Empire Episode 8 Recap

“The Lyons Roar”

Photo Courtesy of Chuck Hodes/FOX via www.billboard.com

Episode 8 is the antithesis to episode 7’s family theme; in fact “The Lyons Roar” shatters the whole feel-good family vibe we saw last week.  Episode 8 opens with a flashback to Cookie discovering her guilty verdict and being carted off to jail in front of her babies. Focusing on Hakeem as a babe in Lucious’ arms is a clue into the young man he is today, later this scene ties back to why Hakeem and Cookie struggle with their relationship. Lucious serenades Cookie off to jail, “You’re so beautiful…” This song is the hinge to the entire episode and represents the Cookie’s hopes for her and her family, both past and present.

So let’s get down to it! As usual Taraji P. Henson as Cookie gets all the best lines:  

·      “Get rid of fake ass Halle Barry, as long as she’s around I’m closed for business!”

·      “You want Cookie’s nookie, ditch the bitch!”

While those lines are funny, Cookie is serious and I can appreciate the fact, that yeah, she did her thing but she still has standards for self. Cookie’s multi-dimensional and we love her for it.  In spite of, or perhaps because of, her and Lucious’ roll in the hay, Cookie pitches a way to make Lucious “immortal.” The idea is a Lucious Lyon Legacy project: concert, documentary and remix of “You’re so Beautiful” with Lucious, Jamal and Hakeem. Building off the positive family energy of last week, her idea further solidifies the family vibe that Lucious claims he wants for Empire.

Family time continues in the studio with brothers Hakeem and Jamal recording. Everything looks picture perfect as both Cookie and Lucious join their sons in the booth. Not noticeably absent, is Dre. I said that on purpose. He’s been so marginalized week after week, it’s no surprise I didn’t even think about him until we get the ‘in-booth’ view of Dre standing under a shaft of light in the back of the studio. He looks like a permanent rain cloud is hanging just above his head. Here you see how much he feels like an afterthought.

For weeks I’ve been commenting on how I want to know more about Dre and Rhonda and we get some of that this week when they play one of their ‘games’ in an effort to win a board vote for interim-CEO. It’s a disaster and ends with Rhonda telling Dre to “…be a man for once…don’t turn your wife into a geriatric whore…” Even she’s tired of him.  

It just occurred to me that maybe not knowing much about Dre’s past is a purposeful choice by the show’s writers and creators. By sidelining Dre’s story, I am not checking for him each week, just like his family isn’t checking for him. He’s benign enough on the surface but there’s a dark undercurrent, which is probably attributed to this bi-polar disease. After Lucious votes against him being interim-CEO and then follows that up revealing he hasn’t trusted Dre since he “…married that white woman,” Dre’s carefully crafted ‘it’s all good’ façade begins to slip. Once again Lucious reveals his bigotry and doesn’t care who knows it. Looks like Dre will be off the meds helping Lucious to his grave.

In the meantime, Anika has approached Lucious about his fling(s) with Cookie but she chose an interesting manipulative opening by first asking him why he has her father wrangled up in that pesky little medical ethics issue from the past couple of weeks. Then she slides around to the ‘oh yeah, I saw you and Cookie,’ bit which elicits a slight shadow of ‘oh shit’ from Lucious (Terrence Howard knows how to work subtle emotion through his eyes and we see it in this scene). Of course he’s all apologetic but Anika lands the final blow, “…Prove it. Marry me tomorrow.” He manages to push that timeline by a week but oooowwweee have the familial tables turned.

The white party is where some pivotal plot points take place:

·      Cookie reveals to a stunned Anika, that her and Lucious had another ‘reunion’ besides the one Anika already knows about.

·      Hakeem brings Camille to the party. Cookie calls her Yoko and Auntie Camille. Camille calls Cookie ‘bitch.’ Clearly no love lost between these two.

·      Dre defiantly drinks champagne knowing it will render his meds impotent.

·      Jamal comes out (to the delight of videographer/future boyfriend? Ryan Morgan) via Lucious’ “You’re so Beautiful” song. Remember that dark cloud hanging over Dre? Imagine that intensified into a tornado cloud above Lucious who looked like he needed an antacid.

