When last we left Empire (what is it now, 8 months ago - a year??) pregnant Rhonda was pushed down a flight of stairs by a mystery assailant. The show picks up right there, with Rhonda, bloody and broken, at the foot of the stairs. She sees the baddie leaving through the front door, apparently wearing red-soled Louboutins. So unless we're dealing with a man who just LOVES wearing women's shoes then the assailant is a woman! Boo Boo Kitty is a prime suspect in my eyes, but we shall see.
In the hospital we learn, in true soap opera fashion, that Rhonda has lost the baby. Everyone is predictably devastated. Cookie also shares that back in the day she also had a miscarriage before having the three warring sons. This is an attempt to give some emotional depth to Cookie, and Taraji P. Henson does a great job with the scene.
The main focus of the ep is the ouster of Lucious as head of Empire at the hands of son Hakeem and Camilla (Naomi Campbell). Let's talk about Naomi for a minute please. I know she's a famous supermodel, and she's gorgeous and all that, but DAMN that woman is a HORRIBLE actress! When she's in a scene with Cookie or Lucious it feels like amateur hour at the Apollo! Let the professionals do the work, hon.
Cookie and Lucious are obviously not happy with the situation, but they take different paths to a resolution. Lucious uses his prison crew to intimidate the board, doing everything from killing and stringing up a dead cat(!), to blowing up a car, even beating a board member half to death.
Cookie prefers the fine art of negotiation, calmly asking Hakeem to please-pretty-please change his vote to oust Lucious. OK, we know Cookie too well- this is how it went down with Hakeem.
After she breaks the broom on her son, she goes all Ruth Buzzi from 'Laugh In' and whales on him with her purse! Classic Cookie!
It has become obvious that the primary (and sometimes ONLY) reason to watch Empire is the batsh*t crazy, scenery-chewing performance of Tariji as Cookie. She is a force of nature, leaving nothing but debris in her wake.
She confronts Camilla and Hakeem with a slick offer to have Empire absorb Lyon Dynasty, but with the proviso that she be the head of A&R AND retain autonomy with her label. If they don't comply Cookie threatens to leak Jamal's upcoming album online, thus embarrassing the new CEO and tanking the company stock. Hakeem goes against Camilla and agrees, hoping that this will bring the fractured family closer together.
There are a couple of b side plots, one with Jamal facing an anti-gay backlash over his fling with Skye (Alicia Keys), and the other has Hakeem resisting the cougar come-ons of Camilla and finding sex (and maybe love) in the bed of Laura, the lead singer of the latest girl group on the Empire scene. Neither is particularly compelling.
The end scene finds Lucious summoning Hakeem to the docks - the very place Lucious killed best friend Bunkie in season one. Lucious tells Hakeem that if he really wants to be king he has to kill the king. So he hands Hakeem a gun and tells him to shoot him like he knows Hakeem wants to. If Hakeem doesn't, then Lucious promises that he will be gunning for him and he WILL finish the job.
Hakeem blinks, and leaves Lucious holding the gun. Are we to believe that Lucious would REALLY kill his son over control of a record label? It doesn't seem like a realistic avenue to go down for the show's future. At this point all three sons have taken control of the company at various times, and all have failed spectacularly.
The family infighting is fun to watch from a purely soapy perspective, but it's getting stale for me. I feel that the family should get back together, run Empire, and face some big bad as a united force. Cookie and Lucious are best when they are together, and deep down the audience knows that too. Tariji and Terrance Howard are electric together, and there's sadly not nearly enough of that right now. The music is also starting to sound trite and repetitive to me too. Less guest stars (this isn't The Love Boat), more Cookie and Lucious. Freshen up the music and get back to the crazy story-lines from season one and the show will have legs - otherwise it may become just another one-hit-wonder.