Empire Lola

Bye, Lola! Why Empire's Latest Clumsy Arc Is Part of a Worrisome Trend

“Guess that’s that, huh?”

With just four simple words, Empire seemingly said “girl, bye” to the character of Lola, the daughter that Jamal Lyon supposedly conceived with his ex (Raven Symone’s Olivia), but who we learned toward the end of Season 1 had actually been fathered by Jamal’s dad Lucious.

Thirteen months later, though, it turns out that the long unseen Lola could be a loose thread in the tapestry being woven by EPs Ilene Chaiken, Lee Daniels and Danny Strong. You see, Grace Gealey’s Anika is pregnant, and the baby daddy is Jamal’s younger brother Hakeem. That unborn baby’s status as “sole heir” is now the key to an arc in which Anika can flex some power against Lucious (her one-time fiancé), Cookie and the entire Lyon clan.

Thus, just as you’d pluck that loose thread and toss it into the back-alley Dumpster, this week’s Empire sent human cartoon Thirsty Rawlings to a playground to yank out a strand of little Lola’s hair — leading to the least dramatic paternity reveal since Maury Povich rose from the ashes of 100,000 contested births. As the Lyons gathered around and heard Anika’s news, this is the conversation that ensued:

ffEMP-S2_214-sc22-ch_0073_f_hires1Jamal: Technically, if we’re talking about heirs, we need to find Lola.
Lucious: No, we don’t. You’re not the father.
Cookie: How do you know that, Lucious?
Lucious: Had a DNA test done. Her daddy’s name is a Marcus Jones. Sorry.
Jamal: Guess that’s that, huh?

Ummm, what? The last time the subject of Lola came up, Lucious claimed he was the one who “put the baby in [Olivia].” (Ewww.) Granted, Olivia’s psychotic boyfriend was holding everyone at gunpoint at the time, but the look on Olivia’s face all but corroborated the tale. So how is it that Jamal was back to thinking he might be the bio-dad? More importantly, though, Jamal was positively smitten with the little girl — writing songs for Lola and breaking up with documentarian boyfriend Ryan after he said he didn’t want kids — rendering wholly unbelievable his shoulder-shrug response to Lucious’ latest DNA test.

I wouldn’t be so bothered by the sudden and random fumbling of the Lola storyline were it not part of a larger trend of sloppily dropped arcs that’s been plaguing Empire in Season 2, and dragging down what would otherwise be an enviable batting average.

Empire camilla diesTwo episodes back, Fox’s ratings juggernaut offed corporate raider Mimi Whiteman — and her wife Camilla — so quickly and haphazardly that I actually called my colleague Vlada Gelman to confirm that my episode screener wasn’t somehow missing a crucial scene. (Wait, how exactly did Lucious sneak into the hotel suite and videotape Camilla poisoning/drowning Mimi without getting spotted?!) I get that Marisa Tomei and Naomi Campbell are probably pricey and might’ve had scheduling issues, but given how the entire first half of Season 2 built toward their takeover of Empire Entertainment, it seemed inconceivable that both of them would take dirt naps just two episodes later.

How about Alicia Keys’ diva Skye Summers, who hooked up with Jamal (despite his being gay) and then disappeared like a ketchup smudge in a sink full of Dawn Ultra?

Oh, and remember when the feds declared Uncle Vernon’s death a suicide — even after he showed up decomposing in busty Roxanne Ford’s passenger seat — because… hmmm… some sketchy logic that allowed the writers to call the whole thing off?

empire-recap-courtney-love-elle-dallas-magaged-by-cookieI could go on (is Adam Rodriguez’s Laz dead or just missing?) and on (is Gutter Life still becoming a Christian imprint?) and on (Courtney Love’s Elle Dallas, where are you?), but you catch my drift.

Look, I still enjoy the heck out of Empire most weeks. The Lyon family infighting continues to compel. The inner dealings of the music biz are a nice break from the standard-operating legal/medical/crime-fighting/superhero network fare. And I’ll never grow tired of Cookie, even if 23 years from now, Dick Wolf has taken over as producer and redubbed the show Chicago Music.

But for all of the outrageous addictiveness they’ve created, it’s time for Daniels, Strong and Chaiken to demand better of themselves and their writing staff. Empire‘s one of the few cultural phenomena on the network primetime schedule, but they owe it to their massive viewing audience to stop introducing arcs they can’t see through, and to properly handle the ones already in play.

As Cookie tartly said to Jamal about his new track this week, “Fine, fine, you got it all under control. But you need to tweak that, ’cause it’s not 100, baby!”

Do you think Empire is suffering a sophomore slump? Did the Lola DNA and Mimi-Camilla storylines end too abruptly for your taste? Hit the comments and sound off!

