Empire Recap: Bang! Bang! There Goes His Heart!

Everything important about this week’s installment of Empire can be summed up by a GIF of Cookie Lyon’s perfectly stacked backside — packaged in a blue print minidress that underscores the effectiveness of a once-daily prison-yard-workout.

Of course, the image would have to include her ex-husband Lucious in the foreground, eyes blazing with a mix of lust and love and a liberal dash of amusement, because at present, this is Cookie’s game. And whether she chooses to use her physical, intellectual and emotional powers to humiliate a rival, inspire a multi-platinum hook, snatch back her man or pave the way for a major-label poaching incident smack in the middle of county lockup, she is not to be underestimated.

Even the people who dislike her — Lucious’ current squeeze, her ingrate of a youngest son — are still caught up in her orbit. Why else would Anika take her “bougie debutante” self to a tough neighborhood — one with a Sex and the City-approved Tasti D-Lite, but still… — to meet with the manager/crew of a rapper whose life is under threat from a vicious gang? And why else would Hakeem take a bubble bath with “mama” (AKA: older-lady lover who likes it hot and Oedipal) the minute Cookie comes up with an awesome idea to take him to the next level?

Does the hour lose a little heat due to a kinder, gentler Cookie-Lucious connection? Yeah, OK, I won’t deny it. But it can’t be all thrown shoes and dramatic conference-room drop-ins all the time — not if this show is getting six seasons and a movie. So let’s cut to a pithy rundown of the week’s proceedings, shall we?

EmpireCLASH OVER TITAN | Empire’s biggest rival — rival label exec Billy Baretti (Judd Nelson), the guy who signed Kid FoFo after Lucious dropped him —runs into his own snag this week when his buzziest act, Titan, is arrested for shooting a gang leader in a nightclub melee. When Baretti doesn’t get him bailed ASAP, Lucious and Anika and Cookie all start scheming on how/whether to bring him into the Empire fold. Cookie goes to visit Titan’s mom – a steely Nation of Islam follower named Fatima — where she learns that the shooting victim had burned down a community center where Titan volunteered. (Wasn’t that scene all kinds of ridiculous, and yet simultaneously compelling?) Cookie’s intel comes in handy after Anika and Lucious’ meeting with Titan’s team is cut short via drive-by shooting. Lucious almost decides to call the whole thing off — that is until Beretti (who stole some of his songwriting royalties back in the day) demands that Lucious stay away from Titan. “I will dig up the dirt of your past and bury your empire — and everyone in it,” he seethes, but the move backfires. Lucious uses his celebrity clout to visit Titan in the clink — and gets the dude to switch labels by writing a check for $1.7 million to rebuild the aforementioned community center. It’s far fetched to think a Jay-Z-level artist would need somebody else’s seven-figure donation to get the job done, but Titan is really just a backdrop to Cookie in her red leopard maxi dress, making Lucious regret the way he cut her loose while she sat in a cell for 17 years. “I did some things that I had to do,” he pleads, but what is her endgame? Does she truly want him back as her spouse? Is there a darker side to our protagonist that wants to punish Lucious for his misdeeds? And can she possibly achieve both goals?

THERE’S NO A&R IN COOKIE It hardly matters, though, because as the Lady Lyons will tell you, she’s the one whose ear propelled Lucious to stardom. In the best scene from the hour, she sums up entitled son Hakeem’s biggest artistic shortcoming: “You need to stop rappin’ like you from the streets, ’cause you not about that life!” Please tell me I’m not the only one who presses pause to hoot and clap every time Cookie serves up a hot platter of truth. At the same time, she dismisses Anika as “a debutante with a bougie ear who doesn’t want to disturb her pearls.” Tianna, clearly moved by so much realness in her presence, drops by Cookie’s office for help in pumping up her so-so single “Keep It Movin'” — and by the end of the hour, she’s got Hakeem’s on the track, a well-received Teen Choice nominations concert performance on her résumé and Cookie — not Anika — as the head of her team.

TAKIN’ IT TO THE STREETS| Meanwhile, Cookie is getting exasperated with the other artist on her roster, her gay son Jamal. “We don’t have time for you to be having some mental artsy-fartsy block brain-fart whatever you havin’,” she grumbles, as Jamal and his squeeze Michael adjust to living in a Bushwick dump instead of the swank pad Lucious used to pay for. Jamal eventually swings by Empire to return his dad’s check for backing up Hakeem at his Leviticus nightclub gig, and while Lucious tells him he’s breaking a cardinal music-biz rule of always taking the money, his smile betrays a fatherly rush of pride to see one of his kids trying to forge a path independent of the family money. Back at home, Jamal gets inspired by the sound of rattling pips, blaring sirens and rattling chains and begins to write what could be his breakout hit. Let’s hope it’s actually great-great, not just “pretty good and we have to pretend it’s great because we’re rooting for Jamal to overcome homophobia and become the next big thing.”

