Didn’t last nights episode of “Empire” feel too short? I was enjoying the show so much and than it was over, too soon. I honestly feel like I could watch a 2 hour presentation of the show and not be mad. It’s Episode 4 now and I think we are fully acclimated in the world of Lucious Lyons (Terrence Howard) and company. We know the characters and the setting well enough now that every episode is like “catching up” with friends. We also know the show enough to make some minor complaints, which I’ll get into after the full recap.
Now I have to say that I love music and everything regarding music. I love watching people perform music, create music, even just talk about music. So obviously last nights music centered episode was perfect for me.
We start out with everybody’s favorite character Cookie (Taraji P Henson). And yes, apparently she DID acquire a job at Empire Records as an A&R rep (which answers one of my questions from last weeks Recap). While she’s setting up her temporary office, Hakeem’s pop-star girlfriend (for show) Tiana (Serayah) approaches Cookie wanting her input on a new song she has recorded, and quickly enough Cookie becomes Tiana’s new manager. Much to the irritation of Lucious’ main lady Anika (Grace Gealy). And is it just me, or do you feel a sexual tension between Lucious’ two main ladies? It’s so “soapy”, but it’s also a little hot.
This leaves Anika feeling like a non-factor at the company, and in an attempt to prove herself she decides she’s going to try to track down Titan (James Washington). He’s the hottest most authentic rapper out, but he has recently landed himself in jail. Lucious wants to sign Titan because of his Hip Hop relevancy, but also to piss off his competitor and former label boss Baretti (Judd Nelson) . This leads to a pathetic and almost life threatening attempt by Anika to woo Titan by talking to his people. Unfortunately the Diner they meet in gets shot up. All the while, Cookie secretly meets up with Titan’s mother who is heavy in the Nation of Islam. The mother feels like Baretti has forced Titan to break his Islamic faith, and Cookie insinuates that if Titan signs with Lucious it would be for the best.
Lucious, finding out Titan is affiliated with the Nation, decides he doesn’t want to poach him from his label anymore. There was a VERY questionable line Cookie delivered saying that “The Nation killed your father” (is that offensive? It definitely rubbed me the wrong way and I’m not even Muslim), THAT and the fact that poaching Titan was getting too complicated. Lucious says he’s over stealing Titan, UNTIL he gets a visit from Baretti who threatens to expose his criminal past if Empire Records does goes public. And of course, Lucious always gets his way and convinces Titan that Empire is where he needs to be.
Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) is still being prepped to become the Prince of Empire Records, but he is still lazy and unfocused and refuses to record music at the pace that Lucious would like. When he is told to provide a guest rap verse on Tiana’s single, he hates the idea of doing something G-rated and taming down his style which is something he discusses with his secret lover Camilla (Naomi Campbell). Tiana catches the two in the act, but isn’t really concerned about that because obviously the girl is business first and is only concerned about killing their debut performance together on the Teen Choice Awards. The performance goes perfectly (I mean… I’m not critiquing them as ACTUAL performers, but it was fun), and it reinforces Lucious’ faith in Hakeem’s talent.
Lucious also verbally admits that his middle son Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is majorly talented, but those two still have their issues. Jamal is forced to move out of his lavish loft into a roach motel in the Bushwick part of Brooklyn (You know how I excited I was when I heard that reference? I used to live in Bushwick for like a month last year). His pride won’t let Jamal accept any money (earned or otherwise) from Lucious or Cookie, and his pride won’t let Cookie force him into making more music either. So at this point, Jamal is just a self-righteous soft-talking Hakeem (LOL!!).
Can we get into the negative now? Or, not really the negative… just two relationships that are starting to work my nerves. Jamal! It’s really hard for me to stomach him as a character and I don’t know exactly what it is that irritates me about him. Maybe it’s all the soft-talking, or his moments of martyr-ism, or his know-it-all attitude. He’s a character that is obviously supposed to be someone the audience roots for, but at this point I really don’t care if he succeeds or not. He’s so wishy-washy with his career, I often wonder does he even WANT what Cookie wants from him? I guess that might be it… I don’t understand his motivations in life.
Additionally, I find the whole Lucious versus Jamal storyline a little tiring at this point. There needs to be a fresh dynamic to their feud because it feels so redundant at this point.
The relationship between Cookie and Hakeem is also getting kind of tired, but that one is more understandable. There’s probably too many different characters and storylines to get through before that situation is dealt with. I just don’t understand why Hakeem has so much hatred towards her, I’m wondering if Lucious told him terrible things about her when they were away? Anyway, I have to remember that this is essentially a soap opera and they HAVE to keep some conflicts going, so I’ll be patient.
I also am anxious for the character of Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) to be fleshed out a little bit. Gabourey is a great actress, and very funny, but I feel like she’s not given a chance to be that on the show yet. She did ask Lucious if she could “shadow” him while he is working with the new acquisition Titan, so we will probably see more of her as she tries to grow within her career.
One last thing that was just completely unbelievable, the scene with the Detective who is still investigating the murder of Bunkie. You know, the detective that has no real concrete evidence but still suspects Lucious is the murderer based on the mumbled iterations of the homeless drunk! Lucious pauses for way too long when the officer asks him where he was the night of the murder, and than fine-ass Andre (Trai Byers) pipes in and says they were together watching a fight. I guess the detective bought it, as he laughed and walked out the room, but apparently Vernon (Malik Yoba) did NOT. He didn’t say anything, but he gave both Lyons men a suspicious look. So I’m guessing his character (another one that hasn’t been fleshed out yet) will serve as a possible villain to Lucious in the future.
But Yes, I loved this episode. I loved all the talk about music, I enjoyed #Takeem ‘s little performance, and I even enjoyed Jamal’s little moment where he was channeling Michael Jackson (the extended “Black or White” video). And it’s nice to see Lucious and Cookie starting to get along, although he’s overstepping his bounds a little bit as the true player in him seems to be sneaking out episode by episode. Still, an amazing show!