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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43 Comments
  1. mc says:

    Yeah, I didn’t get that, either. “Meh” part of a rather generally strong narrative.

  2. jazzyt2u says:

    Maybe the celebs are getting too busy to continue playing the characters???

  3. Jessica says:

    Lucious just said that to save his sons life. Lola was never his.

  4. Jason says:

    I hate to say it but it feels like empire fell to the sophomore more slump. It went too far into soap opera territory and feels like the characters are trying to be their season one self’s instead of being organic with it.

    • Sally McLinn says:

      I totally agree with this.opinion wholeheartedly. I thought Courtney Love’s arc was going to continue, I mean — she is the best selling artist; right? Where is SHE? And who gives a sh y t about Mimi and Camilla. Their story arc was so short it wasn’t worth showing.
      Come on Lee Daniels and company, get some better writers.

  5. Kate says:

    I actually figured that was Lucious’ bumbled way of telling Jamal he wasn’t the father (information I thought he already knew) and then also hiding that Lucious is the father (they could only tell from a paternity test who wasn’t the father unless they had a sample from the clearly made up Marcus Jones)

  6. Betsy says:

    Sometimes it is better to give a little then a lot. Some shows drag story lines on way too long, but I think it was good not to drag things out that just do not need to be dragged through the mud.

  7. c-mo says:

    Stunt casting is generally a bad idea since the actors are busy and/or too expensive but that should not be news to these veteran EP’s.

  8. Steven says:

    Given how Ilene Chaiken destroyed The L Word how is anyone surprised by this?

  9. RZ says:

    Agree. These last couple of episodes have been messy, and there are all sorts of holes and inconsistencies in the plot.

  10. Hakeem says:

    Why did Luscious wait all this time to get a DNA test done? What really was he hoping to find and why now?when did he get a sample from Jamal?Too many loose ends.

    • Fjóla says:

      He wouldn’t need a sample from Jamal, he could use his own DNA and look for a familial match. But how he managed to figure out who the real father is is a bigger mystery.

  11. Alex says:

    It’s a common trend basically on every TV show nowadays. Quality writing is almost inexistent, as if their Scrivener crashes every other day and they have no idea what they’ve been writing before.

  12. dan says:

    I’ve been reading the recaps, which was probably a bad idea, because I find myself less and less enthused about catching up. When I read about the way they got rid of Naomi Campbell’s character, I just thought … meh. And the whole Anika storyline seems really boring for her character.

  13. Sally McLinn says:

    I totally agree with this. wholeheartedly. I thought Courtney Love’s arc was going to continue, I mean — she is the best selling artist; right? Where is SHE? And who gives a sh y t about Mimi and Camilla. Their story arc was so short it wasn’t worth showing.
    Come on Lee Daniels and company, get some better writers.

  14. THANK YOU! Finally someone agrees with me! I get that bloopers happen but this Lola one was too much. Like many other shows the writers are either getting big heads and therefore think that whatever they write is perfect, or they are getting to lax and sloppy!!!!

  15. The truth says:

    I totally agree with you. I mean they have these big reveals that were good but they wash it under the rug the next episode. Like when Hakeem got kidnapped. Great reveal but the next episode was such a let down. They’ve been doing that all season. Fox doesn’t know what to do when they have a hit show. The always run it to the ground a ruin it. No wonder the rating have been getting worst and worst. They need to go back to the beginning

  16. Melanie M says:

    I totally agree with your analysis of the problem, Michael. I appreciate the fact that they keep the plot moving but lately the writers have completely lost the logic on a show that was not big on reality to begin with. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt in getting rid of the Mimi, Camilla, and Skye characters-I think Lee Daniels realized that the show had gone off the rails with all of the guest stars detracting from the meat of the Lyon family story but the writing has got to tighten up. I will keep watching due to the awesome acting but Daniels and his co-writers need to right the ship-and soon.

  17. Xavier says:

    Empire sucks. Period. Lost its mojo season two. Too late. They jumped the shark early with all those stupid guest stars. I’ve stopped watching and ive gone back to classic tv on Wednesday nights. Antenna tv THE JEFFERSONS AND ALL IN THE FAMILY.

  18. tee says:

    No, it might come out later that they lied about the dna test.

  19. DavidSask says:

    Owners of show allowing every single celeb friend to be stunt casted from start so of course be failure writing. Lets hope they read his and correct thy self fast!!!

  20. JUANITA MOORE PRICE says:

    Yes it seems to be just too many loose ends that come up and then they’re gone before you know it and you don’t really know what happened

  21. lululimon says:

    I feel as though the show is basically Cookie kicking people out of a room so that she can have the same conversation with each son over and over again. This happened so many times in the past 2 episodes alone. I thought the second half of this season would be an epic battle between Camilla and Cookie, and … they obviously changed their minds. Right now, the Andre/Rhonda/Boo Boo Kitty story and the Hakeem/Laura stories are why I’m watching.

