Empire Recap: Destiny's Guile

Dismiss Empire‘s petulant Latina diva as “Guadalupe” at your own risk. Write off young, never-smiled-at-nothing rapper Freda Gathers as “some random hood rat” if you dare. Chuckle as budding egomaniac Hakeem Lyon boasts that his barely formed girl-group is ready for a satellite radio appearance — all while his moms Cookie gives him her sternest “I’ma beat you with a broom” facial expression.

Like professional sports, MTV reality programming and that inexplicable store in your local mall that goes by the name of “deb,” the music business is for the young. Sure, self-proclaimed gods like Lucious Lyon may run it, but at a certain point, even they have to sit on the sidelines, soaking up shine like Real Housewives craning for position during an Andy Cohen-hosted reunion special.

EMP203_Sc45_0451r_hires1Granted, none of these young tricks would have the foggiest idea of how to exit a dinner soirée with all of the glamorous nasty conjured up by Cookie during her ex-hubby’s conciliatory “let’s reunite the family” feast. And no, they don’t have the kind of bankroll to pull off Lucious’ “I just bought the radio station — and your artist” end-of-episode twist. But I appreciate Empire‘s writers not shying away from the fact that — for better or worse — access to Auto-Tune and the ability to drop one’s assets to the floor is what keeps Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez atop the Billboard Hot 100, while Christina Aguilera is relegated to a red chair and wondering why her last record didn’t even go Gold, let alone Platinum. (If you don’t share our outrage, please watch the “Your Body” video — then hurl something breakable against a wall.)

Forgive me, though, because I am really not trying to compose a letter to Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Ilene Chaiken begging them to cast Xtina in a recurring Season 3 role — not that there’d be anything wrong with it. Instead, let me get to the business of recapping “Fires of Heaven”:

REMEMBER THIS MOMENT IF THANKSGIVING GOES POORLY, K? | Lucious invites Cookie, Jamal, Andre, Rhonda and Hakeem for dinner — and offers to forget his kids’ corporate takeover and all their betrayals if they’ll give up the Lyon Dynasty scheme and rejoin him in the Empire fold. He then gives an ill-advised speech about choking down pride — “It’s chewy, and it’s hard to swallow.” — forgetting that humble is a color Cookie purged from her wardrobe back in the early ’90s. She rises up, grabs the table runner, and walks with all the ferocity of Linda Evangelista at a Karl Lagerfeld show — the banquet tumbling to the floor in her wake. Did you get the message, Lucious? I’m sure you will during the 20 million rewinds that Empire fans will make happen before Thursday morning rolls around.

Empire203_sc25_0505r_hires1PITBULL-ONEY | Lucious plans a high-profile “welcome home from jail!” concert for himself — ugh, he is just THE WORST — but when he tries to recruit Anika in his efforts to squash Lyon Dynasty, she double-crosses him (hurrah!) and goes to Cookie (double hurrah!). Mama Lyon reads her for filth (“Let me guess, those five job offers never happened? Are your knees sore? Did you run out of lubricant?”) before joining forces with her arch rival, whose exasperated compliment (“I get it, I get it: You are the baddest bitch ever. You are badder than all the animals whose prints populate your wardrobe”) may be one of Empire‘s greatest one-liners ever. Team Lyon Dynasty crashes the party — unplugging the track on Jamal and Pitbull’s catchy duet, leading into Hakeem’s daddy-dis track that is blazing hot in both its paternal rebuke and its rapid-fire delivery. (Even Jamal has to give his brother a proud-yet-irritated wink.) It’s a direct hit to Lucious’ pride, but it won’t be the last punch thrown during the hour.

EMP203_Sc45_0518_hires1MENAGE A NAH | Ours is not to question who is funding Cookie and Hakeem’s startup Lyon Dynasty label, Lyon Dynasty, but rather to enjoy the sight of Mama Lyon putting her son’s Latina girl group through their paces like they’re unsuspecting grunts and she’s a Marine bootcamp instructor. (“Everybody wants to be Beyoncé — but you don’t want to put in the work!”) Just as Hakeem gets ready to unveil Mirage a Trois on Sway’s radio show, however, Lucious swoops in with the news that he’s not only bought the station (burn!) but also signed lead singer/Hakeem’s latest conquest Valentina to a solo contract. Lucious acts like he’s won the war – “rest in peace, baby,” he coos to Cookie — but his ex (in the style of Alanis Morissette) is here, to remind him: “You keep forgetting Lucious — you can’t keep Cookie down.”

