Can you believe it’s time for another season of Empire? Wait, what? This isn’t a new season? It’s been like 28 years since the last new episode!
“Death Will Have His Day” opens with one of Empire’s classic torture-porn scenes of Rhonda writhing around on the floor after being pushed down the stairs last winter. The release of The Revenant has really watered down the impact of this scene. Yes, Rhonda is struggling but call me after she has to crawl inside a dead horse for warmth. As Rhonda lies on the floor, she gets one hazy glimpse of some pointy-toed, studded Christian Louboutin flats. Ah! A clue! It could be … literally any woman in this show … or Thirsty. He’s a dapper don.
Lucious is holed up in his office with Andre and Thirsty, refusing to leave after being voted out — remember that? Thirsty is strapped and ready for a showdown. The standoff in Oregon has really watered down the impact of this scene. (Damn, Empire was off the air for a long time.) Thirsty believes that there’s some magical clause in the corporate charter that would render the vote unlawful. Apparently, this corporate Enchiridion is locked up because it’s the middle of the damn night and Andre refuses to go get it. Thirsty, who has no regard for either time or space, tells Andre that “excuses are the tools of the incompetent.” Settle down, Thirsty.
After flashing back to Rhonda bleeding out, we see Hakeem going home cocky after the big vote. (If you were wondering if Bryshere Y. Gray learned to act during the mid-season break, he did not. He definitely did not.) Cookie is lying in wait in Hakeem’s apartment with a broom handle across her lap. I won’t lie; at first, I thought she had a katana across her lap and I clapped by myself on my couch. Cookie wants to know why Hakeem threw away their legacy. She also calls Camilla a “half-lesbian bitch.” Cookie has never, nor will she ever, be in line. She’s always out. Of. Line. That’s why she can’t use rollerblades. Cookie wants Hakeem to take his vote back. And to really drive that point home, she beats him with the broom handle while a montage of their happier moments fly by. I guess that’s what motherhood is like now.
While Jamal does some ASA nomination performance, he publicly declares that he won’t bash his father even though they’re nominated against each other. Jamal has more integrity than anyone currently running for president of the United States. Think about that. Jamal performs in his trademark whisper-singing style while we cut to Rhonda, who is STILL writhing on the floor. This time, she’s praying to God to save the baby because her phone was smashed and she can’t call for help. Homegirl, I know this really isn’t the time, but you don’t have an iPhone case? She resorts to throwing her phone against the front door to set off her security system.
The Lyons rush to the hospital to support Andre. When Hakeem shows up, Cookie throws him out for being a traitor. Cookie tells Andre the bad news that the baby didn’t make it; Andre breaks down crying in the hallway. Cookie tries to calm him down by … telling him that they might take him away if he doesn’t pull it together. Thanks, Mom. Andre heads into the hospital room with Rhonda and she explains way too calmly that she feels responsible for the miscarriage and also that there is no God and God is dead. Um. Wow. Okay. That is where we are at, I guess.
Cookie goes to Lucious’s house and finds him in a catatonic state, clutching a pillow. She climbs in bed with him and wakes up the next morning to find Lucious silently polishing guns in his closet. Lucious is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop his son from being CEO. Cookie has her own plan to work her way back to the top from the inside. Unfortunately for us, this plan doesn’t involve her dressing up like Camilla and trying to trick people that she is Camilla through a series of wacky hijinks. This show could do with more hijinks. Cookie says her plan will take two days and Lucious tells her that she’s got 48 hours. That’s … that’s the same damn thing, Lucious. Ugh, fine, whatever.
Camilla is putting together an Empire clothing line, which is just a series of cocktail dresses with corresponding furs, when Hakeem walks in. They talk about Camilla’s takeover with words like “banish” and “kick my dad off the throne.” Empire should just lean into the whole throne-king thing and do a crossover episode of Game of Thrones set in some fictional Westerosi kingdom. Camilla tells Hakeem he has to break up with Guadalupe. Cookie bursts in and demands $20 million for Lyon Dynasty because Hakeem is still under contract. She tells them that she can get Hakeem to be CEO faster than Camilla can. Cookie also calls Camilla a scallywag. Hakeem says the family has to go legitimate and points out that Camilla wouldn’t beat him with a purse (unless he asked for it). Camilla sticks her tongue down Hakeem’s throat. Camilla has an Oedipal complex with Cookie.
