Rise By Sin
Tobias Truvillion as D-Major, Jussie Smollett as Jamal, Terrence Howard as Lucious.
They’ve done it. Those tricky sons of bitches have actually done it. This is the perfect Empire episode. FIVE STARS. Somehow, the writers have managed to pick up damn near every random story line they wrote and dropped this season. They figured out how to effectively create tension and pace an episode appropriately. Another beautiful black woman I know had a small part. Let’s get to this sparkling gem of an episode.
Lucious starts “Rise By Sin” by being unreasonable with the ASA awards band. That first cymbal has to be aggressive, but still sound like a lullaby. You know? That recognizable musical technique. They’ve been working all day and all night when Cookie comes in wearing some Seussian sunglasses. Cookie forces Lucious to unshackle the musicians from their instruments and asks him if the reason he’s been working so hard is to avoid Grandma Walker. I guess Lucious didn’t tell Cookie about the murder cakes. Grandma is at home with Lucious’s maid, who tries to feed her ham and toast, when the incomparable Miss Uggams hisses, “I thought I fired you.’
Grandma Walker sees that Lucious cast a dark-skinned woman to play her in the video and she flashes back to her Kelly Rowland past. Can someone explain why they chose to cast a older version of Lucious’s mother who looks nothing like she does in the flashbacks? Unless there’s some weird colorism going on here, it makes no sense. Grandma says that Lucious has always been a liar. She also says the maid doesn’t season her food. Coming from a grandma, the food thing might be a bigger insult.
Cookie is at the office, setting the Carol part of the story in motion. In this episode, every woman who has been wronged by the Lyon family seeks their revenge. It does what no Game of Thrones episode could do. Yeah, I said it. FIGHT ME. Cookie tells Carol to wear a more appropriate dress to the ASA awards and when Carol mentions her date with Duke Page, Cookie knows that something is up. Jamal is working on a record with Freda Gatz where they just repeat the same thing over and over again. D. Money listens in and he loves the new song, but he doesn’t love that Jamal is still working with Cookie. It’s time for Jamal to grow up and stop being a musical mama’s boy.
Andre goes to visit Grandma Walker to see how she’s doing. Grandma is not pleased. Why haven’t they invented a mega-pill to put all the pills in one? Grandma wants to walk the red carpet with the family to see her son perform and also somehow murder him, I’m assuming. Andre says it would ruin Lucious’s credibility if Grandma Walker showed up alive. The other half of Rhondre is slowly putting together that Boo Boo Kitty may have had something to do with something. At the very least, her shoes had something to do with the Shoving.
While Guadalupe shows Hakeem a winter-wedding-wonderland Powerpoint presentation, she casually mentions that maybe just maybe Us Weekly could cover the wedding and her music could be on their website and she wouldn’t be a nobody anymore. Oh, sweet little Guadalupe. No one cares. Your band has a dumb name and you hitched your wagon to the first guy you banged. If I had married the first guy I banged, I’d be making love under a framed Batman poster to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack until the end of my days. Even the dialogue interludes. Don’t do it, girl.
Cookie meets Duke Page in the club, wearing her best Wakanda couture to tell him she’s on to his scheme. Whatever information he’s trying to get out of Carol, she won’t let it happen. Duke asks why Cookie is still messing with Lucious when he killed her cousin, Bunky. The next day, Cookie knows that Carol had a drink with Duke Page. Carol said they just had a fun time talking about someone getting their leg cut off! Carol accuses Cookie of stealing every one of her boyfriends, including Lucious, and says that Cookie doesn’t care about her. Oh no, she absolutely did not. Cookie flips the ever loving fuck out and throws Carol out.
While D. Money helps Jamal with a track, he just casually asks if it’s cool if he brings a woman to the red carpet and kisses Jamal to make it all better. Unfortunately, Lucious walks in and D. Money tries to cover up their sweet moment by throwing Jamal off him and pretending that Jamal was coming on to him. Lucious knows that D. Money is on the DL and warns Jamal not to get fooled because D. Money does this all the time. Jamal is hurt by D. Money, he’s hurt by Lucious, and he lashes back: “You can’t even look your mother in the eye without crying. Don’t be a sissy bitch and put it in the music.” Gasp. Lucious grabs Jamal by the throat and cocks back to hit him. Before he leaves, Lucious says “The day you die from AIDS, I’m gonna celebrate.” Whoa.
Everyone just went too damn far. Rein it in, everyone.
Cookie warns Jamal to lay low — even though his father said he would dance on his grave — because Duke Page means new federal investigations. Cookie tells him that she snitched on Frank Gathers and he’s got to distance himself from Freda.
Andre goes to pick up Grandma for the ASAs and Thirsty storms in and locks them in a panic room. Time for the ASAs!
Lucious picks up Cookie, who is wearing TWO mint-green fur stoles and a mesh face mask. Lucious completes her look by giving her a diamond bracelet and they flashback to when they were young and broke. Lucious still loves her and that ass.
It’s time for the red carpet! Hakeem gets asked to take pictures alone. No one cares about Guadalupe. Freda is better dressed than Jamal in a fly white suit. Cookie tells the press that Lucious is the genius who made the Lyons the first family of hip-hop. Jamal sees D. Money across the red carpet with a supermodel beard and tells the press he’s shelving his record and it’s the last time you’ll see him on stage with the rest of the Lyon clan. Carol shows up white-girl drunk to the red carpet in that inappropriate dress Cookie told her not to wear.
Cookie throws her out and Carol tries to get Freda to escort her back inside. When Freda refuses, Carol spills the beans that have remained unspilled all season: “You’re only here because Lucious feels guilty about what he did to your father!” YES! YES! FINALLY! Freda fulfills what everyone has told us about her and flies off the handle in a fit of (totally justified) rage. She grabs a cop’s gun and rushes through the crowd. Jamal tries to talk her down when she draws a gun and shoots! JAMAL TOOK A BULLET FOR HIS FATHER. Cookie screams as Jamal lies there bleeding.
Andre and Grandma were watching the red carpet broadcast, and now Andre is slamming on the door to be let out of the panic room. Grandma has been lying in wait muttering about how Lucious is liar. Thirsty lets them out and they rush to the hospital where Jamal has been in surgery. The family is waiting when the Song of the Year award is announced … and some random group we’ve never heard of wins. Jamal and Lucious split the vote. All the fighting was for naught.
Duke Page tells his boss he’s building a case piece-by-piece. The first piece is Boo Boo Kitty! GASP!
While the rest of the family sits around thinking of the last things they said to Jamal, Grandma sneaks away with her coat. She goes outside and sees people holding vigil for Jamal and she approaches the reporters and says …
“Yes, I’m family!”
CLIFFHANGER! Next week’s episode is the season finale. Let’s hope they stick the landing.