The remainder of the episode is mostly inconsequential. Lucious yells at Dre about lack of trust. Cookie reminds Lucious that nothing changed because Jamal came out. What is interesting is Anika’s visit to Billy Baretti. Yes, yes we haven’t heard his name in weeks. In fact the last 3 episodes have felt very insular and family-oriented but swirling outside of Empire are some dangerous loose-ends: Lucious’ bad blood with former mentor Billy Baretti, Cookie’s hit on Teddy McNally, Frank Gavis’ (her former boss of red rose fame) muscle and Vernon’s (Malik Yoba) knowledge and clean-up of the Bunky murder.  There are only 3 episodes left to bring this epic freshman series to a thunderous cliff-hanging close.

Random Thoughts:

·      Hakeem accepting Cookie’s apology so quick after being so hard for so long didn’t ring true but it was still nice to get over this hump.

·      The impact of Cookie’s  Lucious slap in the studio was rendered impotent by her “twisting in the wind” response. Lose.that.line. It’s been used 3 times since the show started and while it makes for quite the visual and has been applied appropriately throughout; it’s a distinct phrase that needs to be retired. I will, however, add that ‘twisting in the wind’ was the feeling Dre must have had when Lucious voted ‘nay’ to his being interim CEO…so it’s not that I hate the phrase…

·      Purple is Naomi’s color! Why was Camille wearing a musical note charm on her bracelet? So I guess Tiana is out the picture…they ushered her out with nary a backwards glance.

·      Camille turning Hakeem into the man his mama’s glad to see (i.e. the suit), a bit ironic. If only Hakeem wasn’t dating Camille, her and Cookie might actually be friends.

·      Jamal needs to get a dayum DNA test. I’m not invested in this part of the story.

·      Dre’s not even successful at committing suicide!



Empire-Episode 7 Recap

“Our Dancing Days”

Photo Credit: Fox 

“Kaboom! Guess who stepped in the room, Tical…”*

That’s how
I felt watching the closing scenes of Episode 7 of Empire. If you haven’t seen
it already you probably want to stop here, ‘cause this recap will be full of
spoilers. My apologies for the delayed post; I thought about not finishing it
since my schedule’s a little tight right now, but this week was too good to let

The overarching theme of Episode 7 is family and the
biological members of the Lyon clan are driving the story. Early in the
episode, we find out Lucious forced Jamal to marry Olivia, (Raven Symone, her
character name is giving me Cosby Show flashbacks). I’m guessing he figured a
forced marriage would persuade the gay out of him. Cookie is not happy about this
chick resurfacing and blames Lucious courtesy of a torrential rant. She only
lets up when his ALS symptoms trigger and he falls out, smacking his head on
the floor.

Cut to Cookie and Anika hustling behind the gurney to the
ambulance. There they jostle for wifey position to determine who can ride with
Lucious to the hospital.  Anika’s the
winner, but only for now…

Later at the hospital we find out the doctor recommended by
Anika’s father actually had his medical license revoked.  No surprise—he administered poison, collected
a check and drifted into the mist. Some of these smaller pieces of the story
actually seem like they should have a greater impact. For example, who is
Anika, why is she so frosty and why did her Daddy set up her future husband to
die? I guess Anika would gain Empire by marriage default, but they’re not even
married yet. Maybe I should stop trying to make sense of it but there are so
many avenues this show can explore and sometimes I feel there are dead-ends I’m
interested in seeing fleshed out.

