This week's episode was titled "Et tu, Brute" by co-creators Danny Strong and Lee Daniels, and it certainly pulls out all the dramatic flair of a Shakespearean tragedy for a sometimes graphic roller coaster ride on Season 2 fall finale of "Empire."
The main focus this week is on the big (made up) music awards show, the ASAs (American Sound Awards). This show is an annual who's who of music, including how their albums and individual tracks ranked over the previous year. For obvious reasons, the family artists of Empire want to pick up as many nominations and awards as possible. Everyone loves a trophy!
Oh, and because it's award's season, we have plenty of cameos this week: Jason DeRulo, Nicole Ritchie, Da Brat, Joel Madden, Quest Love, Alicia Keys (She's back! Yay!) and Naomi Campbell. Basically everyone in Danny Strong's contact list is squeezed into varying segments when not featuring Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) and her hot pink dress.
While Jamal is being nominated for basically every award there is, we learn he took fangirling of Skye Summers (Alicia Keys) to a whole new place -- and that place was her bed. They did the deed, but only once, and apparently once was enough for Jamal to realize, again, he's into the menfolk only.
I have mad respect for Summers as she handles the whole thing in the most adult, we-banged-but-you-like-men-so-that's-cool way. They chatted, they recognized what makes each other happy and even though it was "beautiful," they're going to go their own ways. I love when adultier adults successfully adult.
You know who wasn't being an adult about this? Lucious Lyon. Shocker, right? After eavesdropping on son Jamal (Jussie Smollett), and learning that Jamal is "hitting that," Lucious informs Jamal how happy he is now that Summers (*cringe*) "fixed him."
What Jamal doesn't know yet is how his father (again) threw him under the bus during the launch of his Pepsi commercial. While speaking to the new agent/promotor Jamieson (William Fichtner), Lucious blows the lid on Jamal's relationship with a woman.
We don't know how this is going to play out as there were few visual cues from Jamieson, but we're left with yet another example of why Lucious is not winning the Dad of the Year award.
With Jamal testing the labels of sexuality, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) is attempting to regain some semblance of her former confidence after breaking up with the man who kidnapped and possibly abused her son. Wardrobe found it fitting to dress her in dark black -- though still fierce -- threads this week and played up the moody element. A lot.
After agreeing to perform on her old cell block, Cookie arrives in her old home along with Hakeem and Laura to put on a show for her "real sistas." Most of her former friends are thrilled to see her and feel honored to have her son perform for them, but there's always one.
We learn Jezzy (Da Brat) is Cookie's oldest and closet former bunk mate, but girl has no time for her now that she's sprung and free.
True to form, Lee Daniels wastes no opportunity in stealthily educating the TV Land public on issues he finds important. Almost imperceptibly, Cookie and Hakeem are both given lines to perform at pre-concert in Cell Block C regarding male and female incarceration and, in particular, African American incarceration rates.
During a mini teary-eyed session, Cookie also explains to the block (us at home, really) how bonds are formed in the artificial cages of men, and how disrupting incarceration can be not only for the inmate but for their bonds of family, work, life and especially loved ones. Well played.
And now, let's all buy that ticket to crazy town and revel in some serious historical allegories as we arrive at the meat of tonight's show, starring: Hakeem, Camilla, Mimi, Lucious, Anika and Rhonda. Also, brace yourself for some seriously twisted and traumatic plot lines.
Several weeks ago, I (and many others) started to predict Mimi (Marisa Tomei) is not exactly who she said she was. She began to display some erratic behavior and not just due to illness. Well, tonight we found out why!
After watching Whiteman go all James Bond and record a seemingly private conversation between herself and Lucious on an ink pen device, she sets the hook for what has been her end game the entire time: overthrowing Lucious as president of Empire.
Following the Swift Stream merger, and upon learning Lucious sold off several Empire business lines in order to fund the merger, Lucious brazenly declares he doesn't have to report to his shareholders and board members, and actually plans to dispose of those who may object to his business tactics. What he doesn't realize is Whiteman now has all of this on tape.
In a very rapid time frame, we witness the complete unraveling of Lucious' Empire, literally and figuratively, in the following manner:
- Mimi reveals to Lucious that her wife is Camilla, the same lady Lucious tried to pay off earlier this year in order to stop her from dating his son Hakeem.
- Mimi calls an emergency boardroom meeting to vote on the ousting of Lucious as president of Empire.
- The Lyon family tries to band together to fend off this attack on their legacy and ultimately fails – even though they trade (several?) sexual favors.
- Lucious is removed as president from the company he built because (dramz!) Hakeem casts the deciding vote.
Yep. Hakeem was the final vote to remove his father as president of Empire. Apparently, the lovely montage we were all treated to of Lucious berating, hitting, beating and slapping his son was not the ideal portrait of Lucious as a father – shocking, I know.
But wait, there's more!
Right before the boardroom vote, Camilla shows up unexpectedly to Hakeem's apartment. Dressed in all her furry finery, Camilla informs Hakeem she basically married Mimi, lied, cheated and schemed all this time in order to get back at Lucious and put Hakeem into power because they are "like Antony and Cleopatra, darling." All the dramz.
My guess is next year, when the show picks up after its winter break, we'll see a new Empire now under the control of Hakeem, especially since Mimi immediately handed over day-to-day operations control to Camilla. I'm dying to see how Dre and Jamal reconcile with a new power structure without their father. Speaking of which…
We end this week with some really dark and dramatic works. After learning of his removal, the next scene involving Lucious has him shooting up his house with an assault rifle. Seriously. I could understand throwing things, smashing plates or pushing over a television, but having the show feature Lucious shooting up his house may have been…in poor taste, given the recent mass shootings around America. Just a thought.
Lucious is utterly devastated at the loss of his company and maybe even more so by the betrayal of his own blood. I would be, too. The family has no idea how to react to these new turns, but it's clear Lucious is now paranoid and taking no love from anyone – evidenced by his snarky, demeaning comments to Jamal over being nominated for the Song of the Year award. This man makes it so hard to love him.
But ultimately, the most tragic and horrific event this week was not the loss of Empire. Anika was back, and there's no other way to say this: she killed the heir to the Empire. We've been watching Anika slowly cozy up to Rhonda, and this week she visits Rhonda under the pretense of giving them a lovely and expensive gift set for their child. Unknowingly, Rhonda fans the flames of Anika's crazy train by telling her Lucious refers to her baby as the "heir to the Empire."
Clearly mentally unhinged and pregnant with what she apparently views as the rightful heir to the throne, she sets out an elaborate plot in which she breaks into Rhonda's home, sets off the security alarm and, in Rhonda's confusion, pushes her down the stairs of her beautiful, brand new, six-bedroom house.
It's a very graphic scene and not one I recommend for expecting parents. We're left not knowing if Rhonda or the child has lived, but my guess is no. This family really can't catch a break, even through events that are no fault of their own.
Hakeem destroys the family, Lucious loses Empire, Rhonda and the heir may be dead, Anika is certifiably crazy and a possible murderer, Thirsty provided "favors" in an elevator, Jamal remembers he's gay, Cookie is depressed, Camilla is the new power and Andre may go off the deep end once learning of his life's destruction. This week was definitely a Shakespearean tragedy.