‘Empire’ Recap: Drama Leads to More Drama

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Empire has a tendency to burn through storylines at a rapid speed, to throw in some crazy plot that’s a whirlwind for an episode or two only to dispense of it just as quickly. Lucious’ prison stint came and went and, thankfully, Hakeem’s kidnapping isn’t drawn out either.

Instead of stretching out Hakeem’s plight throughout the entire episode (or even multiple episodes) with the Lyons struggling to figure out who took him and how to save him, Hakeem returns almost as quickly as he’s snatched and grabbed. It doesn’t take long for everything to kick into gear: Cookie gets a video of Hakeem with his mouth duct taped shut and naturally assumes that it’s Lucious (the fact that it could be says volumes about how screwed up this family is). When she goes to him, he confirms that it isn’t and the two go off to try to get him back (while Jamal is forced to stay behind). Lucious is calm and cool; Cookie is stressed and worried.

It turns out to be surprisingly easy: They go drop off a large — but still fairly small for the Lyons — amount of money and a van drives up to drop off their son. However, Hakeem isn’t in there because he already jumped out a while ago to flee to Anika’s and rekindle some desperate romance. I’ve never been sure what to make of their relationship because it started based on a mutual desire to hurt Lucious but then they stuck together, even when they were apart. It’s clear that Hakeem has some actual feelings for her, feelings that make her the one that he immediately runs to after a traumatic event, Of course, a lot of that has to do with his immediate desire to have sex after this, likely as a way to reclaim his manhood and masculinity after being a victim).

Cut forward to Hakeem back with his worried family, refusing to talk about what exactly went down when he was tied up. He reluctantly agrees to be seen by a doctor who gives him a sort of clean bill of health but it’s clear there are some additional worries not being addressed. Throughout the rest of the episode, Hakeem can’t get himself back on track — or back on beat when rehearsing with the girl group. But a pep talk from his brothers and some intense, sexually-charged eye contact with Laura brings him back to normal. While sometimes the speed of Empire is exhilarating and ups the drama, sometimes — like in the case of Hakeem — it’s frustrating to see something with the potential to be a great plot get rushed through.

Yet even with the pace, each episode is so packed that it’s tough to get through everything. Andre is proving that he might not be the best person to head up the gritty Gutter Life Records; he convinces J Poppa (who, by the way, is sleeping with Becky! Yay, a Becky storyline!) to embrace his Christian roots and slip a bible verse into his song much to Lucious’ chagrin. He also wants to cut Freda Gatz after she kicks a heckler in the face during a performance (though wouldn’t this bring more attention to the label? People love drama, especially on a label like this) but Lucious knows that’s a bad idea. He uses the same “I wrote a song for you” trick on Freda that he does on Hakeem, this time with it going much better.

But it all comes back to Hakeem’s kidnapping in the end. There’s a confrontation with the guys that causes Cookie to talk Hakeem out of using the gun he surprised pulled out, but that actually pales in comparison to the big reveal: When Cookie goes to Laz’s house and the two start to have sex, we see that he has the same tattoo as Hakeem’s kidnappers. The plot thickens, again and again.