On this episode of Empire, titled “Bleeding War,” Cookie puts the pressure on all of the label’s artists to come up with the “20 for 20” launch album, Lucious tries to take an interest in work, Diana learns about Lucious’ brain injury and the family celebrates Bella’s first birthday. 

Cookie shares with Lucious tales from her prison days. Cookie was especially tight with a woman named Chyna and other inmates from Philly. Her crew got along with everyone but the white chicks or the “wild-ass Jamaicans.” Chyna had a particular beef with the D.C. girls who had nicknames like Poundcake and Butterball. Cookie recalls getting into a fight with Poundcake who cut her with a razor. Cookie tells Lucious that this wasn’t her first fight or her last, but there were things in prison that cut her deeper than that razor.

Lucious Vows to Be a Better Man

Cookie remembers Lucious coming to visit her the day after the fight, and he was livid to discover she’d been beaten up. Lucious had just made his first appearance on BET, but Lucious was less concerned by his success than Cookies’ predicament. Cookie made it clear that she could deal with whatever came her way inside as along as she knew he was growing what they built on the outside. Lucious informed Cookie that Jamal wanted to come see her for his birthday. Cookie didn’t especially want her son to see her but agreed because that’s what he really wanted.

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Lucious recollects bringing Jamal to visit but not ever coming back to see Cookie himself. Cookie figured it was just too hard for him to see her like that. She admits it hurt, but it also made her self-sufficient, strong and hard. Lucious, who refers to himself in the third person, comments that “he” should have been there for Cookie, especially after everything she sacrificed. If he really loved her, he’d have never abandoned her. Lucious relates more to Dwight, vows to be a better man than the old Lucious. He wants to make up for everything he did wrong. Cookie doesn’t see how it’s possible for Lucious to make up for something he doesn’t even remember. 

Lucious volunteers to go with Cookie to Empire Entertainment for the day and support her. She reminds him his last visit didn’t go so well, but he wants to try again, and he’s confident with her help, he can make it through it. Cookie agrees. Claudia makes an appearance after having been away for the past few days. She’s eager to learn what she’s missed. 

The Lyon Returns to His Den

So, Cookie, Lucious and Claudia make a big entrance at Empire Entertainment. Claudia warns Cookie that if things get too stressful for Dwight, she’ll pull the plug. Cookie isn’t interested in hearing anything about Dwight. Empire Entertainment is the house they built, her and Lucious, so it’s their rules. Jamal and Andre think it’s reckless of Cookie to just waltz their dad right through the front door. Cookie expects their help in keeping the family secret, and Andre questions why she even brought him. Cookie says Lucious wants to be a part of the business, so they’ll keep the whole visit short and sweet and send him home with Claudia aka Nurse Ratchet. 

Warren fills Diane and Angelo in on Lucious’ amnesia. Angelo questions his cousin, curious if Jamal might be playing Warren, but Warren insists when he sleeps with a Lyon, he gets the goods. 

Lucious listens to Hakeem’s new single, and the youngest Lyon is eager to get his dad’s opinion. Unfortunately, Lucious doesn’t know his asshole from his elbow much less anything about rap. Becky points out to Hakeem this isn’t the song he’s supposed to be working on, and Cookie isn’t a big fan of the track either. Becky is glad Lucious is back because he always manages to come up with some scheme to save the day. 

With Becky looking for advice from Lucious, Andre is forced to step in with a plan of his own and give his old man the credit. All of the Empire Entertainment artists want to be part of the “20 for 20,” so Andre suggests getting them all to bring their material and compete for who gets to be the Alpha — the big dog of the bunch. Only one will be left standing. 

Hakeem isn’t thrilled with the plan, telling Cookie he already brought her gold. But Cookie lets Hakeem know that his track doesn’t cut it. When Cookie informs the label’s artists that they’ll all be competing for the chance to launch “20 for 20,’ not everybody is excited. Tatiana argues the creative process just doesn’t work that way, and Cookie threatens that anyone who delivers crap will have their albums shelved for the foreseeable future. 

Jamal isn’t interested in participating. He’s not big on competing, and even if he was, he doesn’t think he’s got any good material. Tory reminds Jamal about a hot duet he played her. Jamal doesn’t want to use it because it’s about addiction, and he’s looking for a love song. Tory points out love can be just as powerful a drug as any other substance. They agree to collaborate.

Angelo Gets in the Game

Angelo decides to take a more active role in getting revenge against the Lyons. He tracks down Anika. She may have pledged her alliance to the DuBois family, but that was before they let her rot in jail for five months. Angelo understands Anika may feel some loyalty to Cookie since the media mogul helped spring Anika from jail, but he promises her the Lyons don’t have her best interests at heart. They bit her once, and they’ll do it again. 

