Terrence Howard as Lucious, Nia Long as Giuliana.
In this episode of Empire, things get out of hand. People get slapped and thrown and punched left and right. Have we learned nothing from the past three seasons of Empire if not that “violence doesn’t solve our problems”? Let’s get into it.
“Absent Child” starts with a slow-motion walking shot of all the Lyons dressed up and ready to face off with the DuBois family. Cookie is wearing the first of two furs she’ll have in this episode. Everyone sits down at the table across from their analogue, so we have to insert a couple new DuBois children and a white lawyer to sit across from Thirsty. Mama DuBois and Cookie have an amazing exchange: “I know what connections you got. Bitch, do you want me to jump across the table?” and Mama DuBois replies, “Feelin’ froggy? Then leap.” Phylicia Rashad said the words “FEELING FROGGY.” In the words of Sasha Velour, I have been dead for many decades.
The Lyons officially make the accusation that the DuBois family had Bella taken. Jamal asks if they want to humble the Lyons after accepting a “donation.” A random DuBois brother says, “Angelo lost his career because of you.” Mama DuBois says that the Lyons have chosen to represent their community in a different way. There’s a think piece on respectability politics in there.
Finally, Boo Boo Kitty breaks down in tears and shouts that they shouldn’t talk about the past or who crossed who because there’s a child missing. Boo Boo Kitty gets to do some act-ting this episode and I’m here for it (as an antidote for what Hakeem does later). Lucious threatens to hit back even harder and the DuBois family claims not to know where Bella is. Thirsty, Boo Boo Kitty, and Hakeem head to the police department to try to get Bella back. The CPS employees all have amazing tactics to get Bella back. “Well, we looked in the database and she’s not there so … [SHRUG].” Hakeem has a breakdown and I think his brain has a glitch because he just keeps repeating, “Last name, Lyon. First name, Bella” like he’s reading it off a piece of paper that’s a little too far away.
Cookie and Lucious try to make sense of the whole thing and Cookie keeps suggesting that maybe the family should stick together … y’know … we could get … together. Thirsty advises the family to distance themselves from each other and maybe fix their bad habits. Boo Boo Kitty should probably finally divorce Lucious at this point. Then there’s the most obvious ADR’d line — “Gonna get my grandbaby back one way or another” — which Taraji probably recorded in her hotel room on her iPhone.
The next day, Lucious is working on the Inferno Vegas show that just seems to be a Cirque du Soleil ripoff with the women all in dusty brown jumpsuits with ruffled collars. Jamal walks in and argues with Lucious about their new song. I wish this show did a little better job of showing the song-making process. That would actually be interesting. Instead, we have Lucious saying things like, “You gotta meet this cat.”
Cookie plans to pitch When Cookie Met Lucious as a “visual album” to the Vegas team. What does that mean? These are words that mean things. How can a visual album be a stage show? Who will be in it? Is it a movie? WHAT. DOES. THAT. MEAN. Also, if you think I wouldn’t watch a third season of Smash that was a crossover between the Smash universe and the Empire universe getting the When Cookie Met Lucious musical and/or stage show and/or visual album made, you have never been more wrong about anything in your goddamn life.
Lucious has Andre in the studio and he’s bringing in that young cat to be on the cross-album single. Apparently, he was recently shot and he is coming from the hospital. He gets in the booth and starts rapping and it’s surprisingly good, but then he starts bleeding. I said to myself, “Oh, shit, he was shot like … an hour ago,” but no, he was apparently shot yesterday. Lucious accuses Jamal of being too soft and Jamal asks everyone who has been shot to raise their hands. Lucious has never been shot so he needs to shut his mouth. He plays like he’s froggy and that’s what got Bella taken.
Then comes the most dramatic and outrageous scene: Boo Boo Kitty is just chillin’ at home when Andre rushes in and basically says, “OH, SO YOU THINK I FORGOT THAT YOU KILLED MY CHILD?” I was just a series of stunned GIFs. He chases her around and throws her down and says he’s going to kill her. She says that she deserves to die because she sold her soul to become a Lyon and now her baby’s gone so she deserves to suffer. Andre lets her go and says she has to live with her pain and walks out. God. Damn. It’s almost like there’s a great nighttime soap tucked away in there.
Meanwhile, Hakeem goes on his InstaFace stories and rants about the DuBois family and raps a bit. It’s … not okay. But as a result, his fans storm the DuBois family, protesting for them to give Hakeem’s baby back in a weird Pepsi commercial slash Pizzagate mashup. Has this EVER happened in real life? Meanwhile, Lucious talks to his Alexa that’s framed up in the shot when his mother comes in and he asks her if he’s a good father. She says, “You’re not even a good person.” Let that be the end of it. Grandma Walker does convince him to be nicer to Jamal, though.
Andre and Nessa argue with Cookie that her tactics are really just a ploy to keep Lucious happy. Nessa starts to mouth off, so Cookie slaps the taste outta her mouth. It is pretty amazing. The next day in the studio, Lucious shows Jamal a big ol’ glass pane with photos of Lucious’s father to demonstrate … togetherness, I guess?
In what should have been the final scene of the episode, Cookie has Xzibit kidnap Angelo and tie him to a chair and lets two of his enforcers beat the shit out of him to get information about baby Bella. Cookie comes in and reminds Angelo that everything his mother warned him about her is true, so he better give up where baby Bella is. Angelo says he had nothing to do with it and Cookie lets the goons continue to beat the shit out of him. She tells Lucious that Angelo doesn’t have baby Bella, but Lucious mostly just wants to know about this little Vegas plan she’s cooking up. She stammers and stutters and Nia Long comes in and says that she’s going to handle everything. Cookie walks out saying, “I did 17 years for you,” and Nia Long says, “I’ll take it from here.” Damn, Nia Long.
Mama DuBois is taking care of Angelo’s wounds and she rings a bell calling in … a maid, I guess? Whoever the woman is, she’s pushing a stroller and Mama DuBois pulls out a lil’ black baby. I have to admit I don’t know what Bella looks like in the face, but that’s a cute lil’ black baby. Anyway, Mama DuBois’s line of dialogue clears it up: “Meet the newest member of the DuBois family. They ruined one of mine so I took one of theirs. Didn’t I? Yes. I. Did.” Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.