Like the story of Dre, poor Dre and his twisted temperament.
I’m jumping ahead here but this scene ties in my previous quibble about stories
that need expansion.  We need more of Dre
and his wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday). We’ve had one flashback and while I’m
not a fan of too many flashbacks, perhaps we can be served with a couple more
involving Dre or just some good ol’ dialogue to reveal his story. Dre is
obviously angling to take over Empire and can barely contain his fear about the
IPO when Lucious finally reveals his ALS diagnosis. Dre’s reaction felt off to
me, he ended up hunched over fully-clothed in the shower. It was a special
moment, not special in a ‘oh poor Dre’ kind of way but in a confused, ‘is he
hyperventilating and why?’ way. Based off wifey’s sketchy amused eyeball
maneuver upon hearing Lucious’ announcement I’m surprised Dre’s night ended
with him drenched and clothed in the shower. Maybe I’m putting too much thought into it perhaps he just loves his pappy, who knows? I need more detail about these

Let’s go back to the Empire showcase, the pivotal event of Episode
7. Lucious reassures his sons that he needs them and even shares a real moment
with Jamal; for once you feel like Lucious loves Jamal and doesn’t have this
one-note ‘you disgust me’ attitude towards him. Elle Dallas (Courtney Love)
comes traipsing into the party, sober and ready to work, only to get sidelined
by Anika. At first I wanted to know what her issue with Elle Dallas was, then I
realized Anika sees Cookie’s come up and has peeped the respect Lucious has for
her and she’s not having it. Getting rid of Elle Dallas isn’t about Elle it’s
about Cookie. For all her Jack & Jill breeding and permanent stale face
she’s concerned about Miss Cookie from the Block. For a minute I thought Mr.
Devoe aka head of security may have peeped Anika’s Elle sabotage but if so, we
don’t know yet. I trust and believe Anika will get her come-uppance and I’m not
talking about the closing scene of this episode either, I mean literally Cookie
will find out about that sabotage…I hope! Next, Lucious is stricken by one of
his ALS symptoms and his throat closes up preventing him from giving a speech
to his investors after Hakeem and Jamal’s performance. He sends Cookie out to
speak on his behalf; of course Anika throws him the side-eye then throws Cookie
the raised eyebrow when she hesitates before taking the stage. In true Cookie
fashion she throws out the cues and speaks from the heart. You get the feeling
there will be a lot of investors in Empire after that speech and Lucious even
utters, “I love you Cookie,” while sitting right next to Anika.

After the show the whole ALS announcement happens and
Lucious spends time with his fiancé before she leaves on a business trip, his
kids and then Cookie. Cookie’s emotional and based off her Vanity 6 camisole
reveal from last week, she still loves and is attracted to Lucious. That’s why
it wasn’t a surprise when Lucious took Cookie to bed, his and Anika’s bed. In a
scene straight out of a soap opera, Anika doesn’t take the trip after all and
arrives back home to quietly watch Lucious and Cookie happily rediscover each
other in the crack that seems to be in every cheaters doorway. I was intrigued
that she just walked away which makes me wonder, what’s up with Miss Anika?
Guess we’ll find out next week! Oh yeah, we should also be circling back to the
fallout from Cookie’s unnecessary hit from two weeks ago. Can’t wait!

Random Observations:

Cookie’s nails looked like claws when
she placed her hand on the window of Lucious’ room, all I needed was the single

“I been around Empire so long I’m on CP
time”-Elle Dallas

Becky’s (Gabourey Sidibe) response to
Jamal’s daughter’s childish prattle, “Good luck with that.”

*Listen to the Anything
remix by SWV and Wutang Clan, those lyrics are perfect for the Cookie/Lucious

Empire Episode 6 Recap

“Out, Damned Spot”


Photo Credit: Fox 

Lil’ Kim’s “The Jump Off”ushers us into Empire’s sixth episode. Cookie’s experiencing that ‘what shouldI wear’ moment that always makes you want to tear off your clothes, don a thickfloor length robe and slide on your best plush bootie slippers and call it aday. Just when it seems like she might succumb to that notion, Cookie does one
better, putting on her best Vanity 6 camisole and sliding into a chocolate
sable. She rocks some sexy knee-high boots and commences to step out with her
old flame Lucious. Sadly, he cracks her face before the big reveal, but joke’s
on him and BooBoo Kitty who thinks she has the upper hand, talkin’ bout how her
engagement ring is modeled after the one Richard (I almost said Tim, lol!)
Burton gifted Elizabeth Taylor. Right around then is when Cookie lost her
patience with Lucious, flashed her purple cami, slapped her own ass and stalked
out of the room. I hollered like a stuck pig. Seeing Anika aka BooBoo Kitty’s contorted face after Cookie’s
dramatic exit was priceless. Y’all know we love to hate her, she’s so ice cold.

