Open a nice malbec, grab your fluffiest ruby-encrusted robe and pull out that tiara because this week's "Empire" curtain opens on Shakespeare.
There is A LOT going on this week, and writer Danny Strong literally lays out the connections to Shakespeare by titling this episode "Poor Yorick." Get it? No? Okay, we'll get to that. We also see a large amount of contemporary political overtones (again) in this episode. I have a growing respect for co-creators Lee Daniels and Strong for honing in on various voter issues ahead of 2016.
English 101 lesson: Yorick is the man behind the skull that was dug up in "Hamlet." He was the court jester from Hamlet's youth who reminded him of another era. "Hamlet" is also a story about a powerful man worried about his legacy (and Daniels has said he envisions to show as a modern take on "King Lear.")
Everything that is old is new again, or something like that (thank you, Towson University!).
This week's episode was all about the FBI raid and a dead Vernon, each with their own repercussions. We open with Jamal conducting a "Rolling Stone" interview (with an unnamed hottie harboring dreamy dimples) which includes 'Mal recording a new song.
The jam is overlaid with scenes of the FBI storming the offices of Empire, ripping out desk drawers, tossing feathers in the air like they just don't care and Becky going all citizen-journalist with her cell phone recording every action of old ("You violating my rights!), white, FBI guy giving 'Mal the business.
Let's side-step and take a moment to discuss Jamal's new album title, "The Artist". Like, really? Could this be more ego-centric? I think not.
I used to love Jamal when he was the underdog, but now that he's the pretentious heir, he's lost the authenticity he used to embody. No more, "The Artist" please; get back to your roots and be my anti-Lucious hero.
Following the raid on Empire, we see a raid on Lyon Dynasty but not before Hakeem informs Cookie they are now music moguls and "You gotta let me be a mogul, Ma" is delivered while 'Keem fights to replace Valentina for his all-women, Latin crossover group. Before Cookie is served, she greedily (maybe more of a savvy move) tries to capitalize on the fall of Empire by going after their artists. In the end this doesn't work, even though she informs Anika and Hakeem, "Empire is going down like the Titanic."
Ohhhhhhh, Thirsty, how we love to hate you and how you always seem to turn up daisies whenever something even slightly goes wrong (I'm onto you, sir). After Empire and Lyon Dynasty are raided, we see Thirsty (Andre Royo) sauntering into Lucious' bedroom, all suave, refreshed and fresh-pressed in a purple suit after having a threesome with twins, to inform Lucious he is being raided and the cops have arrived at the Lyon Den.
There is something slimy about Thirsty. I get that is his character, but there's something almost … diabolic about his charm and ease of handling situations that seem to just "pop up" around the Lyon clan. The sociopath qualifier comes to mind, but I'm still reserved to award him that title … yet.
Lucious awakens in bed with some unnamed Trick, naked and hungover from yet another #FreeLucious party at the Lyon manse, where Thirsty apparently had the pleasure of learning the names of two female twins, all night long. The Feds arrive and the party is over … for some.
Because but who should enter the house at the head of the FBI's forces? None other than Roxanne Ford, state's attorney. What does the S.A.'s investigation team find? A naked Lucious, swinging his penis like a helicopter, telling her "Hey there, baby. Look wherever you like."
Dead. Let freedom fly.
Net up we see Mimi from Texas again! God Bless, Mimi. God Bless the Lone Star. Mimi is not letting anyone get away with shit. She and her sparkly sequin gold blazer are Texas-large and in charge, evident by her battle of words with Cookie that eventually allows Hakeem to shoot a video with Jamal. #BroLove
The video would not have happened however had not Lucious broke the terms of his parole, entered Empire, and led again. Against the advice of Mimi Whiteman and Jamal Lyon, he decides to move forward with some very aggressive marketing to expand and promote Lyon during the FBI investigation. He gives a long, morally inspiring speech, which concludes with my favorite part, when Lucious Lyon choose to not hide Lyon, but ROAR. Lucious to board with an awkward "Hail, Caesar!" fist pump.
Other items to remember: Lucious breaks his parole and shows up at Empire. Hakeem asks his dad to be honest with him and tell him if he killed Bunkie; Lucious, naturally, lies. Andre is having nightmares about killing Vernon, and can't keep last night's KFC down.
Another take-away: Cookie and Lucious getting into a playful argument/banter, about how much each other is old. Cookie wins the day by telling Lucious he has a fat stomach, he's a grandpa, and says, "tell me a grandma that has an ass like this" SMACK.
She bangs her own drums and let's Lucious know it. This grandchild will never know how awesome their grandparents were during this period of their lives. I already want to yell at it to get off of my lawn.
