'Empire,' Season 2, Episode 8: Hakeem, no Lyon
Huzzah! We're back to the good stuff.
When you strip away the kidnapping plots and record label feuds, Empire is a show about family and now that the writers have slightly course corrected back to that, we return to the cute brother hijinks and crackling chemistry that makes the Lyon family so watchable.
Vivica A. Fox joined the cast at the end of this episode to drop the absolute gem on us that Cookie's real name is Loretha. *needle scratch* o_O
This week's winners and losers represent the turning tide between Empire and Lyon Dynasty and how much Lucious' hubris has clouded his judgment.
On to the rankings:
7. Boo Boo Kitty is the princess of fail. Just after she worked up the courage to tell Hakeem that she was pregnant, she heard from the man himself that they were just friends and he is in love with Lauren. The baby remained Anika's last hope to get back into Empire, since Rhonda's fetus got crazy Andre a second chance. Lucious loves the kids, apparently. But without Hakeem on board, the only thing she could think to do was raid Lil' Kim's wig closet and pose as a chauffeur in a desperate attempt to... I don't know what. When has kidnapping a man's girlfriend ever made him love the kidnapper and want to have babies with her? Do better Boo Boo Kitty. You went to college.
6. Lucious probably went home after that rap battle and cursed his out of this world ego for being hereditary. Jamal was the first to best Lucious by demanding his bickering parents be adults and collaborate for his Pepsi campaign song. Then, the Swift Stream exec scammed him by jacking up the price of the merger deal to the point where an over leveraged Empire could fold only months after going public. Losing an inter-label rap battle meant he also lost a bet with Cookie and the right to release Jamal's album, another blow to Empire since he's the label's fastest rising artist. And finally, Hakeem dealt the final blow by beating Lucious at his own game and delivering an outstanding rebuff to all things Lucious by publicly dropping his last name. That one will smart for weeks.
5. Freda Gatz leapt into the rankings this week by virtue of getting some real screen time. Sure, there was no character development, but it's Empire. There are 92 cast members at all times. Freda challenged Hakeem to a rap battle at Lucious' suggestion and paid the price. While technically a better battle emcee, Freda's bars were no match for Hakeem's star quality … or some other such nonsense, because when you listen to both rappers it was clear Freda was better and more brutal. Still, she lost because the writers said so.
4. Laz got the taste slapped out his mouth by Cookie for fighting back when Hakeem touched him. He might have thought things were sweet up to that point, but the slap should have been a wake up call. Cookie will murder anyone who messes with her children. Kidnapping Hakeem probably seemed like a bad idea in retrospect.
3. Cookie hasn't wised up to Laz yet, even though Hakeem has warned her at every turn. She got caught working with Jamal by both Hakeem and Lucious, but the outing turned positive since it allowed them to just barrel forward on Jamal's Pepsi song. In the end, she had to share the producing credit with her ex-husband, but winning the bet of the Freda vs. Hakeem battle got her the rights to put out Jamal's album, a major coup for Lyon Dynasty. After the battle, she got to spend half a happy night with her three sons before her sister, Candace (Vivica A. Fox), showed up with the bad news that her other sister, Carol (Tasha Smith), had skipped town and abandoned her children. I did enjoy our last episode of Cookie's Adventures in Philadelphia, but this seems like a weird time to pull the protagonist out of the story. I hope there is at least some revelation about Laz on Interstate 95 South.
2. Hakeem is in love. LOL. Lauren was the first girl to ever rebuff his advances and that act of defiance got her the keys to the kingdom. He even put the brakes on having sex with her after he found out she was a virgin, the first gentlemanly thing his character has done, like ever. Hakeem also ended his feud with Jamal and got some great advice from his big brother that ultimately helped him win the rap battle against Freda Gatz. And then he got to rub it in his evil father's face by smashing his last name in lights. Too bad Boo Boo Kitty is his baby's mother. He might have won the week.
1. The writers must have realized that we all love Jamal like Christmas morning, because everything he touched in this episode turned to awesome. After relegating his love life to sidelines, Jamal's effervescent personality has buoyed the relationships between the entire family, even his mortal enemy parents. He got to have his cake and eat it too by working with both Cookie and Lucious and telling them they'd better get used to it because that's how it will be. All of Twitter shouted, "You go boy", when he performed his hybrid song and landed a contract as a new Pepsi spokesman. And when he told the king party-pooper, Lucious, to let Cookie have her happy night, it felt so true to every child who has dealt with embattled, divorced parents that they should make that clip a PSA. Let's keep the goodwill for Jamal going. His father is Lucious. He's been through enough.