AND BABY MAKES… NO IMPACT WHATSOEVER | Andre starts the episode begging for his dad’s forgiveness — and even gives him the idea to acquire Apex radio that results in Lucious’ final power play this week. But Lucious is colder than Kris Jenner after learning one of her kids isn’t down with a staged paparazzi encounter, telling Andre he’s no better or worse than 50 other MBAs who’d like the Empire CFO gig. “Maybe you should pray on it,” Papa Lyon sneers, after Andre looks confounded by his request to bring him something “that no one else can.”

Later, when Cookie realizes Andre will never be happy at Lyon Dynasty — that his heart belongs to Empire — she encourages him to use Rhonda’s pregnancy to get back in Lucious’ good graces. “Sometimes you’ve gotta pull at those heartstrings to get paid. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.” But when he follows through, once again, Lucious rejects the son who wants his love the most. “You are breaking my heart — the fact that you’re using this right now to get what you want from me,” Lucious says, before brushing off Andre like a potato chip crumb on a navy-blue polo shirt (#WriteWhatYouKnow). And then, like last week, Lucious flashes back to his own manic-depressive mother — flying high from a shopping spree for toys that will mean she and young Lucious can’t eat. Suddenly, we see the reason for the way he keeps Andre at arm’s length — but given all Lucious has been through, you’d think he’d be just a teensy bit better at navigating his own psychological kryptonite.

Empire203_Sc34_0280_hires1FREDA’S GOT TALENT | Remember the ill-fated Frank Gathers’ teen daughter (the one to whom Lucious promised to “slip a bone”)? Well, the fearless (and now free) head of Empire tracks her down at a rap battle where she pulls a gun rather than dropping the mic. Lucious drags her away from doing something stupid — “Baby, don’t do something that you can’t come back from!” — but his repeated refrain that the girl means everything to him musically leaves Jamal feeling jealous. Just as Becky convinces her boss/buddy to seek out Cookie to produce his record, though, Lucious pulls up in a limo, and drops this kernel of crazy: “You need a god to produce you.” Apparently, that god is Lucious. Pass intercepted. Jamal is back in Lucious’ clutches, and the Horrible Jamal-Cookie Feud of 2015 continues!

What did you think of this week’s Empire? Is Lucious too hard on Andre? Will Cookie and Hakeem succeed at Lyon Empire? 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. Al says:

    Empire, what is going on here?!?!
    I don’t mind a slower pace but I feel the storyline is getting repetitive. I wanna see more of the supporting characters like Anika.

    I will give Empire 2-3 eps before I drop it (which I am holing I don’t have to because I loved S1)

    • ChrisGa says:

      I’m with you; this season has been decidedly underwhelming thus far, especially after the heights every episode in season one scaled.

    • Annie says:

      They need to do a better job of incorporating Anika and Rhonda, but Anika’s scenes were great tonight. They need to show that she can bring something to the company that Cookie can’t, so that they can justify her existence.

      • Al says:

        This!!! I am tired of the 3 kids

      • tark says:

        This show is based on the “LYONS”, it’s not the Anika and Rhonda show. They are used accordingly, anything else and this show would not be the success it is right now.

        • LT says:

          Ummm, Rhonda IS a Lyon. Know your characters.

        • Mzjuicey says:

          Yess girl u r so rite love.💖 tha show.

          • tark says:

            Thanks for acknowledging what’s right about the show. There are a lot of excellence shows airing in 2015 that showcases the Whole America population. People have been brainwashed into thinking that their nationality or ethnicity wasn’t worthy of public viewing and that’s very disturbing. Those people who denied it won’t apologize because in their warped minds only they can please the people! Please “POST”. Don’t be afraid of posting free speech.

    • Sally McLinn says:

      I don’t get Anika. First she’s with Lucious, then Judd Nelson, then back with Lucious and then Hakeem, and then Cookie. I don’t think the writers know what to do with her character.

  2. Annie says:

    This was the best episode of the season. It was so fun. I love Cookie clearing the table. I think she did it for her kids, they looked miserable during dinner. I still want more Rhonda and Andre, they are being wasted. I also need Jamal to get a clue, especially since he’s accomplished nothing during the first three episodes. All that he’s done is whine.

