With the first episode of Empire under their belt, Fox has a major hit on their hands — at least 10 million households say so. If you missed last week’s series premiere episode you can read the recap here or watch the show.
This week’s episode revolves around the opening of Lucious’ new club, Leviticus. Empire CEO Lucious Lyon is positioning his preferred successor and youngest son, Hakeem, to perform at the opening while his ex-wife, Cookie, is maneuvering to get her favorite son, Jamal, on the stage. Lucious refuses to allow Jamal to perform because Jamal is gay and he doesn’t want people to associate Club Leviticus as a “homosexual” club.
The show opens with Cookie gazing tearfully at “The Mansion That Cookie Built” as she approaches her exes lavish estate in a taxicab. Lucious’ wife, Anika, isn’t feeling Cookie’s impromptu visit, so she comes downstairs to mark her territory. Dressed in lingerie, Anika shows Cookie (and us viewers at home) what she’s working with. [That Lil Wayne lyric, “I hate to see her go but I love to watch her leave” never rang so true until tonight.]
Cookie demands “something to eat” and spars with Anika, revealing that it was her $400,000 in drug money that helped start Empire. Lucious snatches Cookie out of the room and quickly reminds her about the non-disclosure agreement she signed [as if Cookie gives a damn about a piece of paper]. [SIDENOTE: Notice how Cookie eats her food quickly like she’s still in jail and someone’s about to snatch her cornbread.]
While hanging out at a rehearsal studio, Hakeem meets Tiana [sounds and looks like Rihanna but with a T.], an Empire artist managed by Anika. Being true to the womanizer that he is, the self proclaimed “Prince Of The Empire” attempts to holler at her and she abruptly turns him down. [Tiana is played by Serayah McNeiil.]
Lucious arrives at his Empire office to find it flooded with news reporters. He learns that the lyrics for one of his biggest artists, Kidd Fo-Fo (pronounced FOUR-FOUR as in .44) was the inspiration for a shooting that is bringing a lot of negative press to the company, threatening their IPO. Lucious considers dropping Fo-Fo from the label but offers to keep him on the roster if he agrees to perform with Hakeem at the grand opening of Club Leviticus. Cookie barges into the conference room and tells Fo-Fo that his music being wack is the reason he should be dropped from the label. Fo-Fo spits back and calls her a “stupid bitch” and she retaliates calling him a punk.
Vernon gets a call from the NYPD that Bunky is dead. Vernon has no idea that Lucious killed Bunky despite Vernon telling Lucious last episode that Bunky was hooked up with some bookies and in desperate need of money. Lucious reveals that Bunky and Cookie are cousins and swears to find Bunky’s killer [which shouldn’t be so hard once he looks in the mirror]. Hakeem takes the news the hardest because Bunky was like a father to him. Hakeem refuses Cookie’s attempt to console him and flinches at her touch, recalling that vicious broom beating Cookie gave him in episode 1.
Acting as Mom-ager, Cookie plans to steal the thunder from Hakeem’s Club Leviticus opening by having Jamal “come out of the closet” on the same day. Jamal is totally against it because he feels it’s a publicity stunt. Cookie meets with a publicist to bring the media to Jamal’s event. Lucious gets wind of this news from Andre and holds a quick father & son limo meeting with Jamal and tells Jamal he will be cut off financially if he “comes out”. Jamal retreats to his $12,000 per month loft where he plays his piano weeping while Cookie and his boyfriend try desperately to track him down for his big media event.
Later that night, Hakeem and his boys act up in a very posh restaurant. While pissy drunk, Hakeem records a video shouting out Tiana. A majority of the patrons are white and they start to leave once Hakeem pulls out his meat and pees on the floor [Get it? “Pissy”]. Hakeem then goes on a rant about how much money he has and ends his rant by calling President Obama a sell out. The next day, Lucious finds out and angrily punches Hakeem in the face. Nevertheless, the video goes viral, boosting Hakeem’s credibility and quadrupling the RSVPs to his Club Leviticus debut.
With his IPO on the ropes over the bad press behind the .44-inspired shooting and his Hakeem’s video debacle, Lucious goes on a national news program to defend Empire. After the TV interview, Cookie confronts Lucious, Anika, Vernon and .44 in an elevator. .44 disrespects Cookie and Cookie retorts to Lucious that he didn’t defend her. Anika quips in and Cookie lashes out at her in the elevator [ala Solange] but she’s stopped by Vernon. Though he didn’t defend her initially, Lucious drops .44 from Empire as he gets off the elevator, telling him that “Cookie is right, your rhymes are wack.”
With Kid Fo-Fo not performing, Hakeem is having jitters about taking the Club Leviticus stage alone. He approaches his brother, Jamal, asking Jamal to perform with him in defiance of their father’s explicit disapproval. Hakeem takes center stage to a packed room and the spotlight shines to reveal Jamal on the keyboard to Cookie’s squealing delight and Lucious’ visible chagrin. They perform No Apologies together, taking what appears to be a subliminal shot at their father and drops a lyric dedicated to Tiana who is in the audience.
After the show, a newly impressed Tiana goes backstage to meet Hakeem and offers to have sex with him on the dressing room floor.
Two major sub-plots are forming during all of this.
First, it looks like Cookie didn’t get out on “good behavior” after all. Cookie is working with Agent Carter. [No, not that Agent Carter.] This Agent Carter is an FBI agent who Cookie has been ducking. After Cookie leaves Club Leviticus, Agent Carter rolls up on Cookie and let’s her know that she’s “changing the terms of their agreement” and that Cookie is needed to testify in front of a grand jury. This is the only time we ever see Cookie shook.
Second, it’s revealed that Andre Lyon, Lucious’ eldest son, is bi-polar. Andre’s wife, Rhonda wants him to go to the doctor and re-up on his medication. She’s clearly motivated to ensure that Andre “keeps it together” so that he doesn’t ruin his chance to take the Empire throne with a bi-polar episode. To ensure his compliance, Rhonda grabs a “bib” from her drawer, puts it around her neck and proceeds “go down” on Andre. OMG.