  22. Valerie says:

    Hey yall,first off let me start by saying I am a diehard empire fan, love me some lyon! Seriously though that whole portrayal of lol in previous episodes as a huge deal then just to write her off in a mere sentence that shocked me, us all I say, I must confess the past couple weeks I have been noticing flaws in the screenplay but I’m not giving up on empire yet,I’m hoping the writers will up there game and give us that drama we oh so long but keep us convicted at te same time!!!

  23. Laura Harrington says:

    Yes, I’m all cofused. Let’s not forget about Rhonda being pushed down the stairs and losing the baby. No investigating on that anymore. And what about the end of Episode 18, is Leslie Uggams coming in as Lucious’ dead mother. The storyline is all over the place with no endings to them.

  24. Cadence says:

    I’ve been asking it all along Season 2: What the hell is happening?! THIS is NOT the show that had me hooked in its freshman year. It’s messy, ill-written, and mostly disappointing. I’m so close to removing it from my DVR, ’cause I’m like “MEH”.

  25. Teddye says:

    The show has great stars now — why bring in the BIG name stars for 1 espisode — writers had good story going, but now it’s all the over the place. Empire needs to write about the Lyons family and use the great talent the show began with —- use only 1 MEGAstar a year as guest

  26. M_M_Pollard says:

    Empire just about lost me when Lucious somehow gets into Camilla and Mimi’s hotel room without being seen — #1. #2, he just happens to show up when Camilla decides to poison Mimi. #3: he is able to persuade Camilla to kill herself. She’s too sharp not to have a backup plan. She could have called 911 and reported him in their room with a dead Mimi. Okay, maybe Lucious would have shot her, but still she could have tried something. #4: Anika’s pregnancy — really? that’s how they’re going to make a storyline for Anika? #5: MOM isn’t dead? What??? #6: Stealing the clothes? Lucious is getting too vicious, and he’s not much fun anymore.
    I’ll give the show another week or so to see where they are going with Freda and Frank story. I like Freda.

  27. dolfandan1972 says:

    I didn’t know what it was, but something didn’t seem smooth anymore. After reading this article now I know what it is, exactly as stated, they are all over the place. But I am still addictive. Love it, and will hate to see it end.

  28. Kathy says:

    No!!!!!

  29. kat says:

    Yes I agree if has hit a wall. The writing is not fresh anymore nor is it as creative as season 1 was. The only thing keeping it interesting at this point is Cookie. Will watch another episode but if not any better I see another show being cancelled!

  30. Vickie Osborne says:

    Seems this show just doesn’t have anything left to give. A one season pony. It has gotten boring and sure isn’t helping racism.

  31. Latisha says:

    As an urban fiction writer myself, you don’t give the audience too much info and then you won’t have the surprises and twist and turns and some things you want your audience to come up with on their own. Its fiction. Luscious got money and he hood so he can get into anywhere and so on and etc

  32. Frederick. Smith says:

    No actually. Lola only dhowing ip ond time. Actually puts her moyher to shame by not knowing. Whose the father anyway. And the other statement. I want to make is camille and mimi was too thirsty for. Power. Remember the. Saying. Live by the sword die by the sword I like the punchline

  33. mary says:

    I was waiting on thriller freida is actually cookies dtr fathered by Chris rock during their days when she sold drugs for him?????

  34. Olga says:

    Bring Lola back proving she is Jamal’s baby girl after all. But make the scenes more interesting. Even bring Ms. Symone back but maybe have her become part of the family because of Lola. More interesting more action!!! Love the show great musi and great characters.😆

  35. Ola says:

    Totally! I mean I adored Lola, I loved her character, and to just unceremoniously dump her character, plus since when do DNA tests tell you the father’s name without a sample from him? I mean once her DNA didn’t match Jamal or Lucious, I would think that’s the end of it. The kinda magic Lucious performed getting into that hotel beats me to death, I mean really? And just like that they are dead. Hmm!

  36. karenb says:

    S1 was excellent. But this show has gone totally off the rails in S2.

  37. chris says:

    Well said , this season has my head spinning with the pace and things start and are dropped or wrapped up , lose the pricey guest stars , bring back some drama that lasts and while ur at it bring back lola , the dna got it wrong lol

  38. Ally Oop says:

    I completely agree with this article. The stories have gotten too sloppy lately.

  39. mrmcgee says:

    You stated exactly what has been bugging me! There’s one thing to burn through story and another to just drop arcs, especially after they’ve been built up so much like the Mimi/Camilla story. You mean these two scheming villains would just go down like that?