EmpireIN OTHER NEWS…| Tianna walks in on Hakeem with Camilla in the bathtub, but she’s not trying to let it affect her public relationships/performances with her label chief’s son. Girlfriend has focus, dammit! Porsha doesn’t have benefits yet because, as Becky notes, “homegirl gave the H.R. a dead person’s social security number.” Andre provides Lucious an alibi for the night of Bunky’s death — yep, he’s the smart one. And in the episode’s most moving scene, Lucious comes clean about his ALS to Anika — who takes over shaving duty with an actual tear in her eye. Hey, Boo-Boo Kitties have feelings, too.

On that note, I turn it over to you. What did you think of this week’s Empire? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Jane says:

    “Everything important about this week’s installment of Empire can be summed up by a GIF of Cookie Lyon’s perfectly stacked backside — packaged in a blue print minidress that underscores the effectiveness of a once-daily prison-yard-workout.” Yeah that’s not offensive at ALL there pal! #Gross

    • Michael Slezak says:

      Jane, I think you misinterpreted what I was saying — or else I didn’t word it clearly enough (which is quite possible!). My point was that in that final scene, Lucious was clearly hypnotized by his ex, and she was loving it. She is slowly assuming power via multiple channels —intellectual, physical, emotional — despite having begun the series with no power whatsoever. Didn’t intend for that intro to come off pervy at all.

  2. Antwon303 says:

    I agree. Cookie can’t always been throwing shoes or beating people up. That would get old and make her cartoonish. I like that she is a multi-faceted character with layers. That makes her more interesting. I also noticed her wardrobe is evolving…but she hasn’t lost her edge. She rocked a boa in this episodes but her dresses were on-point. Cookie is from the street but she knows when to suppress it and be professional.

    The tone tonight was definitely more reserved than the first three episodes, but I’m also cool with that. A lot happened tonight. I was surprised Lucious told Anika he’s dying but I am glad she knows. The Anika/Cookie scenes were good and I loved watching her get in Hakeem’s face. He’s such a spoil little ingrate. Cookie didn’t do anything to him and she is reaching out. He needs to meet her halfway. She was in prison. it’s not like she was on a sabbatical. Thank goodness Lucious strongly urged him to respect his mother.

    I loved the final scene between Lucious and Cookie. There is still love there. He was very touchy feely with her and she didn’t exactly pull away. They share a history and children. I think they get on each others’ nerves but they also challenge one another. He was flirty with her. Taraji and Terrence have amazing chemistry.

    I could have used more Jamal in this episode, but it was nice to see a flashback of Andre and his father. This show does a good job with the editing of the flashback/present scenes. I need Jamal should have taken the money because I’d be afraid to sleep in that place LOL.

    I’m hoping the ratings remain steady tomorrow. I’d love it if they went up again but steady would be satisfactory.

  3. laurelnev says:

    So, when are we going to find out exactly WHY Lucious dumped Cookie for a debutante. Was 400k in Drug $ not enough to get Empire off the ground? Did he need her connections to break free from Judd Nelson’s grasp? I’m hoping we find out soon, as it’s clear his heart has always REALLY belonged to Cookie.

    And my favorite part of Judd’s threat? “I’m gonna rename this place Cookie’s.”

    • relaxxx says:

      That place should be renamed Cookies. Luscious owes her big time. He thinks he needs Anika but Cookies the one that really has his heart. Sometimes I think he’s ashamed of his past n maybe he thinks Anika solidifies him as a business man instead of the drug dealer that he was.

      • TigerLIL says:

        OK and when Cookie gets in a street jam it will be the guys like Barrati who will protect her and know her worth and knows she was duped out of what was rightfully hers. I hope Cookie finds a love interest and lets Luscious go on with Boo Boo Kitty. Dudes like him always trade up to enhance their image and he bout did it to leverage some legitimate funds no doubt but I think he loves Anika, Cookie was a means to an end. Anybody who would shoot a dude in the eye cause he wanted his just dues, money he bout earn and he raised the boys and you kill him over that instead of cutting him a check and letting him hit the bricks. I hope Luscious gets smashed cause he is just what Bunky called him a fake ass trick…

    • Aimee says:

      Lucious may clearly love Cookie but his certainly not a good guy so I doubt he needed a better reason to dump Cookie other than the fact he didn’t want to go 30 years with no one to warm his bed at night.

    • TigerLIL says:

      And that was classic

    • Smh says:

      He found a woman to help raise the kids that’s why he left cookie

    • camile says:

      Great point I’ve been wondering the same how she came into his life, I can tell u this though I can’t wait to see her out she’s very bad influence doesn’t have a voice of her own, stupid! I can’t wait to see more of Jamal love love love em…

  4. ninamags says:

    I think I know what Michael is saying: Cookie is kicking ass and taking names while looking fabulous!!

    Her outfits get better and better. She is proving to everyone that she really knows her stuff and people are starting to respect her.

    I also loved that Tianna is all about her music. She didn’t sweat Hakeem’s infidelity at all.

  5. Coal. says:

    Nice episodes I really liked the more personal scenes featuring Tanika, Hakeem and Andre. These are the type of characters we are traditionally set up to dislike, but it was nice to move away from the cartoonish villian portrayal to see their more humane sides.

