‘Empire’ Recap: It’s All About Power in “Poor Yorick”

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“Poor Yorick” opens with the juxtaposition of the FBI raiding Empire — specifically, Lucious’ offices — with Jamal singing an emotional song as he’s being profiled by Rolling Stone magazine. He’s optimistic about his future but that optimism is crushed when he learns of the raid: the feds are ransacking drawers and ripping up pillows. Something’s going down. But isn’t something always going down on Empire?

Cookie and Hakeem are happy with this news because payback’s a bitch. Cookie steps into action: Hakeem is ordered to get Valentina back and Anika tasked with getting Royalty to sign (and if she succeeds, she’ll be allowed back in Dynasty) but then the feds show up to raid Cookie’s office, too.

Neither Lyon let the raid get them down. Lucious is almost proud of the police attention. It shows that the feds don’t have anything and are therefore desperately looking for any sort of evidence. It also means that, in the eyes of the public, Empire is now an “OG” and have “street cred, a ghetto pass.” It’s actually good for business, he convinces everyone including Mimi Whiteman who is back around and Jamal who wanted to cancel the Rolling Stone cover.

The raid sort of puts Cookie and Lucious back on the same side — against the police, of course — and Cookie realizes it’s mutually beneficial for them to stick together, to show that the Lyons are all sticking with their father even as this continues to go down. She proposes that Jamal and Hakeem team up to do the video, as it would help out both Empire and Dynasty, and because there’s no reason to let a good song go to waste.

The video shoot goes well for a little while — “It’s nice seeing the family together,” Lucious says and Cookie rolls her eyes in response but then secretly smiles to herself —but then it goes off the rails because, well, this is Empire. First, Cookie goes outside for a phone call and suddenly the cops roll up and arrest her. She yells the already-controversial “If I die in police custody, I did not commit suicide,” a reference to Sandra Bland. The ways in which Empire is inserting real-life concerns in the black community is interesting and commendable, but there are understandable worries that it’s playing them off too light, or too entertaining and trivializing. It’s casually thrown in there — the Season 2 premiere rally, the “Black Lives Matter” random mention in the first season, this absurd video of the brothers fighting against the police while Hakeem raps about women hooking up — but it doesn’t really hold any weight. Not that it’s Empire‘s job to do so because it is essentially a soap opera but it’s sometimes odd to see these references but not have anything more substantial.

But, back to Cookie. In the interrogation room, she has PTSD flashbacks to being in prison and knows that she can’t stay in the precinct and that she definitely can’t go back to prison so she gives just enough information to be let out (basically implied that Lucious murdered Bunkie because of the Apex deal which would put a halt on that deal and Hakeem’s music will no longer be blocked).

As for the rest of the episode: the second issue in the video shoot is when Hakeem and Jamal end up physically fighting, ultimately leading Hakeem to threateningly pick up a baseball bat. Then there are Andre and Rhonda. Andre realizes he can dig up Vernon’s body to help Lucious get the charges dropped since there will be no witness left to the murder (and sabotaging himself in the process) all for the sake of getting back into Empire. They can’t find exactly where they buried the body but a rightfully suspicious Lucious had tracked him and shows up in the woods with Thirsty who has a “basic corpse detection system” and easily finds the body. There is a small but building plot about Jamal’s boyfriend getting a bit suspicious of the artist who has been a little too into depicting Jamal on a painting. There’s Hakeem inexplicably hanging out in a fancy jazzy bar and discovering another talented and beautiful Latina who just may fit right in with his girl group.

And, oh yeah, Roxanne found a corpse riding shotgun in her car.