The rest of the episode is Vernon Turner (Malik Yoba),
Lucious’ chairman of the board for Empire Entertainment, working his own side
angle and Hakeem and Jamal working on their music careers. So I get Vernon’s an
old school friend of Lucious from the early days but he seems to be throwin’
shade and making promises I’m not sure he’ll keep. Plus he’s in cahoots with
Dre and thinks the oldest son should take over the company. Seriously, when do
we get a chance to learn more about Dre? He is a desperate character with a
dark side I don’t quite believe. I know we have a lot of characters here and
the ones orbiting for the most attention are Jamal and Hakeem, yet Dre is there
too. Are we going to get more intel on him and his wife? Right now there’s no
depth to them, she’s a pushy bitch and he’s a bipolar square who likes to stop
taking his meds.

I almost forgot about Elle Dallas (Courtney Love) former Empire
royalty. Turns out she was THAT chick who got Empire on the proverbial map. I have
a soft spot for Courtney Love and am excited to see her on the show. I’ve
always known about her work from all my riot grrrlll college buddies and
especially loved her band Hole’s “Live Through This” and “Celebrity Skin”
albums. I hope we get more of Dallas just blowing the roof off Empire. Miss
Cookie is helping her get her mojo back, that studio scene was classic. Cookie
was like, “take alla that shit off!! Your fur your jewels, get
grimy and basic like you are right now.” It’s not all bad; Cookie lets Elle
know it was her music that got her through 17 years of prison time.

Per usual Hakeem and Jamal are in their own worlds doing
their best Pinkey and the Brain, take over the world stunts. Hakeem makes me tired
with his wack ass lyrics and Papa-pandering. Jamal’s story line has always been
a positive for me although his rat-bastard father refuses to acknowledge his
talent because he can’t understand his life choices. This week that changed, in
the blink of an eye you can see the quick deterioration of his relationship
with his boyfriend made all the more dramatic by the closing scene of Olivia
(Rayven Simone), heavily made-up with little girl in tow, in Empire’s lobby
revealing (in front of the entire family and the general public) that Jamal’s her
baby’s daddy.  I think I turned around in
my chair and looked behind me, like ‘you not talkin’ bout Jamal are you?’

Can’t wait for next week! In a preview Jamal says something
insightful like, “but we only had sex once” to which his boyfriend—looking at
him like he’s the dumbest knee-grow in the world—retorts “it only takes once!” Insert
my hooting and hollering.

Random Observations:

·   Vernon has a sponsor

Derek Luke enters as Malcolm Devoe; new head of security. Something’s up with him though…Cookie was a little
too on THAT!

Lucious is getting experimental meds for his ALS
from Russia

·      Jamal said he had ‘no one
special’ in his interview with Sway. Builds tension for the story but worries
me; I like his relationship

·     Anika tries to poach Portia

Can we get Jamal’s “I Wanna Love You” on iTunes,
shoot let’s get an entire cd already!

Network TV Ate My Life: Eddie Huang on Watching His Memoir Become a Sitcom

Loved the book “Fresh off the Boat”,  so was excited it turned into a TV series that Eddie Huang actually narrates. Forgot the show aired this week so caught the first two episodes On Demand and am hooked. 

Mom, actress Constance Wu, consistently brings everything in her arsenal to each scene, most notably in the pilot episode when she and Dad ( Randall Park) visit the principal’s office in Eddie’s (Hudson Yang) defense.

If you haven’t read “Fresh off the Boat,” do yourself a favor and crack that spine to enhance your viewing pleasure. In the meantime check out Eddie Huang’s thoughts on turning his book into a show courtesy of Vulture magazine.

Network TV Ate My Life: Eddie Huang on Watching His Memoir Become a Sitcom