I think we all can admit it’s pretty bleak out there. I mean out there … like outside in the actual human world. This mortal plane is pretty bleak. But as we trudge through the hellish nightmare that is our existence, there is one truly bright spot that carries us through. Empire. Did I e’er dream that Empire could buoy us through the world? In a way, yes. Somewhere deep in my heart, the return of this petty, dramatic POC-filled paradise was just the thing I needed to carry on. When Cookie wears 13 diamond bracelets, they sparkle “resist.”
The midseason premiere opens with Lucious walking through a ball of fire to give us INFERNO. His newest album. I’m not sure in what universe the announcement of the beginning of the recording of an album warrants a man walking through fire surrounded by shirtless contortionists and hula hoops, but I dream that will someday be our universe. Lucious brings out Remy Ma, who is living through a renaissance and she just lists things that provide fire and energy. Cookie walks up to Lucious backstage during the performance to demand that he step down so she can be the sole CEO of Empire and leave Angelo alone. We’re 38 seconds into the episode and there’s already a declaration of war.
Lucious returns to the stage to talk more about what settings he’s going to use in Garage Band when Cookie parades Grandma Walker onstage and just hands her a mic. That is a confidence in everything around you. Just to hand an ol’ lady a mic and know it’s gonna go your way. The audience starts screaming, “I THOUGHT SHE KILLED HERSELF,” which is a very severe thing to start to scream at an old woman. Someone gets Grandma Walker offstage, but the damage is done. Lucious is a liar and Cookie has officially declared war.
Back at Empire, Xavier is trying to freeze Becky out while Hakeem is trying to get Tiana a spot at the next Empire showcase and a feature on INFERNO. Lucious decides that he’s going to go with Nessa instead because Cookie prefers Tiana. Xavier threatens Becky for contradicting him in front of everyone. I am here for a rivalry in the office for Becky.
Angelo is getting ready to go to Boston to deal with the DUI accusation. He says he couldn’t even remember her name, but he remembers that he didn’t do it. Sure, dude. He got a citation for the DUI somewhere far away from the lake so there’s no chance he did it. There was another driver in the car, so he’s heading to Boston to set this whole thing straight. Cookie sends him off and goes to see Jamal in rehab. The rehab center appears to be in Hogwarts. Hakeem seems to think it’s more of a working rehab and wants to play some new music for Jamal. Lurking in the corner is Tori Ash, former superstar who had a heroin-fueled meltdown during a concert. She antagonizes the Lyon family and flits out there when Jamal comes in. Jamal wants to get out of rehab early to go work on a song he’s got stuck in his head. My family works in addiction medicine and this scene drove me bonkers. No one seemed too concerned that Jamal was like, “I’ve been here like two weeks, I’m good. Thanks!” Everyone starts arguing about whether Cookie or Lucious is the one who screwed Jamal up.
Thirsty gets a piece of napkin-based evidence from a woman in a park and tells Lucious that the FBI is going to use the Frank Gathers hit to finally go after him. Is there anyone who was involved that would talk to the feds? Lucious says that he paid for Bam Bam’s daughter to get treatment for her leukemia and then she died, so he’d at least like an apology if Bam Bam isn’t the one who went to the feds. Meanwhile, Xzibit is getting his company parking space and Andre walks up and tells him in his outdoor voice that he’s not planning on destroying Lucious, but he is planning on killing him. It’s not a metaphor. Not a joke. Murder. MURDER. Andre laughs and walks into the night.
Lucious holds a press conference where he endorses Angelo’s rival and calls him “Dubious DuBois,” and damn if that isn’t a catchy nickname. Jamal is in the Room of Requirement with Tori Ash while he’s trying to work on the song he’s got in his head. They talk about how great performing is and get a little twinkle in their eye. These scamps.
It’s time for the Next Up showcase with Nessa. She’s performing in glitter sweatpants and a bandeau top. She’s giving me some Mya realness and I’m here for it. Cookie swans in and sits down next to Lucious and she’s got a little something up her sleeve. OPEN IT NOW! THE FALSE WALL! Hakeem and Tiana come swinging in and take over the show doing their own version of Nessa’s song. Nessa’s mic gets turned off and Xhibit wants to storm the stage, but Andre wants to see where this goes. Nessa’s mic gets turned back on and it becomes a singing battle and it ultimately comes to blows when Nessa lifts Tiana over her head and tosses her into the crowd. They end up slapping the shit out of each other in front of the press.
Lucious and Cookie get a phone call that Jamal is nowhere to be found, so they think he’s working with D Major. They storm in and threaten to beat the shit out of him, but thankfully, Porsha comes in with a Snapchat showing Tori and Jamal sneaking into a recording studio. Cookie and Lucious are angry at first, but the power of song calms them down and they know music is what Jamal needs. Not rehab or anything.
Becky and Thirsty pick up another random old lady with Grandma Walker in the car. Thirsty has been assigned to keep an eye on Grandma while he takes care of a few things. He’s also managed to trick Becky into coming along in exchange for solving her Xavier problem. The old lady is Bam Bam’s mom and Lucious and Thirsty use her to scare Bam Bam into taking back his story with the feds. It’s just that simple. Thirsty runs another errand and Becky is pissed this triflin’ man wasted her whole day. Duke Page is off the case because it’s closed. He didn’t tell anyone that Lucious was his secret half-brother and they don’t take kindly to that at the FBI. Or anywhere. Meanwhile, Cookie and Jamal watch a press conference where the man responsible for the DUI says that Angelo had nothing to do with it. Another case closed.
First thing in the morning, Lucious storms in to fire Xavier and replace him. Thirsty ensured there would be evidence of Xavier getting kickbacks from radio DJs. It’s time for Lucious to announce the replacement for head of A&R. Both Cookie and Becky are waiting with breath that is bated. The new head of A&R will be … BOO BOO KITTY! Cookie gets despondent and storms out. This isn’t going to be good.
Lucious is working in the studio when Cookie comes strolling in all fired up. If he says that Empire should be run by the “mother” of the company and someone whose DNA is all up in the history, how can that someone be Boo Boo Kitty? Cookie brought her own Hot Sauce and starts taking out the records and art in the studio, the office, and Lucious’s piano. She gave 17 years of her life to Empire and gave Lucious three sons and went through a miscarriage, but now he’s going to turn around and do this? She also gives him a hit in the head with a baseball bat.
When she stops her spree, Lucious holds her head in his hands and they kiss and almost start another type of bangin’. She stops herself before they go too far and she walks out, leaving Lucious in her wreckage. Welcome back, Empire.