  3. Mimi says:


  4. 101 says:

    what happened to empire? FOX 18 episodes seriously

  5. Antwon303 says:

    I don’t get the complaints. I think the pace is fine. It’s different than season one but there will only be one freshman season. How repetitive would it be for them to try to duplicate that? Let them tell the story. We still have nine episodes left. We all know things are going to heat up. They have to lay the ground work. I think many were spoiled by season one’s fast pace and back to back OMG no they didn’t moments. I think now they are just sprinkled in the episodes. To each his/her own of course. It’s not perfect but I am still enjoying it and find it entertaining. The hour still flies by for me. I think they are trying to find a balance and the tone for the start of the season is what we are seeing.

    I agree with the poster who said they need to use Porsha, Anika and Tianna more. I don’t care about Selena Gomez 2.0 but even tonight she served a purpose as a weapon to hurt Lyon Dynasty. I think the ride will only get crazier as the first half of season two advances.

    Patience people :-)

    • N says:

      🙏🙏🙏I bow to u

    • Antwon303 says:

      Sorry, I meant six episodes left before the winter hiatus.

    • Annie says:

      I agree, but I’d add Rhonda and Andre to the mix. Andre has had some great scenes the past two weeks, but he is still stuck in quick sand. Rhonda is great, but she’s barely on.

      While I love the episode, Jamal needs to do more than just complain. I am glad that they are developing the fact that he’s always been jealous of Hakeem. I saw signs of that last season, even though it is clear that Jamal loves his brother.

    • Mary says:

      It was better this week, but something is missing not sure what. Maybe it is the fact that Jamal is a creative type, not one who can run a Empire so it seems to drag on. Maybe I did get use to the fast pace, but IMO I think they slowed it down too much. Oh well, I will hang in there for awhile.

  6. Allison says:

    The music was definitely better this week that one thing is for sure. Luscious is really annoying with his self proclamation of being a god. After his lackluster performance last week, he should really scale back the ego. I really wish he would lay off Andre, but given his childhood issues with his mom, that is not likely to happen. Luscious doesn’t like weakness and he is definitely afraid that the bipolar disorder will pass to his grandchild so it is likely that he won’t have anything to do with the grandson either. Hakeem killed it tonight and even Jamal’s performance with Pit Bull was awesome – again much better music than last week’s episode. It ticked me off the way Luscious used Andre’s idea of buying the Apex radio stations, but still shunned him so coldly. I am really hoping somebody somewhere will pop Luscious in the face. I don’t care if it is with a fist or chair or a bat – just sock him one good time and maybe he will go somewhere and sit down. Jamal is still drinking the kool-aid as far as his father is concerned. He should know that Luscious is going to do what is best for Luscious and the sooner he realizes that the better off he will be. I can’t wait to see what Hakeem and Cookie pull off at their label. I didn’t think Luscious stealing Valentina was all that big of a deal. He has stolen other artists before as payback so that little stunt was nothing new. Cookie will bounce back. She did 15 years in prison so what Luscious did was nothing. She’ll be back. It was nice to see in the promo for next week that the Vernon issue will be addressed finally and Hakeem confronts Luscious! Hakeem is no longer being a punk! Yay!

  7. Brian says:

    Easily the best episode so far this season. Enjoyed most of the scenes, but I do wish they would use the supporting cast more than they are. I want to see more of Anika, Becki, Rhonda & Porsha.

  8. MattySi says:

    Does anyone happen to know who the other two girls in Menage a Trois were? One of the other girls looks so familiar to me but I didn’t hear a name or anything for the character

  9. Relaxx says:

    I realize not everyone will adjust to the slower pacing but the show would burn it self out if they continued at such a fast pace. I agree that Porsha, Becki, and Anika needs to be used more. I think the audience needs more relationships to root for. There are too many random hook ups. There’s no slow burn relationships or power couple. The platonic relationships like Becki and Jamal for example need more development too. I really enjoyed the episode but I truely feel everything will work better if tptb go deeper with the platonic and romantic relationships. The music and guest appearances are great but it’s the core cast I’m invested in.

  10. Win says:

    “none of these young tricks…” iDied

  11. LT says:

    No Cookie = No Empire.

    I have zero interest in this show without this character…and she brought it in this episode.

  12. wrstlgirl says:

    So far I am bored to death. So disappointed.

  13. Mama Grizzly says:

    Luscious is manipulating Andre, like he always does. Luscious is still grooming all 3 sons to run Empire. Luscious knows that Andre knows where Vernon is, and Luscious will give Andre no mercy until he comes clean about Vernon. Cookie is a mogul in her own right and she will war with Luscious until he comes to grips with this. That being said, she is capable of creating a successful business in Lyon Dynasty. I think that Cookie and Luscious will eventually settle their battle via a Lyon Dynasty/Empire merger.