What Remains Is Bestial
This week, Empire decided to not just make Lucious an antihero, but also make him straight-up garbage. He’s acting more unreasonable than ever and this is a man who murdered someone in the pilot.
The episode starts with Boo Boo Kitty going into Lucious’s home office where he’s watching XStream’s numbers on way too many TVs. XStream has to reach 10 million subscribers by the end of the week or the investors will pull the plug. This would be a completely normal conversation between two adult humans, except for the fact that Lucious is getting a blow job under his desk from Boo Boo Kitty’s old assistant. Lucious. I need you to get it together.
Lucious continues his reign of terror by antagonizing every woman he’s ever loved and demanding that Cookie force Jamal to release his Black and White album. At this point, who cares about the damn album? Lucious also needs five new songs by the end of the week and he’s willing to give a new car to the first five artists who give him new content. How many artists does Empire Records have right now? Do they even have five? Is Porsha gonna release a track? Cookie doesn’t want to hear it, so he flits out of the room to go see Angelo. Within moments, Lucious calls him an Oreo. Lucious. What is wrong with you?
Meanwhile, Andre is getting out of jail and facing the paparazzi. His (white) lawyer advises him not go get all “Black Lives Matter” out there. I need literally everyone in this episode to stop saying garbage things. What? We’re only seven minutes in? I need someone to swaddle me in a thundershirt. A reporter on the street asks Andre if he’s just following in his family’s criminal footsteps. “Are you a gangster now, Andre?” Is that what journalism has come to? Heckling a recent widower? And speak of the white wife, Andre stands up to the reporters and sees Ghost Rhonda wearing a fabulous suit. I’m glad heaven has a Bloomingdale’s.
Jamal is going to a PTSD support group with a bunch of rude-ass people and one guy who kind of looks like the Weeknd — so much so that I assumed he was going to get an Empire Records company car. The group leader is a really nice guy who compares what happened to Jamal to what happens to soldiers. Like most of the other men in the Lyon family, Jamal completely rejects any and all mental-health advice.
Andre goes to Empire headquarters and Lucious immediately suggests sending Thirsty to murder someone. Andre just wants to go along with his (white) lawyer’s advice because a murder would draw even more attention during this FBI investigation. Cookie asks him if he knows that he’s a black man and that they have to fight fire with fire. Andre snaps at them and rattles off his résumé to show that he’s not going to be popping off in the streets.
That night, Duke Page watches as up-and-coming rappers stream into a Tiana event, including one named Gram. He’s hoping to use Gram to put some pressure on the Lyon family. Unfortunately for Tariq, the only thing Gram is putting pressure on is Tiana’s booty and they make out onstage after performing a song together. Hakeem literally gives the events a thumbs down. Lucious’s advice to Hakeem is to “spit some napalm on a diss track,” which finally answers the age-old question, “What would a show about hip-hop written by your dad sound like?”
Cookie has an idea to cheer up Jamal and get him back onstage again. It’s Mariah Fucking Carey. She’s wearing a mostly see-through dress with scales and requires two burly men to help her down the stairs. She looks amazing and she’s wearing nude frosted lip gloss. She’s flawless. She’s playing a singer named Kitty, but she’s playing Mariah Carey, y’know? She offers Jamal a duet and a spot touring with her in South America. Ugh. That’s a dream I have had more than 15 times. Jamal is hesitant but he compromises and offers to livestream their duet for XStream. Lucious takes a break from signing the kid who rapped at the anti-violence summit — which he’s only doing to get back at Cookie’s crush — so he can listen to Jamal’s idea. Lucious’s hair is too long right now and it’s not cute. He’s getting into Al Sharpton territory. Lucious is going to release the Black and White album and he’s surrounded by mock-ups for the cover, including one that looks like a Scarface poster starring Jamal Lyon.
Meanwhile, Hakeem is recording the most misogynistic song of his career. In one part, he taunts Gram by saying, “I could still hit that.” That meaning Tiana. Nessa has some shred of morals and refuses to sing the hook for Hakeem’s diss track about his ex disguised as a diss track about the guy she’s banging. Shyne grabs her by the neck and demands she get in that studio. Apparently that’s too far for Hakeem. Humiliating women via song? That’s a-okay. But don’t actually touch them.
Cookie shows up to meet Angelo for totally not-a-date and Angelo starts shouting at her about the kid’s record deal. He was going to MIT! He tutors other lil’ kids! Empire is going to ruin his future! Not a single lie detected. He takes Cookie of the Black Girls Code center, and she agrees to stop Lucious from ruining another light-skinned child’s life. Also, she looks at Angelo like she thinks he’s cute.
Hakeem and Jamal show up to court to support Andre. Imagine their shock when Andre is charged with criminal trespassing, aggravated assault, and assault against a police officer. Ruh-roh. Andre’s (white) lawyer suggests he take a plea deal even though he was in his own house and he isn’t going to lie. While they’re arguing in the street, Lucious rolls up in a black van, the door slides open, and he says, “Get in bitches, we’re going shopping.” It’s the most ridiculous image and I loved every second of it. Lucious drives them to their old neighborhood — which is just the result when you Google-image-search “ghetto” — and he accuses his sons of forgetting that they’re black. He used to think they had problems because they were bipolar, gay, and spoiled, but no, they forget they’re black. LUCIOUS. He crosses a line. This isn’t fun anymore. This is a man bullying his sons. Thankfully, Andre and Jamal stand up to him and leave. Hakeem hangs around because he wants to finish his sexist song. How does he finish it? He samples Tiana’s new track and makes her an unwitting participant. Oh, fun.
Later, Lucious rushes into his office to see Boo Boo Kitty tracking the XStream numbers. She pushes back from the desk and a hot delivery guy crawls out from underneath. YAAAS BOO BOO KITTY! She reminds Lucious that he needs her to save his ass. Either she gets what she wants, a.k.a. a little freedom and respect, or they all go down in flames.
Jamal goes to visit Freda Gatz in prison. Everyone can see this is a bad idea that will only traumatize him more. To cope with his PTSD, he starts upping his pain-med dosage. He has stage fright during his livestream event with Mariah, so he takes a few more pills, pops on a delicate chain choker, and prepares to whisper-sing with the woman who invented the art. Mariah does not have pants on. She is wearing a bejeweled bodysuit and what I can only assume are Wolford tights. Jamal gets through the song and bows down to the queen.
Angelo goes to thank Cookie for stopping that kid’s record deal and he tries to go in for a kiss after Cookie tells him he’s not going to make her feel bad about who she is or where she came from. I’m into this. Cookie having a decent love interest and Taraji P. Henson getting to act with someone who can hold his own. Lucious continues his garbage behavior and releases the half of Jamal’s album he produced — a.k.a. “the black half” — against Jamal’s wishes. He’s going to take back Empire.
UGH. THIS AGAIN?
Duke Page shows up while Andre is walking home and subtly hints that the charges got trumped up because he wants Andre to cooperate with the FBI. If he does, the charges will go away. Andre won’t inform on his family, so he basically spits on Duke Page’s shoes and walks away. This is going to get ugly.