Meanwhile at Club Lyon, Lucious is prepping his merry band of thugs to destroy the lives and bodies of the other board members. Thirsty reminds them not to do anything illegal since all of them just got out of jail. Lucious declares that they’re at war and they have to do anything they can to ensure victory. This family has been at war about 13 times. Lucious also calls Hakeem “Fredo,” so we’re really leaning into this Godfather thing too, huh?
Hakeem shows up at Guadalupe’s rehearsal, during which she sings a thematic song about crowns and thrones and blah blah blah WE GET IT, EMPIRE. Anyway, the Latina girl group is prepping for a Tiny Desk concert and Hakeem bashes them to make his little girlfriend mad. He even calls her a virgin who can’t drive. Way harsh, Hakeem. She breaks up with him and wow, that was incredibly easy. I guess their relationship wasn’t that solid after all if him being kind of rude once can break them up.
Jameson is pissed that Jamal slept with Skye because NO ONE ON THIS SHOW HAS EVER HEARD OF BISEXUALITY. Apparently, Jamal dating a woman gives fuel to politicians who think being gay is a choice. Yes, I’m sure all conservative politicians are just itching for an R&B singer to sleep with a woman to prove their point.
Lucious plays piano in a red room while we see a Godfather montage of board members being tortured and their pets being murdered. I THOUGHT THEY SAID NOTHING ILLEGAL. DID NO ONE LISTEN TO THIRSTY?
As Jamal and Cookie leave the hospital, they have a totally rational and reasoned discussion of human sexuality. NOPE! Cookie says things like “wishy-washy bisexuals” and “you just wanna be freaky deeky.” And Jamal thoroughly rejects being bisexual, which is fine, but can we all stop acting like bisexuals don’t exist? Sex and the City had that topic covered in like 2001. Cookie tells Jamal to put the music first.
Back in the boardroom, all of the board members have withdrawn their nominations for “personal non-violence-related reasons.” Camilla asks who would like to run Empire and Hakeem makes a totally rational and reasoned decision. NOPE! He leaps on the table and basically talks about how big his dick is and calls his dad a “snitch bitch.”
Jamal sings a new song he just wrote at an ASA event about how it’s a new generation and he wants to welcome you to his love and no one can tell me how to love. It’s a knock-off of a knock-off of a Michael Jackson song. It’s a photocopy of the Weeknd. Jameson approves of this milquetoast sexual anthem.
Taraji starts working on her second Golden Globe and delivers a touching monologue about having a miscarriage. It’s the first real emotional moment of the episode. The second is Andre breaking down as he packs up the baby’s room. That actually broke my heart.
It’s time for Cookie to reveal her big plan to Hakeem and Camilla, all while the former wears his most ridiculous suit and the latter feeds the former strawberries. Littlefinger — er, Jamal — warns that the throne can bring out darkness in people. Lyon Dynasty will release Jamal’s album, which was done in partnership with Empire and Lyon Dynasty. If Camilla tries to stop them, they’ll leak it online. So what does Cookie want? She wants Lyon Dynasty to be absorbed by Empire, like Roc-a-Fella under Death Row, and she wants to be head of A&R for all divisions of Empire. This is her Michael Scott Paper Company moment. So, Hakeem gives her everything she wants because the Lyons are about family and music. Two things they are utterly terrible at doing and protecting.
Hakeem goes to apologize to Guadalupe for treating her like a jerk, then lets her know that since he’s gotten his Empire back the only thing missing is her. This is a classic dude move: Get a promotion, then propose to your girlfriend — or in Hakeem’s case, take her virginity under a giant crucifix.
This whirlwind of an episode ends as Lucious stands under a bridge with a gun and a silencer, waiting for Hakeem. Hakeem walks up in a ridiculous coat and sees the gun. Lucious launches into a three-minute monologue about how Hakeem is standing where Lucious killed Bunkie and Lucious will stop at nothing to take Empire back and Hakeem has to kill Lucious or Lucious will kill him blah blah blah. Lucious hands Hakeem the gun and tells him to kill or be killed: “I know it’s hard, but do it. It’s okay.” It literally is not okay. Nothing about this is okay. Hakeem tosses the gun down and says that he’s done doing what Lucious wants. Lucious responds, “Watch your back, baby boy. I keep my promises.” UGH. I’m already over Lucious.