Now, that’s how you do a soap opera.
Practically realizing they had one last episode to get their act together before they go all out with the two-hour season finale next week, the Empire writers seemed to put a lot more effort in the season’s penultimate ep, the oh-so-aptly titled “Sins of the Father.” After weeks of seesawing between trashiness and earnestness, the show fully embraced its soapy side — and it made things a whole lot more exciting.
With most of the episode taking place at Lucious’s mansion on the night the family signs off on their shares so Empire can go public, the show ratcheted up the melodrama instead of, you know, the ratchetness. The episode was certainly a kitchen-sinker, piling on all the conflict until it came to a very explosive boil.
This may also be the episode where the show turns a corner and fully acknowledges just how much of an unredeemable character Lucious is. He definitely becomes full-tilt megalomaniacal in this ep, even showing off a God complex. (“God didn’t need no help, and neither do I.”) It always seems like the show is trying to get us to feel sorry for this asshole, with the ALS and everything. But we knew from the start that this guy was a terrible father, a horrible businessman, and just a despicable, downright sociopathic person.
All those character traits certainly come into the light in this episode. Not only does he frown on Jamal’s homosexuality (which he once again reminds us of when Jamal says he wants Lola to move in with him), but it’s revealed he dismissed Andre’s mental-illness issues years ago, when his oldest came to a party he threw (where he was singing with Mary J. Blige!), bearing gifts and acting strange. Lucious won’t even visit his boy while he’s staying at a mental-health facility, where he’s getting help through music therapy. (Yes, that is a real thing.)
He also does his favorite son Hakeem dirty when he tries to bribe Camilla into leaving both Hakeem and the town. Lucious is obviously jealous of the influence she (who, as Lucious has investigated, turns out to be financially strapped) has on his boy, whom he wants to control all by himself. Apparently, the lady loves the little brat enough to rip up the check and throw it in Lucious’s face. He still has Malcolm escort her to the airport, not letting her interrupt this historic evening for one more minute.
Camilla was just a minor distraction compared to the major surprise Lucious and the fam later, get when Vernon (who’s off the wagon) shows up at the house with the missing-in-action Olivia and her ex, Reg. Reg certainly livened things up, didn’t he? This dopey-looking thug scooped up Olivia from the bus depot when she was just about to get out of town, and got her to lead him to the Lyons so he could get Lola back.
Needless to say, ol’ boy pulls out the steel on Jamal, who rolls up on him when he realizes that he’s the “scary bird” Lola has nightmares about, after he sees his arms covered in crow tattoos. (As Jamal continues to be the bravest and most masculine character on the show, how the hell can Lucious still think he’s less of a man?) It’s a suspenseful yet questionably plotted scene (seriously, what was the plan after you pulled a gun on a mansion full of people, Reg? But then again, thugs rarely have plans!) that mostly exists just so the show can reveal this episode’s big whopper — Lucious is actually Lola’s father.
As a couple of commenters already predicted, Daddy Lyon impregnated his son’s wife, promising to make her a star if she carried his seed and kept Jamal married and preoccupied. Lucious even tells Reg, who now has Cookie as a hostage, to shoot him, since everybody in the room would most likely love to see him go down. But before Reg can do that, Malcolm returns just in the nick of time and shoots that fool in the head.
It’s telling that near the end, Jamal, Cookie, Hakeem, and even Andre and Rhonda are all there to say good-bye to Olivia and Lola. It’s a heartwarming family moment that’s all the more heartwarming considering that Lucious — practically the reason they all can’t come together as a family — isn’t there. There’s always that one person in a dysfunctional family who makes the family more dysfunctional than it is — in this case, it’s definitely Lucious. And it appears that everyone in the family knows it, too. Even Cookie triumphantly tells him there’s no way they’re getting back together (especially when Lucious foolishly, arrogantly thought they would) and asks Malcolm, who finally admitted he wanted Cookie in this ep, if they can go somewhere and be alone.
With his family most likely turning his back on him, there’s a good chance that Lucious will finally be at peace with his monstrousness in next week’s episode and become the alphavillain the show has grappled with turning him into. And maybe by next season, Empire will be the addictive soap opera we all want it to be.
Some Stray Thoughts
- There has to be a deleted scene where Lucious tells Malcolm and/or Vernon to quietly dispose of Reg. I mean, the body of a dead thug in his house, shot right between the eyes, would not look good for Lucious. The press would have a field day. Detective Walker would probably be back to ask more questions. Also, if Malcolm returned back to the house so quickly, does this mean he dropped Camilla off somewhere other than the airport, or after seeing her shed those crocodile tears in the car, did he disobey his boss’s orders and make a U-turn so Camilla and Hakeem could talk things out? And by the way, where was that notary-public lady this whole time?
- “You tried to pull a cool on me.” I have no idea what that means, but as always, thanks to Howard’s pimping delivery, I’m gonna try to use that line in my everyday conversation from now on.
- I certainly let out a huge laugh when Jennifer Hudson’s music therapist got down on her knees, leaned in closer to Andre, and … asked him to pray with her. BEST. PSYCH-OUT. EVER!
- While I liked that Suzanne Vega sample Hakeem used on his track (I’m guessing his boo Camilla hipped him to when that song was remixed and became a huge ’90s dance hit), that “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number” track was ridiculous.
- I must have Leonard Nimoy’s death still on the brain. That explains why I immediately thought of the lullaby scene from his Three Men and a Baby (and, unfortunately, the awful rap from the sequel he thankfully had nothing to do with) when Jamal and Hakeem were singing Lola to sleep.
- Kaitlin Doubleday finally got the chance to shine in this episode, as Rhonda exhibited some backbone standing up to Lucious and his “country-club queen” taunts (and even getting a brief grin of respect out of Cookie).
- Couldn’t Lucious have gathered the family together and said he was going to take some of their shares and give them to Cookie, instead of just doing it and not telling them? Once again, WORST. BUSINESSMAN. EVER!
- “What are you looking at — I saved your ass!” No, Lucious, Malcolm did.
- As much as this show loves putting tight-ass, leopard-print outfits on Cookie, that flowing, silky dress she wore at the end made her look like a 1930s screen siren. Once again, my hat goes off to the wardrobe crew.
- Andre’s psychiatrist is Dr. Sirak (pronounced Ciroc). So, needless to say, all I could think about when I heard that was this.
- Let’s do it.