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'Empire' recap: Season 2, Episode 2 — Call it what it is

Jussie Smollett as Jamal Lyon sits for an interview with guest star Sharon Carpenter on "Spilling the T".

Chuck Hodes/Fox

Jussie Smollett as Jamal Lyon sits for an interview with guest star Sharon Carpenter on "Spilling the T".



Momentum has shifted back to #TeamLucious but for our troubles, the writers gave us a lot of names to mull over in the coming weeks. For a show that bothered to name Marisa Tomei's double-crossing, lesbian billionaire character, Mimi Whiteman, you know how important these names will be to plot development going forward.

Worst one first, Empire fans: Rainbow Sensation (*fans self at the odiousness of the concept*).

Out of Empire but never down, Cookie rallied Team Takeover, minus Boo Boo Kitty, into creating a new label and snagged some disgruntled Empire artists like V. (V Bozeman) and Tiana (Serayah) for good measure. Hakeem, never one to focus unless Lucious is belittling him or Jamal is holding his hand, decided a new company didn't need new music from him but his leadership as the budding mogul he believed himself to be.

He posted an audition notice on Instagram for a new girl group, but got discouraged when only talented Latinas showed up including Becky G. Tiana turned down an offer to lead the group because hustling backward is stupid. Hakeem almost gave up on his dream group of three girls (one black, one white, one hispanic) called Rainbow Sensation making him the next L.A. Reid. Rainbow Sensation was such an awful name and concept that Lucious handing over the empire to Jamal seemed like the only logical choice. Hakeem was so not ready for prime time that it took Andre to point out that if he found three Latinas with talent that might be more useful than the archaic one of every flavor band making idea. Rainbow Sensation showed us how far Hakeem still has to go.

Next up was Thirsty Rawlings. Yep, that was an actual name bestowed upon the fine character actor Andre Royo who you probably know and love as Bubbles from The Wire. Lucious' jail vacation came to screeching halt when a document in his file went missing and he stopped being able to take his meds for his ALS-like condition. It was a tactic by Prosecutor Roxanne Ford (Tyra Ferrell) to get Lucious to cop a guilty plea. She even employed Ludacris to crack down on Lucious' song making and general happiness on the yard for a nice bit of Hustle & Flow symmetry.

Thirsty, with a law degree from the University of Guam, seemed to be up on Ford's games and ready to aide Lucious in getting out of the big house and back on the charts. Using connections inside the prison, Thirsty managed to get Lucious his meds, some recording equipment and a bail hearing in a matter of days after being hired. He even arranged to have Ludacris take beating after he raided Lucious' jail house recording studio and stole his newest track.Thirsty even scored some bondage photos of the jud ge that allowed an alleged murderer to get out on bail -- even as the state's star witness had been missing for months. The trouble with resourceful guys like Thirsty has always been what happened to the people they turned they resources against. Loyalty is a luxury for hustlers. And every dude name Thirsty is a hustler. 

Jamal made an appearance on a little show called Spilling the T. This name was important because it's direct reference to gay subculture, a drag queen turn of phrase about sharing secrets, and because it represents that while Jamal tried to model his business acumen after Lucious, he can never really be divorced from loving Cookie or the person she allowed him to be.

Cookie set up the interview and stormed in in the middle to ask Jamal to give his brother his album back. Jamal did offer Hakeem the chance to come back to Empire and release his record (by calling him into a dark car and rolling up the window in Cookie's face no less.) But Hakeem wouldn't be lured away from his mom, and made the rash decision to leak his album online rather than work for his father again. Jamal threatened to sue "the draws off" his baby brother, but we'll have to see how far he'll really take this beef.

Snitch B-----  was the song Lucious laid down in a jail house closet and it is an epic diss track. Based on the order of verses, we can infer that the first order of business for newly #FreeLucious will be finding Vernon (Malik Yoba), who turned state's evidence against him. Who knows how he'll take the news that pregnant Rhonda already offed Vernon last season. The second verse seemed to be about Cookie at first blush, but the target came into focus when he added a line about selling off company secrets, an offense of Boo Boo Kitty's after Lucious betrayed her with Cookie. So, now that Boo Kitty is on the outs with Lucious and not on Team Takeover, her life just got a lot more dangerous. Because while Lucious and Cookie have no love lost, he would never kill her the way he has other characters introduced into the story. She's still the Bonnie to his Clyde, the Natasha to his Boris and the Tammy 2 to his Ron Swanson. #Lookie4Ever

And last but not least, Lyon Dynasty, ladies and gents. Cookie, Andre and Hakeem thought about what to call their new company all episode, even as they got back to their recording roots by returning to the dangerous studio where Jamal was nearly shot. Cookie spent the episode doing Cookie, belittling Boo Boo Kitty until she finally left, failing to manage Hakeem until Andre left, and finding ways out of no way to keep a pipe dream from bursting in her face.

She kept V. and Tiana happy enough to stick it out another week, and brokered her way into a new studio space once owned by the Jewish people in the neighborhood. When it was time for the final credits, the episode ended on a hopeful note of Cookie (in a Derek Lam pant suit that was to die) handing Hakeem a broom to help her clean up the den that will become home to the Lyon Dynasty.

Funny thing about those words. They're married yet independent ideas. Empires could be vast and powerful, but dynasties were how they maintained that power. The Lyon Dynasty is in trouble. Lucious refused to take back a pleading Andre because, as we saw in a flashback featuring Kelly Rowland, his mother also battled mental illness forever shaping his views of the people who suffer. Jamal has desperately tried to emulate Lucious, but lacked the fundamental kill instinct that allowed his father to throw away his mother and brothers. Hakeem and Cookie seemed to be the only people thinking of the family by trying to remove the poisonous influence that is Lucious Lyon from their lives. But removing a cancerous organ, when it's vital ensures the death of the body. I guess it's always the destiny of an empire to fall. 

[Last modified: Thursday, October 1, 2015 10:08am]


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