Apologies for missing last week’s episode. Your humble recapper was traveling on Thanksgiving eve, and to be honest, Empire isn’t a good enough show to make me want to spend time with the Lyons instead of my real family.
[articleembed id=”163653″ title=”'Empire' Season 2, Episode 1 Recap: The Lyons Come Roaring Back” image=”163660″ excerpt=”The craziest thing about Empire (well, aside from the fact that its star thinks he’s reinvented math), is just how coherent the show is, despite the rapid-fire pace and all the shocking twists”]
Hey, remember how at the start of this season, a scant ten episodes ago, Lucious Lyon was in jail? Wow, how time flies on Empire, a fact of chronology that’s worth keeping in mind while watching this episode so that we remember where we came from, and also to explain how somehow everything that happened this hour takes place in one day.
That’s right, it’s American Sound Awards nomination day, and everyone’s favorite crooner Jason Derulo, who released one of the 50 Best Albums of 2015 IRL, is here to announce the nominees. Lucious —poor, insecure Lucious — is fretting because he never got a song of the year nomination (or any wins, for that matter) and it looks like Jamal is going to snag a bunch of nods. By the end of the episode both Lucious and Jamal will have gotten the precious honor and be positioned to go head to head, but a bunch of way more important stuff happens before that. And no, we’re not talking about that real, awful advertisement for a soft drink brand that doesn’t deserve any more press.
Like, for instance, a weird reckoning with biphobia. While Jamal and Sky, who he hooked up with once last week, are performing their collaboration at an ASA announcement party, Charlemagne Tha God asks the hard questions, telling Sky she’s “never identified as black before.” It’s a weirdly heavy, racially aggresive moment, (lightened by a sick Rachel Dolezal burn) and one that begs for more context so that it can be taken seriously, but it’s just the first salvo of a ploy to get at Jamal’s fluctuating number on the Kinsey scale. Lucious, in case anybody forgot, is homophobic in addition to being a petty sociopath, yet it still stung when he told Jamal that Sky “fixed you.”
Empire’s ongoing struggle to use its platform to bring up real issues of social importance without misusing them as fuel for its ever-churning plot engine continued when Cookie went back to prison. An old inmate friend of hers makes a decent point about her season premiere gorilla suit antics to free the obviously guilty and unrepentant Lucious while doing nothing for her. It’s a brief hat-tip at the plight women of color in particular face in this country, but Empire doesn’t do a ton with it — at least not yet. If nothing else, it reaffirms at Lucious is an undeservedly lucky man.
Or he was until a Whiteman ruined it for him. Marissa Tomei, who really just seems like she’s been having a ball this season, thinks that maybe Lucious’ erratic, impulsive decision to leverage parts of Empire without board approval so he can win a dick-measuring contest with his new music streaming company are a bit too erratic an impulsive. Using an obviously telegraphed hidden camera in her pen, Mimi Whiteman records Lucious selling out his board, and uses the footage to get them to kick the head Lyon out of the pride. We learn that this is the long-game plan concocted by Hakeem’s ex and Mimi’s wife (sure), Camilla. It seems like a major twist, until you realize that this, like most things that happen on Empire, doesn’t really make any sense and certainly won’t have any lasting impact. Well, in any case, welcome back, Naomi Campbell!
Shocked by this latest betrayal, the family, including Cookie, scramble to get the one board member vote they need to save Lucious from getting the boot. Except Hakeem — poor, lovestuck, bitter, stupid Hakeem — realizes that this is a great chance to get back at his dad. “Aye,” he votes, and Lucious is dethroned.
It would be the biggest moment of the season (Lucious was way more thrown by his loss of power and son’s betrayal than he was by his arrest last finale) if it weren’t for Anika straight-up pushing Rhonda down the stairs. Anika is a crazy person, and is banking on Hakeem’s bun in her oven to get her back into the Lucious’ good graces, and she doesn’t want any competition from Andre’s kid. This shocking event was actually pretty easy to see coming from a mile away — come on, Andre. You don’t get away with saying “I really need to fix that alarm” without expecting something bad to happen. That’s like saying “one more week until I retire” in a cop movie.
A reminder that everything that took place this episode took place over the course of one day.
There was just a lot going on, and despite being a massive 12-car pileup of wrecked, intertwined plot lines, Empire was exciting. Problem is, exciting isn’t always good, and I don’t have many expectations for the second half of season 2 beyond knowing that some crazy s**t is going to go down. But, you know, crazy s**t has been going down for the past ten episodes, and it’s starting to loose its impact as it splatters nonstop on our television screens. It just stinks.