Empire Recap: Get Rich or Try Dynasty

Like the wide white lapels of Cookie’s Chanel-plaid jumpsuit, it’s the “Are you kidding me?” details that make Empire so ridiculously delicious.

A hard-charging prosecutor shows up to court with a La Perla bra pushing her cleavage higher than a Patti LaBelle glory note. A guy named Thirsty (!) — with a law degree from the University of Guam (!!) — lands a job defending one of the richest and most powerful men in music. And not even Fox’s own highly paid American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez is safe from the vicious tongue of the Lyon family matriarch.

Sure, this week’s installment completely denies us a single sighting of Porsha, Becky and (as Lucious would put it) that… lesbian… bitch Mimi Whiteman. And yes, there’s more back-back-forth-and-forth of loyalties and motivations than Aaliyah’s debut single. (If you’re too young to get that reference, click here and thank me in the comments).

But when a good chunk of the action takes place in Ghetto-Ass Studios, when Cookie is once again wielding a broom in Hakeem’s presence, and when Lucious has you singing along to a jam called “Snitch Bitch” — and wondering if he’s somehow deduced who sold him out — it’s hard to complain too much. So let’s get to recapping the action in “Without a Country.”

Empire202_sc11_0578r_hires1HUSTLE AND FLOWER | The hour opens with the recently fired Cookie, Andre and Hakeem kicking rocks — with their cardboard boxes of personal effects (including Mama Lyon’s orchid) — from Empire HQ, and then a montage of scenes in which the trio set a plan in motion to start their own label (though Anika’s possible participation draws Cookie’s vehement and unsolicited veto).

Cookie is most focused on getting new music from Hakeem and Tiana (who’s got a hot single, but apparently can no longer afford pants now that she’s left the major-label system); Andre seems to be struggling to keep things professional (in a less-than-professional setting); and Hakeem is suddenly obsessed with creating a multi-racial girl group he wants to call Rainbow Sensation. (At least Cookie and Anika can agree: That name is just bloody awful.)

Hakeem takes “taste the rainbow” to new and skeevy levels (sorry for going there) by bedding Valentina (guest star Becky G), an ambitious and charismatic chica who already considers herself a Beyoncé (post-Destiny’s Child, natch). “With or without you,” she huffs at her audition, “I shine.” (Oh, and she says it in Spanish first, then translates for her “bitch” benefactors.) “She crazy,” sighs Hakeem. “I love her.” #LOL

Ultimately, though, Hakeem is frustrated that his multi-ethnic idea is being stymied by the fact that he’s only found two candidates — and they’re both Latina. “Ain’t nothing wrong with a couple of J.Los — as long as they can sing,” interjects his mother. Anika, however, finally exits stage left when she tries to step with Cookie, and Mama Lyon delivers this TKO punch: “Let me tell you something, ho. If it weren’t for women like me, bitches like you would spend a lifetime on your knees — or underneath my 20-year-old son.” Ohhhh, she went there, all right. For a second, I thought Cookie’s vitriol toward Boo-Boo Kitty seemed a little overzealous, but the whole reminder about how she went from Cookie’s ex to her son kinda made the rage resonate, no?

Empire202_sc7_0138_hires1CELL-BLOCK TANGO | Meanwhile, back in prison, Lucious’ medication goes missing — and Officer M. Knight (Ludacris) implies that if Papa Lyon cooperates with the prosecutor, he’ll get ’em back faster. Who should pop up in the visiting room by Thirsty Rawlins, who’s apparently well-versed in Roxanne Ford’s dirty tricks — and that knowledge trumps his cheap suit and dubious degree. He’s hired — and he promptly gets Lucious his meds as well as bootlegged recording equipment with which he can cut the straight-outta-lockup jam “Snitch Bitch” (which, for the record, hits harder than The Good Wife‘s “Thicky Trick”).

While Knight breaks up the recording session and threatens that he could kill Lucious with “no consequences” — after all, he’d be “just another dead rapper” — Lucious looks almost amused as he’s tossed into solitary confinement. “You and that bitch Miss Ford make mistakes,” he smiles, as friendly as if he was ordering a soft-serve from an ice-cream truck. “I don’t.”

Knight gets beaten to a pulp in the parking lot shortly thereafter, and who should wind up with the demo but Thirsty — who leaks it to radio (Cookie can’t deny it’s fire) and then heads to court where (armed with with last-minute BDSM pics of the judge) gets Lucious out on $1 million bail. (Anyhow, dude isn’t a flight risk: If he left town, how would he emotionally scar his children?)

