Empire kicked off its sixth (and final) season much the same way it did its fifth: with a killer flash-forward sequence that teases the death of a major character. The big difference this time around is that instead of Lucious standing over the coffin he’s inside of it. At least that’s our read on the cold open, which ends with the Lyon patriarch taking three bullets to the upper body by an unknown assailant.
The episode then flashes back nine months to the present day, which finds an in-disguise Lucious very much alive and still on the run from the Feds while Cookie parlays her 15 minutes of social media fame into a guest co-hosting gig on a View-esque talk show. With his parents otherwise engaged, Andre — who appears to be fully recovered from last season’s cancer/heart transplant double whammy — takes the helm of Empire and uses his newfound authority to spearhead a feature film about his family’s rise to music superstardom (starring — wait for it — Hakeem as Lucious).
However, Andre’s reign is quickly beset by multiple crises, the primary one being the return of his old prison “buddy” Mouse, who’s looking to collect on an outstanding make-good. The tension between the two builds throughout the hour and leads to Mouse’s death at (literally) Andre’s hands. The episode-ending murder is juxtaposed with Andre’s expectant baby-mama Teri going into extremely violent labor while alone in their bedroom.
* Jamal’s permanent relocation to London (to accommodate portrayer Jussie Smollett’s much-publicized exit) is fleetingly addressed during Cookie and Becky’s impromptu “slumber party.”
* Speaking of Becky, the all-female label she launched with Giselle gets off to a shaky start after they discover that the first big artist they signed harbors a few career-killing idiosyncrasies (for one, she can’t sing outside of her bedroom).
* The chanteuse that fugitive Lucious is cozying up to during his time off the grid is revealed to be none other than the daughter of his arch nemesis Damon Cross.
* As we teased earlier this week, “White Tracy” has been installed as Empire’s new co-owner as appeasement for saving Andre’s life (via her late son Kingsley’s still-beating heart).
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