American Idol from Hell

All of Empire Entertainment’s premiere artists audition for Cookie, Lucious and Becky. But Lucious is more interested in the performers’ feelings than their talent which causes him to clash with Cookie. Lucious accuses Cookie of thriving on pain, being needlessly cruel to people all day. Cookie clarifies that what he’s sees is actually her being him — that’s what it takes to run an empire. She suggests that if Lucious doesn’t believe their family business is worth fighting for, maybe he should go home. 

Anika and Hakeem are planning Bella’s first birthday party which promises to be a lavish extravaganza. The theme is princess and Prince (as in “the artist formerly known as”). Lucious wanders into his office with Andre and, of course, has no memory of Anika or the fact she was in jail. It seems Cookie and company failed to fill Lucious in on all his granddaughter’s baby mama drama. Lucious apologizes for anything he did wrong to Anika who questions exactly what it is he’s sorry about. Is it for forcing her into a sham marriage or ripping her child out of her arms for six months? 

Anika’s attitude causes Andre to go postal, and it’s Lucious who works overtime to calm his son down. Andre points out that Lucious isn’t the only one to forget things. The rest of the family has forgotten that Bella’s birthday is the same day Rhonda died. Andre tells Lucious that his wife died screaming with every bone in her body broken. And the last face she saw was Anika’s, but because keeping family secrets is more important than telling the truth, Anika got away with murder. Andre is inconsolable and pissed that everyone is planning Bella’s party while his wife rots in the ground. 

Cookie realize she may be pushing Lucious too hard and decides to give Claudia’s methods a chance. 

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The L Word

Jamal is having trouble with his song and decides that it may be because he’s not being true to himself. If he’s going to sing about love, he should sing about the way he loves. When Jamal throws out the L-word, it takes Warren a bit by surprise. What he doesn’t know is that Jamal confided in Tory that he thinks Warren could be “the one.” 

After hearing the best Empire Entertainment has to offer, Cookie still doesn’t have her Alpha. Tory arrives, ready to perform her duet with Jamal. Cookie doesn’t want the launch album to include a white artist, but Tory assures the label head she and Jamal will knock her socks off. But Jamal has had a change of heart and breaks it to Tory that he cut her from the song. Jamal announces he’s singing his duet with Warren. Cookie loves the end result, and Jamal is crowned the Alpha.

Let’s Go Crazy

Bella’s birthday/homage to Prince gets off to a bang with Hakeem covering “Let’s Go Crazy.” It makes me wish the show had devoted a whole show to the musician instead of just 15 minutes. 

Andre arrives, and Cookie apologizes for forgetting how sad the day was not just for him, but for the entire family. She reassures Dre how much he is loved and needed. Andre thinks maybe there’s something to Lucious’ new attitude.

Someone else who knows how bad Andre must be feeling is Detective Rose who shows up to give Dre support. (She read in his file that this is the day his wife died.) She admits that her behavior has already been incredibly unprofessional. Andre is ready to ditch the party with his new love interest. This may not end as badly as Rhonda, but it isn’t likely to end well.

Angelo attends Bella’s party at Anika’s invitation. He’s got a gift for Hakeem. Anika is suing for sole custody of Bella. Anika is convinced the Lyons destroy everything they put their hands on, and she doesn’t want them to have anything to do with her daughter, so she’s hired Angelo to handle the case. 

Not in attendance is Lucious who’s being bombarded with memories. He confesses to Claudia that the man Cookie wants him to be keeps trying to come back in his head. Lucious knows he wasn’t a good guy and wants to fight it. Claudia advises Lucious that just because he knows that person, it doesn’t mean he has to become him. Lucious is at a crossroads, and Claudia offers to help him choose a different path. 

Claudia takes Lucious to Philly to show him the statue of the lion he slept under as a child (She got this inside info from Cookie who wanted to take Lucious herself.) This is where Dwight Walker became Lucious Lyon. Lucious does see himself as a child, sad and alone. Claudia says it’s up to Lucious to choose a different path, and he asks if she’ll come along, and she eagerly agrees. Claudia has been increasingly creepy this episode, and it’s hard to imagine she’s not being shady in some way.

Diana leaks Lucious’ memory loss to the press. She and Warren get a sneak peek at the article, and Diana promises the final edition will be lethal. Warren actually looks like he could be having second thoughts. 

Could Claudia be working with Diana? Is her affection for Lucious real? Why is she trying to cut his family out of his recovery? Does Anika really stand a chance of gaining full custody given her history? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Empire airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on FOX. Want more news? Visit our Empire page on Facebook.

(Image Courtesy of FOX)

Jennifer Lind-Westbrook

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Jennifer has worked as a freelance writer in the entertainment field since 2012. In addition to currently writing feature articles for Screen Rant, Jennifer has contributed content ranging from recaps to listicles to reviews for BuddyTV, PopMatters, TVRage, TVOvermind, and Tell-Tale TV. Links to some of Jennifer’s reviews can be found on Rotten Tomatoes.