Empire202_Sc6_0540_previewMEANWHILE, BACK AT THE EMPIRE | Jamal is trying to juggle running the label and maintaining his artistic relevance, though if I’m being honest, the awful distortion at the end of  “I Was Born to Love You” makes Cher’s “Believe” sound totally naturalistic. He’s also giving total non-answers to an Entertainment Tonight-type journalist — with Michael serving as a pretty bauble in the kitchen — a setup that’s interrupted by Cookie at her most “on.” All she wants is for Jamal to give Hakeem his music back. “Lucious is trying to make you like him — but you ain’t him,” she says, squeezing his jaw, then, as the elevator closes, tossing a grenade into the hall that she and Andre and Hakeem are starting their own label.

Jamal and Lucious finally decide Empire needs Hakeem — or at least his music — but despite some not-entirely-unsweet overtures from his big brother, Jamal rejects the offer and then leaks the demos of his Empire-owned CD to the internet. Jamal says he’ll “sue the drawers off [Hakeem’s] black ass,” but his threat has all the bite of a kitten digging into a bowl of Fancy Feast. Hakeem — young and beautifully cocky — struts out of Jamal’s house/life and promises to send VIP passes for Jamal and Lucious when he plays Madison Square Garden.

Episode 202, Without A CountryWHERE’S ANDRE? WHAT HAPPENED TO ANDRE? | As he often is, Andre seems the most isolated Lyon. He doesn’t seem to have any real joy as he sulks around Ghetto-Ass Studios, and eventually, Rhonda goes to secretly meet with Jamal and beg the kingpin to forgive his brother. She also lets slip that she’s pregnant — and I wonder if she’s playing a long con or just genuinely trying to help her husband in the moment. Time will tell.

Andre finally goes to Cookie and shares his turmoil. “Mom, this is not me,” he says sadly, begging her to let him to — but to where? When he goes to prison to beg Lucious’ forgiveness, his father quietly asks about whether he still goes to church. When he answers in the affirmative, Lucious seethes back: “Good. You pray to God that he forgives you — because I don’t.” And then suddenly Papa Lyon is flashing back to his own childhood, as his mother sings “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and gets spaced out by the halfway mark — though what her deal is is hard to tell.

At the end of the hour, Andre’s destination remains unknown, but we do have Cookie and Hakeem, sweeping up their warehouse space and envisioning a label called Lyon Dynasty.

Not a bad name for a label — and not a bad nod to the soap opera creator Lee Daniels often references as one of his inspirations.

What did you think of Empire‘s Season 2 Episode 2? Sound off 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. John says:

    I think Empire might be losing its mojo a bit

    • Amanda says:

      They need some episodes that move the story along without being over the top. Wasn’t Lucious’ mother mentally ill like Andre? Thus the flashback.

      • Annie says:

        Yes, I believe that was the point, but we will get more information as the season progresses.

      • Janice Banks says:

        Yes, and that is why Andre will never head Empire

        • Bigdede says:

          I think Andre is really Lucious favorite but he distances himself because he doesn’t want to be hurt by Andre’s mental illness like he was his mother’s. I think he would put Andre in charge but he seen how his mother regressed and thinks the same thing will happen to Andre. He doesn’t realize with medication, Andre can run Empire. I think his mother died

          • Annie says:

            I think that Lucious realizes that Andre is the reason why Empire is so successful, and that he and the company need Andre, but he just can’t acknowledge that out loud, or tell Andre.

    • Brian says:

      I’m struggling with Empire this year – the first episode was over the top and then this one was just boring…

    • Antwon303 says:

      I don’t think so. Season one moved it a much faster pace. But they, also dropped stories and plots along the way.I know people who complained about that. The showrunner acknowledged it as one of the things they learned to adjust for season two. I think it’s a good thing. They cannot always move at break-neck speed. There is a huge divide in the Lyon family right now. They have to play that out. I bet you we will see some episodes that move faster with more OMG moments. There will never be another season one. But I think they are nowhere near a sophomore slump. The ratings for the first episode reached 22.5 million viewers after factoring in 3 day DVR/On Demand etc. That’s pretty astonishing.

      • Janice Banks says:

        @antwon303 – You are right, you worded your comment perfect.

      • Catherine M says:

        @antwon303 you said it perfectly! People just need to give it time and I do love how they are taking this season. I also think people will be very surprised at how the season progresses (in a good way) I think the internet in general has just made people way too impatient. I loved the episode:-) I love that Lucious is making new music, I felt Andre really shone this episode, love the arc they are taking with him, his acting is brilliant. Lucious’ new lawyer is fiiiire, hahaha!!

