Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon and guest star Marisa Tomei as Mimi Whiteman ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Chuck Hodes/FOX.
Maybe the easiest way to recap Empire is to break it down into the parts of its sum. First up: the label. Cookie is trying to sweet talk Mimi (or “that lesbian bitch,” as Lucious so casually put it) into investing some money into Empire and even throws what I can only refer to as a “lesbian party” for Mimi, with scantily clad girls ready to succumb to Mimi’s charms. But it’s Anika who Mimi wants, and Cookie basically pimps her out which makes for an interesting dynamic, and Anika does sleep with her but as Cookie says, Anika “can’t even dyke right.” As always in Empire, there is backstabbing and shady dealings, so as soon as Cookie thinks that she has secured Mimi’s money and will be able to effectively remove Lucious as CEO of Empire, Mimi swivels around in her chair and reveals that she made a “better deal” with Lucious.
In prison, Lucious has easily adjusted to his new “home” although he is obviously itching to get out and get back in business. He’s well-known, which helps. Early in the episode, Lucious learns that Frank Gathers (Chris Rock, with a fine performance), the person Cookie put in jail and a former boss of both Lyon parents (20 years ago) is being transferred to the same prison. Lucious has no beef with Frank, but Frank has beef with Cookie once he learns that she’s the snitch.
The drama increases when Cookie gets a flower-and-severed-head delivery from Frank, and she’s forced to finally visit Lucious in prison to ask for his help in taking care of the problem. There’s an amazingly tense meeting between Lucious and Frank, where Lucious tells Frank, straight-up, “I love Cookie and if you’ve got war with her then you’ve got war with me.” Without missing a beat, Frank orders his cronies to kill Lucious and make it “fast and quiet.” But, twist! Lucious was smart enough to have already gotten the other inmates on his side (money, music help, etc.) and tells the inmates to kill Frank: “Make it loud, and make it long.”
But by far, the most emotionally devastating scene involves Jamal and Cookie. He kicks his entire family out of Lucious’ house for betraying his father, and doesn’t back down even when Cookie smacks him twice. There is always a war brewing on Empire, and this season is all about the various battles.