  6. shenelletriplett says:

    Excellent recap, Slezak! I love your take on things. I also would like to point out that the look in Cookie’s eyes when she practically begged Hakeem to forgive her for missing out on his childhood was heartbreaking.

  7. relaxxx says:

    Fabulous episode, great re-cap Michael. Cookies slow strut out that office was like a walk of triumph. She knows she still has what it takes to win. She’s proving all her doubters wrong. She is clawing and fighting her way back into Empire and reclaiming her place as the Queen of Empire. I look forward to the next episode and from Cookies long slurp of that champagne at Lucious’s engagement party you know Cookies not having it. Plus Hakeem n Jamal fighting…… Ooooh I’m excited for the next episode.

  8. scampi says:

    Enjoyed this episode. Am looking forward to more development of other characters like Becky and Michael. Becky couldn’t be the head man’s assistant unless she was sharp. Michael has to be more than a hanger on. Liked the flashbacks–keep em coming. Andre not an artist but nice to see some family love. Maybe Camilla not complete predator but I just don’t like seeing the woman with what to me is a boy. Sorry to say I didn’t recognize Judd Nelson. From his character’s comment more than a couple folks aware of Cookie’s contributions money, talent etc. Not at all surprise Lucious carrying a gun. Want to know more about his early life. Love Cookie knows all, but Anika has to have a few winning traits/skills or it wouldn’t be interesting.

  9. LaLa says:

    I like the way the action has calmed down and we’ve started getting great story. There are so many undercurrents with all of these characters – they all are being fleshed out so well. I mean, there’s even potential material for the assistants (what are Becky’s and Porsha’s backstories?) I loved the inclusion of the Nation of Islam and watching Cookie bond with Titan’s mother (and getting the ball rolling). It’s great to get these previously underrepresented glimpses of AA culture and life. It is well done and long overdue.

  10. TigerLIL says:

    Great recap this week what a funny commentator he always has some cleaver metaphor in the game to keep you on the research button AKA Oedipal. For me the show was uncanny not because of the shenanigans this week but the coming storm in the weeks to come with Cookie running for her life and Lucious marring his Boo Boo kitty which will air with a dagger announcement soon.

    This is going to put some S**t in the game cause now Boo Boo Kitty becomes a legal air to the Empire throne and potential fortune. Once the marriage takes place Cookie is going to lose her leverage and knowing the high fluting debutante Mz. Boo Boo Kitty is gonna stick it to her. Kitty Boo Boo will be holding all the cards until the business minded son surmises the meaning to his eventual control of the empire and plots to re-level the playing field repositioning his mother who he knows is not getting her just dues. Stay tuned…And I will say this, never underestimate a bond between a mother and the children she bore, it may be distant, cut, shattered or even dismantled as it is in this case but it can always be re-established. Cookie sons are going to instinctively protect their mother and the new wiffy gonna have a real Lyon pride experience. And wait until they find out Lucious smoked Bunky ooh wee….Cookie is going to be fighting for her life and the street alliances Cookie formed in the game are going to protect her life, and they are going to be some of Lucious enemies. See the street got rules to the game too… Lucious is just what Bunky called him ” a punk ass gansta I got another term of endearment a punk ass B***…well you know the rest.

  11. Lila says:

    Does Lucious cheat on Anika, or was that that just harmless flirting he was doing at the club right before Billy showed up?

    • TigerLIL says:

      Lila could be well his ex-wife sure knows he likes to keep a side bar rolling…In a two past episodes she eluded to him liking young women and letting his little head think for his big one… lol

  12. Lisa Ware says:

    I think you’re missing an important aspect of why Lucious gave Titan the $1.7mm. I don’t think it’s far-fetched. No Titan does have the money, but having it come from Lucious shows Titan that he cares about him more than making money. That he really wants to help, of course with a little revenge attached and maybe Titan is just done with Baretti stealing from him. Lucious and Titan have more in common and Lucious took the time to come see him in jail. I can see why Titan signs with Lucious.

  13. Michelle says:

    I’m REALLY LOVING EMPIRE this show has a very talented cast…. T. P Henson is DOMINATING her role as Cookie they couldn’t have chosen a better actress…. I LOVED HER SINCE “BABY BOY” T. Howard is still his same sexy multi-talented self😙😙😙😙…. Great job Fox Network YOU’VE FINALLY GOT A SHOW worth watching on your network…. Kudos #TeamEmpire#@foxnetwork1

  14. tish says:

    This show reminds me of Dynasty. I remember when I was a kid watching and listening to my mom and aunts watching “their story”.Lol Sitting on the phone gossiping and laughing at the cat fights between Crystal and Alexis. This show is a great updated version with a cast who play well of each other.

  15. Lottie Davis says:

    My Favorite Show!! I can’t wait from one week to the next week to see what is going to happen next! I always know when “Tariq” (did I spell that right?) is playing in a movie, I gotta see it! She is so great! And lets not forget Terence. I am happy to see the affection his role shows about his feeling toward “Cookie”.

  16. hannah wilburn says:

    Terrance haword is lucious real name