        • Antwon303 says:

          Yes! Give them a few episodes to find a good balance. We all know they can do the fast-pace storytelling. I think it spoiled some people. I get it though. I still say the hour goes way too fast. When I’m watching, I’ll look up and there are only 10 minutes left.

      • Relaxxx says:

        Very true! Last year people complained about Empire being so fast paced this year they slowed it down to make the episodes breath more also they have more time to do it. They went from 13 to 18,episodes. I enjoyed tonights episode personally.

        • Antwon303 says:

          You bring up a great point. FOX knows what they have on their hands and so they ordered 22 episodes but Lee and Danny pushed back…so the compromise was 18. There are going to be a few episodes that are not on steroids. It makes sense to flush out characters, move the stories and reach climatic ending. The stories are unfolding. Just be patient :-)

          • Mary says:

            I hope your right, but that last two episodes I found myself looking at my computer where last year I was glued to the TV. In fact I wouldn’t answer the phone if it rang. It is good but I think it is moving a little to slow for me at this time. I will hang in there for a few more, but after that it is going to DVR and won’t be watching live.

          • Antwon303 says:

            LOL. I said flush out I think the correct word is *flesh* out :-P

      • DL says:

        Very well said. I’m actually enjoying the pace of these opening two episodes more than the first season’s. And as soon as Andre Royo became Lucious’s new lawyer, I was completely sold. Awesome development.

    • vanvon says:

      Wow, it doesn’t take long for viewers like you to start the backlash against a relatively new series – only the second episode of the second season and it’s the END OF THE WORLD! Go and take a cold shower.

    • Fred V says:

      Not yey – this was trult a “move-the-chains” episode, to prep us for something more bombastic to come.

  2. Alan says:

    I was kinda bored :/

  3. Maya says:

    Aside from Andre confronting Lucious, I have never been so bored by an episode of Empire.

  4. Boring long slow and dirty

  5. Matt C. says:

    They really slammed on the brakes this week, huh? It was an okay episode, which for most shows would be fine, but “just okay” is never a phrase I expected to use for Empire.

  6. Bob Loblaw says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for the “Where’s Andre? What happened to Andre?” subheading. That made my night.

  7. jensen says:

    this episode was flat

  8. Annie says:

    The episode was slow, but I’m reminded that a lot of people slammed the show last year for moving too fast. The scene between Andre and Lucious at the end was great. Everything else was lacking.

    • Babe with the Power says:

      I know right! Every episode can’t be perfect. Yeah it was kind of boring but that happens with the best of shows. Every episode can’t be fast paced and action pact and over the top. Sometimes you get filler episodes and sometimes you get episode where not much happens but it’s needed to move to the story along. I’m sure this is leading up to more over the top Empire moments. One bad episode doesn’t damn the whole season. Some of ya’ll need to chill. Like for real this is why we can’t have nice things.

      • Catherine M says:

        This is exactly why we can’t have nice things!!!! The haterade is reeeeeal. It was a slow paced episode but it was great! Can people just chill!!

  9. IMHO says:

    Thank You Michael
    “Where’s Andre ? What happened to Andre ? ”
    One of the Best PR / Tim Gunn moments.
    Santino was hilarious.

  10. taniaha says:

    Tyanna can’t afford pants- ha! I like her character and like to see her back, tho I thought her name was Tiana.
    I thought the Itsy Bitsy Spider scene was alluding to the fact that Lucious’s mother was mentally ill, and that’s why he has a hard time getting along with Andre.
    And how far can Andre be pushed? We’re getting into Shakespearean / Greek tragedy territory.

  11. Brian says:

    So glad Lucious is out. He’s needed at Empire. It’s boring watching Jamal run things.

    • Babe with the Power says:

      I can’t stand Jamal now. He’s turned into such a snake! Like father like son i guess.

    • Annie says:

      I think that Jamal has been the biggest issue. I admire what they are trying to do, but aside from the last scene with Cookie last week, it’s not working. Hopefully, his storyline will pick up next week. I want to see him conflicted about his new personality.

  12. Lena120 says:

    Lucious’s mother appears to be mentally ill. I think that’s why he’s not close to Andre. He probably reminds him of some bad times with her. Or he probably blames himself, because he knows Andre inherited the illness from his side of the family.

    • Bigdede says:

      I would love to see Lucious break down and blame himself for Andre having bipolar because he inherited from his side of the family. This is why I hate they killed Vernon. Vernon could have clued Andre in on Lucious mother being mentally ill then Andre could have a clue as to why his father is like this

  13. mrmcgee says:

    It was a slower episode but appreciated that somewhat. They can’t burn through story too much, and I kinda appreciated some more focus on the music.

