Empire, Season 2, Episodes 9 and 10: The chickens are back
I was all set last week to quit Empire and rail on the writers for the Jamal/Skye Summers relationship as a cowardly walking back of a central premise of the show because 50 Cent and the Internet scared them out of embracing a gay main character.
Luckily, a food coma got in the way.
This week, we find the Skye Summers (Alicia Keys) detour in Jamal’s sex life was mainly so that we could see a bit more of Lucious’ evil nature and subsequently feel very little sympathy for him when his big dreams blew up in his face in the fall season finale. I mean, to say that a woman fixed Jamal as if being gay was somehow the equivalent of being broken was low even for Lucious.
There were more than seven players in the game these past two weeks, but for the sake of clarity this season closing list will be split into winners and losers without traditional rankings.
Now, let's talk about these epic losers.
Poor Laz spent episode 9 fighting with his own crew while trying to make Cookie’s Cookout happen. He’d almost gotten away with his treacherous affiliation with the gang who kidnapped Hakeem until Lucious’ jealousy reared its ugly head. Upon further investigation, Lucious dug up Laz’s past and as I have been saying all season, Cookie does not play when it comes to her kids. In the best 15 second exchange in series history, Cookie communicated her permission for Lucious to end Laz with a series of looks and handing him a gun. Goodnight, Laz. Tell Vernon and Bunky we said hello.
Anika’s dissent into madness has reached its destination. She barged into Hakeem’s place on multiple occasions in episode 9 to convince the kid he loves her and that’s why he turns to her in his hours of need. Hakeem was unbothered because of his new lady love, so Boo Boo kitty turned to Rhonda during the brush off and started cooking up an alternate plan based around her own pregnancy. We found out last night in episode 10 that the alternate plan was to push Rhonda down a flight of stairs possibly making Anika’s child the only grandchild of the Lyon family. This would be a solid plan if only: 1. She hadn’t been Lucious’ ex-fiancee. 2. Cookie wasn’t a real person who would really kill her if given the chance. 3. Hakeem had any intention of claiming her child. Oh, Boo Boo Kitty. Your plans fail on every level.
Rhonda and Andre felt sympathy for Anika and welcomed her into their lavish Long Island home that Lucious bought just because they were having a baby. Little did they know that Anika would do anything to get back into Empire including attempting murder. Now, on top of having the Empire fall to the peril that Andre expressly warned about at the outset of the Swift Stream deal, they might lose their son to the wicked plans of the Single Biracial Female.
Cookie lost folks left and right the past two episodes. She found her sister, Carol, strung out in Philadelphia and ended up shipping her off to rehab. Lucious revealed Laz was a snake and took care of that problem. The venue for Cookie’s Cookout was canceled and Lucious was not helping her on that front. On family day at the federal prison, Cookie got Hakeem to perform for her former cell block mates and hoped to introduce her best friend Jezzy (Da Brat) who she wanted to sign upon release. One problem – Jezzy got a life sentence for attacking a bunk mate over toothpaste. She blamed her predicament on feeling abandoned by Cookie for a year. And then Hakeem used Cookie’s proxy vote at the Empire board of directors meeting to vote his feelings against his father – effectively relinquishing control of the company to outsiders. It’s been a tough couple of weeks for everyone’s favorite TV mom.
The guiding principal of the universe is you get back what you put out. So no one should have been surprised when Lucious’ chickens came home to roost. Anika, Camilla and Hakeem are monsters of Lucious’ own making. In season one, he denigrated and discarded all three and their vengeful comebacks had me all but clapping in glee Wednesday night. Lucious’ laser focus on the Swift Stream deal made him an easy mark for Mimi Whiteman, who used his own megalomaniacal speechifying against him to force an emergency vote of the board of directors to remove Lucious as CEO of Empire. That Camilla Marks (Naomi Campbell) was behind it was only the icing on the cake. Hakeem voted in favor of removal, effectively handing his fist love, Camilla, the reins to his inheritance. And the lonely and psychotic Anika tried to kill Rhonda’s baby, effectively taking all the things Lucious found precious in one fell swoop. His consolation prize was pretty weak sauce too. After years of being nominated in the urban categories and never winning at the American Sound Awards, Lucious got his first Song of the Year nod in the category up against Jamal. *sad trombone*
Not everyone lost in the fall finale, but all the victory laps in this winners circle probably will only last until spring.
I always suspected that Mimi Whiteman was up to no good but the Camilla Marks twist was Dynasty levels of brilliant. How Hakeem’s cougar first love managed to orchestrate a ridiculously long con that would sap Lucious’ Empire away is beyond belief. To recap, Camilla was pushed out of Hakeem’s life by Lucious, then met and married Mimi Whiteman. She had to convince the billionaire lesbian to invest in a hostile takeover orchestrated by Hakeem, Cookie, Andre and Anika and then make Mimi abandon them in favor of Lucious who was still in jail at the time. All of this so she could grow the company with a streaming service deal and then snatch it from under Lucious’ nose. I’m not sold on her motivation being Hakeem’s future. But for the moment, nothing can stop Team Mimilla.
Hakeem got to be right about Laz, finally visit the prison that held his mother for 17 years, a nomination for the American Sound Awards for his video with Jamal and a chance to exact revenge on his father for every awful thing he ever did. Outside of the extreme shortsightedness of ceding control of Empire, he’s had a banner couple of weeks. He got snubbed in the ASA category for best rapper in favor of Freda Gatz, but that probably won’t rain on his “I took down Lucious” parade. The impending Anika problem should do the trick though.
I’m not sure what I’d do if I got to work with my favorite artist, but jumping the sexuality fence would probably be out of the question. Jamal let his fandom reach epic levels when he slept with Skye Summers but the writers were contented to let what would have been a new love line on any other show dissipate gracefully because it didn’t make any sense. Skye voiced the concerns of all Empire fans when she told Jamal she didn’t want him to change who he loves for her. A ton of ASA nominations including in categories Lucious was never nominated for has Jamal poised to be Empire’s most important artist. That title may come in handy now that Camilla is captaining the ship. As with every episode in the season, even when something devastating happens, everything still came up Jamal.
Now that we're heading in to the abysmal holding tank called the holiday season, we'll have to wait months to find out if Jamal can rise to to the top of the company once again. It shouldn't be hard with whole of the show's fandom in his corner.