We later see Jamal doing a photoshoot for the cover his "Rolling Stone" magazine. 'Mal is wearing a blue-silk dressing gown, open-chest and in front of a rainbow flag. Yea … he does look like Lady Liberty as a seeming high-paid and fashionably sought-after photographer tells him.
The next several scenes involving said photog are not about Jamal, but really about Michael. We all know my thoughts on Michael, aka Dora, and I am constantly rooting for him.
Michael and Jamal are seeming doing fine, happy, and prosperous. Now we have Mr. Krazy Hair Photog who is shooing Jamal half-naked and telling him, "I want to be inside you", and "God, you are gorgeous."
This man may be famous (supposedly) and good at what he does, but I can tell you if I were Michael, and this man came to my house, and photographed my boyfriend and said those things, Mr. Society Photog's face would meet Mr. Sidewalk-Outside-Apt very soon.
Ain't nobody going to take my man in front of me. But, sadly, Dora (Michael) only throws shade and says nothing while his boyF is being poached right in front of him.
I have to admit, the poaching is good, because the end result painting of Jamal is gorgeous. His self-portrait/art is beautiful and while I love Michael, if Jamal were single I'd root for him and Krazy Hair Photog. Even after the painting is stabbed by Hakeem at the music video photo shoot. Oh yea, about that.
Mad Max gone wrong: So, the video shoot. Cookie and Lucious agree to let their sons Jamal and Hakeem shoot a music video: 1) for the publicity, and 2) for the money. The choreographer informs us the theme is "Post-apocalyptic Black Panthers with the brother's fighting police oppression." Yea. Say that four times fast. ALso, it's really just the same look as the video for Tupac's "California Love."
Danny and Lee are again injecting their series with high-contemporary drama. Normally, I'd say "Yes," but this feels … awkward. I think the evidence of this scene speaks for itself when Hakeem runs off set after seeing Jamal's ego-boosting portrait and declares he is never returning to Empire, ever. Also, did anyone else catch that awkward line delivered by Mimi in her gold, sequin blazer with Color Me Badd member hair, "…the Lyons will not tolerate police harassment of people of color." Yet another political message from Lee & Strong Co.
And now we come to the final and most powerful situation in tonight's episode, Yorick, aka Uncle Vernon. We see Dre puke up his shame and regret for killing Vernon, and WASP-y Rhonda is basically all, "we had to do what we had to do."
We also see Dre guest star in some active-wear clothing. That butt deserves its own byline. Dre and Rhonda are all "OMG, what are we going to do. I'm having nightmares about this and you're my partner." So, logically, Dre decides to dig up the body and provide it to the Ms. Big Boob State's Attorney in order to make the investigation against his dad go away, and he can rejoin Empire as a reward.
Great in theory, not great in practice. Dre decides to dig up Vernon, and Rhonda joins the fun saying, "I'm ride or die all the way … or prison". Awkward White Girl speak warning.
While Dre and R are digging holes in the woods, Cookie is arrested for turnstile toll violations (bye, Porsha) and lies her way out of jail, telling State's Attorney woman that Lucious killed Bunkie to move forward with the Apex radio station deal. Oh what a tangled web we weave, but Ms. S.A. buys it and releases Cookie.
While Rhonda and Dre are failing at finding dead people, Lucious and Thirsty (of course) show up in the dark wood and go all "Tales From the Crypt" on them. How did they find them you ask? Well, naturally, Thirsty placed a tracking device on Dre's car.
Thirsty also carries a "body detection device" with him and eventually the Lucious forgives R and Dre, welcomes them back to Empire and they all bond over some family grave-digging time in the Blair Witch Project Woods. NOPE.
In a nod to the most excellent movie "Goodfellas," after locating the decomposing body of Vernon, they a throw his stank-ass into the trunk of the car and drive it out of the wood. Where does Vernon end up? Not at a dump Tony Soprano style, but, wait for it… in the passenger seat of Ms. State's Attorney. She slides into her car one sunny afternoon and BOOM, there is a clear message, a la King Lear, to anyone who messes with a Lyon, half dead body style, cuing a Yorick-esque monologue. Yea, next week is going to be crayyyyy.
Before we depart, I'd also like to remind our viewers that Cookie's wardrobe this week was on fleek. She has an amazing red leather, Thriller-inspired outfit that I died over. Just call me Dead Vernon because that s--- was on point.
We also saw her sport a 1990s-infused Chanel suit with gold chains and a Kriss Kross-inspired denim jumpsuit. We love you Cookie — and all of your clothing adventures.
Until next week, these are the Days of our Lyons.