Empire Season Finale Recap: Two Weddings and No Funeral

Jamila Velazquez as Laura, Bryshere Gray as Hakeem. Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX
Episode Title
Past Is Prologue
Editor’s Rating

I definitely thought this episode would open with the funeral of Jamal Lyon, especially in light of his claim that he wouldn't return to the series. Damn you, Empire, for actually surprising me and giving us an emotional season finale.

It's time for Jamal's welcome-home party with Empire Entertainment's star singer and Alek Wek impersonator. Jamal cries at the beauty of her song and Cookie's Sweet Project on the Prairie outfit. Lucious wants Jamal to sing at Hakeem's wedding, but Jamal doesn't want to perform ever again or walk again or be Jamal Lyon anymore. He's just straight-up done.

Jamal is done with the cycle of violence and incarceration in the Lyon family. He swears he won't sing until the family fixes the Lyon-to-prison pipeline. Jamal wants everyone to heal the real victim in this whole thing: Freda. Umm … sure. Grandma Walker knows exactly what needs to happen. Lucious needs to reckon with the sins of his father. And so, we get another sepia-toned flashback to tiny baby Dwight hiding while his father swashbuckles a man dressed like Shaft. Get ready to revisit this 30-second flashback about a dozen more times.

Cookie and Lucious are trying figure out how to motivate Jamal to walk again when Anika comes in with Thirsty. She tells them she was picked up by a couple of federal agents, but she refused to answer any questions or remember anything. Cookie doesn't believe she didn't remember anything. The only thing Anika can muster is "Shine Johnson" when all of sudden, and I quote my notes verbatim here, "RHONDA ROLLS UP IN THERE AND STRANGLES ANIKA AND PUNCHES HER IN THE FACE, 'I KNEW I HEARD YOUR VOICE YOU EVIL BITCH I KNOW YOU PUSHED ME BITCH.'"


Rhonda tells everyone that she saw the bottom of Anika's shoes and she knows that she pushed her down the stairs. Lucious just says, "A lot of women wear those shoes." Cookie says, "Hell, I've got a pair." Andre suddenly has forgotten all of his visions about Rhonda being pushed and she calls him pathetic. What happened to the Andre and Rhonda power couple that seduced and murdered people all over the place? If Rhonda can't be mother of the next Lyon heir, she wants to be a femme fatale. Ah, the dichotomy of all women in the world and the Lyon universe.

Cookie and Lucious debrief about Anika's questioning with the Feds and unravel some convoluted plot about Lucious carrying out a hit for Tommy Devone and Rosie Perkins. Shine, another rapper and producer, knew about the hit and the Feds must be trying to get to him to build a case around Lucious. Tommy and Rosie are coming to Hakeem's wedding and Cookie wants the past to stay the past, so she puts on a capital H-A-T hat to extend an invite to Shine, too.

Fox heard that you like rappers, so they put a rapper in your rapper show and Shine is played by freakin' Xzibit. Years ago, Lucious cut Shine out from a big deal and now he wants a deal for his new artist and a plus-one to the wedding. Cookie agrees and Shine agrees to keep silent.

Lucious goes to visit Freda in jail to find out why she would want to shoot him and … c'mon Lucious. His feigned innocence is wearing thin. Why keep up the act, Lucious? She's already in jail. She already tried to shoot you. Lucious wants to break the cycle. He wants to help Jamal. So he hands Freda his iPhone and some printed-out lyrics. C'mon, Lucious. He asks her to record it on a little recorder. I'm surprised he didn't ask the guard to let him into his broom-closet studio. When Freda is done, he takes the song to Jamal and it inspires him to stare at his piano and let his voice whisper again. Rise from the ashes, Whisper-Shout. Rise.

The next morning, both sets of parents and the lucky couple are having brunch when Laura's parents protest the unsavory element coming to the wedding. (Remember? Laura and Hakeem are getting married this weekend.) It's a little late to change the guest list, Mr. and Mrs. Laura's parents. Hakeem says the reason he's marrying Laura is to get away from all of that and start a new life.

Later in this 36-hour day, Hakeem discovers Anika on the balcony of her apartment, teetering on the edge. He calls Cookie and Lucious for help. Yep, that's exactly who Anika wants to see to prevent her suicide. Anika would rather die than snitch on Lucious — again, because Lucious has done so much for you. Cookie proves to be the Boo Boo Kitty whisperer and says that Boo Boo Kitty is a Lyon now and she'll never be alone.

Meanwhile, Jamal is working on his song for Hakeem's wedding because when you're famous, this is a thing. He's so inspired by the power of music that he walks again! D. Money looks on with his secret passion. Unfortunately, Jamal dances a little too hard and gets a shooting pain (pun intended) and falls to the ground. He's not going to stop working because the spirit of those backup singers is moving him.  

It's the day of the wedding and the Lyon boys are trying to get more information about Grandpa Walker. All they can find out from the flashback is that Lucious saw his father die in front of him. This is explaining more and more. The guests are arriving at the wedding and that bald-headed homegirl is sangin' a song when Shine rolls up with straight-up hookers. Laura is getting ready and her mother is helping put her veil on her Selena-inspired bun. Everyone is on edge about Shine and his antics but no one can care about that, since Boo Boo Kitty is served with a grand-jury summons by someone disguised as a waiter. The waiter dashes out with security behind her when she knocks into Shine. He turns and cold-cocks the security and a massive fight breaks out. All of this happens as Laura is about to walk down the aisle. No one was sitting down, Hakeem wasn't at the altar, it was basically cocktail hour. Well, she ain't walking down the aisle anymore. She breaks down in tears and tells Hakeem she can't have this be her life. She runs out as her father sneers, "You're all a bunch of thugs."

The Lyons regroup in the banquet hall to figure out how to stop Anika from having to testify. Lucious apparently watched that one episode of SVU where Dean Cain plays a serial rapist and everything turns into a Terri Schiavo allegory, because he suggests that he marry Anika. Cookie cannot even contain herself. She was opening herself up to the idea of reuniting with Lucious and now he's going to do this? "I didn't save this bitch's life to ruin mine," she says. Bless Mother Cookie. Cookie is Lucious's ride or die and he needs her to ride right now. Cookie can't be present for this sham of a wedding.

Because Andre got ordained online, he performs the wedding for like 18 random people. Thirsty serves as best man. It's America's most tragic wedding. Lucious kisses her on the cheek to seal the deal and hisses at Jamal to sing his damn song. Lucious whispers to Anika that he knows she pushed Rhonda. Anika slips out and Lucious stares at the disaster that is his family and second wedding.

As if his day couldn't get any worse, Duke Page shows up outside the wedding hall and Grandma Walker asks, "What's your half brother doing here?"


We see the end of that flashback, which explains that the man who raised Duke Page was also a cop and Grandpa Walker was actually Duke Page's father and then Papa Duke Page shot Grandpa Walker in the face and Lucious rushed to his side. WHOA.

Finally, Anika is standing on another balcony staring at her ring when a shadowy figure slinks in behind her. Before she can react, Rhonda rushes up, punches her, smashes her head, and yells, "You wanted that devil child to be the only heir to the throne!" The two women bash each other and alternate holding each other over the edge when Andre rushes out to hear one of them scream, "Noooo!"


Dang, Empire. You got me this time. See you next season.