‘Empire’ Recap: A Family Dinner and a Family War


The Empire vs. Dynasty war is getting real, with all the soldiers forming mini battles (Lucious vs. Cookie, Hakeem vs. Jamal, etc.) and everyone backstabbing each other in such a deliciously entertaining fashion.

Picking up on last week’s big news, Lucious is now a free man (sort of) as he waits for trial and tries to conduct business without actually stepping foot in Empire. He’s heard the news about Dynasty and, needless to say, he’s not exactly thrilled about it. Dynasty has its own problems because, as Sway points out in an interview with Hakeem, Dynasty doesn’t have any new artists — just leftovers from Empire. So he spills the news about his new girl group — now called Ménage à Trois — and says that they’ll debut in three days, even though they’re definitely not ready. But it’s a pretty great storyline because it means we get Girl Group Boot Camp headed up by Cookie, who makes the girls practice their choreographed dance and do push-ups.

There’s a lot happening between Hakeem’s interview and the group’s debut. First, one of my favorite scenes: a family dinner with the Lyons. Lucious and Cookie are immediately at each others throats because, as Lucious puts it, his “family bonded together to try to destroy me.” His ulterior movie for the dinner is to try to get them to dismantle Lyon Dynasty but Cookie refuses, and doesn’t want much to do with Lucious at all anymore, and certainly doesn’t want him to keep tainting the children. Cookie line of the night? “Jesus Christ himself couldn’t save you without burning his hands.” But the centerpiece of the scene — of the whole episode — is Cookie’s “I’m always gonna eat; just not with you” burn followed by her slowly, dramatically, pulling the table cloth off the table. It’s beautiful, and if Empire was just a montage of Cookie doing that over and over, I would watch and love it every week.

Lucious is not going to let Dynasty succeed and much of the episode revolves around his schemes, Cookie’s retaliations, and then Lucious’ coldblooded dealings in response. It’s thrilling; the “war” between these two is unyielding and fantastic, twisty and impressive. But first: There are some other plots circling around. Andre tries to get back into Lucious’ good graces by bringing up a business venture involving Apex Radio. The original plan was to merge but now Lucious can buy it wholesale, meaning he’ll own 200 urban radio stations — almost total control of urban content in broadcast radio. It’s not quite enough to get back into Lucious’ good graces. Lucious wants Andre to do something bigger, more unique, to set him apart from any other guy with an MBA. Later, Andre does finally offer him something: a news of the pregnancy. Lucious has always wanted a heir (and let’s hope it’s a boy!) and can’t resist being happy — I also like how similarly Cookie morphed right into excited soon-to-be-grandma — although he does see right through Andre’s true intentions of using the child to get back into the company.

Another plot involves Jamal (who is having a hard time finding a producer that he thinks is perfect enough to work with especially since Lucious went back on his word to produce) being tasked with signing Frank Gathers’ daughter Freda (Bre-Z) to the label, to revive the rawer Gutter Life Records. She’s pissed that Lucious didn’t show up, only Jamal, and her crew thinks that she’s being played. Jamal also just doesn’t want to sign her because Lucious said “she’s everything musically” leading Jamal to wonder where that leaves him. Jamal’s realizing that he may have gotten the shit end of the stick: He has to prove that he’s good enough to ensure Lucious doesn’t regret his decision but he also has to figure out his own place within the company especially in regards to his music and the fact that even though he’s in charge, he doesn’t really fit on the label.

The most important thing, of course, remains the label wars. Lucious tries to convince Anika to double-cross Cookie and help him win, but she instead goes straight to Cookie — her ultimate goal is to hurt Lucious and, well, the enemy of my enemy is my friend — and the two make a plan. During Lucious’ welcome back party, in the middle of Jamal’s performance (with Pitbull! And Timbaland! What even is this world?), Cookie interrupts to announce her label and let Hakeem perform. In retaliation, Lucious steals Valentina from the girl group, right before their big debut on Sway, and she performs as a solo act on Empire. Cold blooded, and it’s just beginning.