and once while he was having an ALS episode in his home). I just don’t like inconsistencies like that so it annoyed me… but luckily they were just quick voice overs?
b) Ray Rice, Barack Obama and other current relevant icons are mentioned… but do Jay-Z and P Diddy exist in this world? Because at one point on the show Lucisous was watching the news and they were talking about Empire records’ IPO and how it would be the first company to go “from the streets to wall street”. So I’m guessing that Lucious is the first rapper to do this… which would mean that most rappers don’t exist.
c) What was the agreement Lucious made with Cookie in the first episode. I swear it was a lump sum payment and control over Jamal as an artist. So… why is she CONSTANTLY at Empire records, barging into meetings and just setting up shop there?
d) how KNOWN are Jamal and Hakeem? I can’t figure out if the general music buying public on the show is aware of who they are? Is Hakeem working on his DEBUT album or a follow up? Does anyone know Jamal enough to care if he comes out of the closet?
Anyhoo, until next week!!!