  14. Janice Banks says:

    I liked this episode, more than last week. I think season 1 was so awesome, that our expectations are very very high.

  15. laurelnev says:

    Funny…I didn’t find this ep especially slow. I actually enjoyed the pace, as well as the statements it attempted to make. But I also time shifted, and noticed the additional commercials vs last week. Wonder if the additional breaks is what made folks think it was too slow paced?

    • Relaxxx says:

      I didn’t mind the slower pace also. They need to let the stories unfold. You may be right about more commercials making it seem even more slower to others.

  16. kirads09 says:

    I know on twitter Terrence was getting panned for the rapping, but I love every moment of Lucious – singing or not. Loved that this episode was more centered on him. I think his mom may have been bipolar herself (which is why Lucious has issues with Andre) – or was it drugs or something else? We don’t know yet. While I am enjoying it, I feel Empire has lost some spark somehow. Sophomore slump? Can’t quite put my finger on it.

  17. April says:

    I’m shocked with all this talk about creating the next Destiny’s Child in this episode, that no one mentioned Kelly Rowland’s appearance in the flashback.

  18. Allison says:

    First, thank you so much for the “Where’s Andre? What happened to Andre?” That made my morning! My daughter and I both shared aching jaws when that aired on Project Runway!! Well moving on to the episode. I liked only two things about the episode and one was the lawyer named Thirsty (I loved it) and the other was seeing Officer M Knight get the snot beat out of him. I really disliked that character, but I have to hand it to Ludacris, he can play the role of jerk really well. I hate to be one that criticizes the performance of an artist, but Terrence Howard should stick to acting and maybe humming, but please do not have him rap ever again, please. It was hard to watch. I guess because most, if not all, of the other actors on the show are so good at acting and/or singing that the bar was set so high and he more or less tripped over it. Well, regardless, he did his thing so good for him. I have to say that Trai Beyers performance had me gasping and nearly in tears. That portrayal was so amazing. The scenes with Taraji and Terrence were just mind blowing. I really despise what Jamal has become. Talk about a 180. He was a wonderful son and loving brother and father (temporarily) and now he is an all in all through and through douchebag. Well, I keep thinking that it is always darkest before dawn, so I will keep my seething to a simmer for the time being. I can’t remember the name of the girl that was singing so beautifully in the scene with Anika, but wow what a voice. That is what I love about Empire. They bring in these talented people with such rich and beautiful voices and expose them to the world. Of course, there are a few misses along the way, but for the most part, it is phenomenal. Looking forward to the next episode – especially the one where Lenny Kravitz guest stars. I don’t care if he performs or just stands in a corner with a broom – I will be watching!

  19. vanvon says:

    Wow, it doesn’t take long for fickle viewers to turn against a television show. Two episodes in on EMPIRE’s second season and some of you are already to write the series off. This is why we can’t have nice things…

    • Mary says:

      I don’t think anyone is writing it off, they are just voicing their opinion about the pace of the show. The first couple of episodes have dragged. I loved last season, maybe because it was fast pace. I think there is a happy medium but it is not there yet.

  20. Wasthat says:

    I don’t care for Terrence Howard or Lucious. Episodes where he has a lot screen time are never going to be high on my list. I liked the season one Cookie/Jamal dynamic better than the current Cookie/Hakeem. I’ll give it a few more to see what happens, but I’m not as into S2 so far.

  21. Linda says:

    I’m a little disappointed in last night’s episode. That doesn’t mean I am anywhere done with the show though. It’s still a great show! However, I find that I am missing Cookie from last season. It seems she has taken a step backwards. She doesn’t seem the badass as she was. Lucious has now taken that spot. I want my Cookie back. Hopefully, she will return to her badass self in the near future. I don’t like seeing her weak and begging for help as she did with Andre.

    • Annie says:

      I like seeing that Cookie can be both vulnerable and strong, that’s what makes her human. But, I would also like to see both her and Anika show that they are smart business women. That’s one of the things that made season one great. For example, I’m find with Anika sleeping with Mimi, but I wish that we had a scene or two with her and Cookie trying to use their business smarts first, before going this route. And I wish that we had some scenes of Cookie having to work to get the money to launch her new business.

  22. Jan says:

    Wasn’t as interesting as most of last season’s episodes.

  23. Roberta says:

    Done with Empire. Slow, boring and too over the top. Same story every week, family fighting over empire. Nothing ever happens. Between Terrence Howard’s lack of any ability to sing, and his abuse of women in his personal life, I can’t support any show he’s in. Also, any show that would give Al Sharpton screen time is a show I can’t respect. Bye bye Empire.

  24. Aryiona says:

    I wonder if Hakeem Spanish girl friend is ……