What an awesome first season it has been! But all good things must come to an end, and Empire is no exception. The season finale promised jaw-dropping twists, and as usual, it does not disappoint.
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Lucious Lyon, Supernova
The show opens with Lucious playing the piano. Becky interrupts him and Lucious yells at her. Becky will take no sass, not even from Lucious Lyon. (You go, Becky!) Lucious experiences what is to be the first of MANY flashbacks this episode — this one is of his early days composing in his sister-in-law Carol’s living room with all the kids running around. Cookie manages to fix the song, quiet the kids and continue looking fabulous at the same time.
Back in real time, Lucious asks Becky to find Cookie for him, but it seems she’s gone away for the weekend. (We know she’s with Malcolm the bodyguard, but Lucious doesn’t. Yet.) Lucious treats Becky to a monologue about how great he is. Now that the IPO is dropping and his tribute concert is happening, he’s ready to go out “like a supernova.” But he needs Cookie to do it.
Malcolm Takes Cookie’s Breath Away
In a lovely snowbound cabin in the Berkshires, Malcolm is romancing Cookie, who looks flawless as always in a gigantic fur cape. Cookie has a lot of work to do for the concert and is too preoccupied to get jiggy with Malcolm. Finally, she confesses she’s a bit nervous because she’s only ever been with Lucious. Malcolm says she gets to dictate the pace, because she is “in charge.” Of course she is! They smooch passionately in front of a roaring fire, then demonstrate that the best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. This doesn’t quite work because in bed, as in life, Cookie is always on top.
Later, Cookie is wrapped in some furs by the fireside and worried about her boys. She wants them all to work together. She also wants Lucious to die already, so the concert can be a memorial instead of a tribute and they can therefore charge more money. Never change, Cookie.
Even Snoop Dogg loves Empire
Back at Empire, Lucious mentions to his nurse that he’s been experiencing double vision. The nurse makes a confused face and starts Googling something on his phone. Really? Is that how we practice medicine? Because I want to be a nurse, if so. I am great at Googling on my phone!
S-n double-o P D-o-double G is in the house, and he is there to support Lucious. But nobody cares about Snoop. Everyone wants to ask about Jamal. It seems he’s been a press darling lately and is on everyone’s minds. Lucious doesn’t want to talk about Jamal. He wants to talk about himself. He says unironically that he is going to “become a God.” Snoop quips, “I guess that makes me Jesus,” which I really hope was ad-libbed. After the press conference breaks up, Lucious gets served — Beretti has filed an injunction to keep the concert from happening. He says he owns the rights to Lucious’ back catalog and those songs can’t be performed at the concert. Uh oh.
At Leviticus later, Mr. Dogg is onstage, being his glorious self, as usual. He calls Hakeem up on the stage to sing with him, and Hakeem has his Up to No Good face on, which never bodes well. He basically cusses out his dad and leaves, embarrassing everyone (even Snoop Dogg). Lucious reacts to this very maturely. Just kidding! He punches Hakeem in the face. Hakeem spits at his feet. It seems like a reconciliation is not in the works for these two any time soon.
Jennifer Hudson, Voice of God
Hakeem visits Jamal, spitting venom about how awful their father is. Jamal agrees that Lucious is the worst, but he is their father, and he’s dying. He says that Empire is the most important thing and that they all need to rally behind the company. Hakeem isn’t buying it and says his record will be released by Creedmore, not Empire.
Porsha accidentally tells Lucious that Cookie is in the Berkshires, inadvertently revealing her affair with Malcolm. Lucious looks murderous.
At a big church somewhere, Michelle (Jennifer Hudson) is singing gospel music. Andre walks in, dressed nicely and looking much better. He says he tried to go back to work, but nothing feels like it fits anymore. Michelle tells him that God might want him to try something else.
When Cookie and her sister Carol roll into Empire’s offices, they are blocked by security guards. Lucious has cut her out of the IPO, the company and the concert. Cookie thinks it’s pretty hilarious he’s upset about her and Malcolm after everything he’s done over the years. He says some pretty awful things, as usual, which don’t even sting that much anymore because he’s always so generally hateful.
The Monster Inside
Cookie is cleaning out her office when Malcolm walks in. He’s got a job offer in DC and he wants to take Cookie with him. He wants to take care of her. She appreciates it, but she’s not leaving her company. She’s worked too hard for it all these years. Yeah! This moment is really great. It’s like Samantha’s “I love you, but I love me more” from SATC. Anyway, they share a steamy kiss goodbye.
At home, Andre tells Lucious he’s quitting as CFO. He knows Jamal is the future of Empire and he’s not going to work for his little brother. He’s found God and he’s done. Lucious scoffs at him, telling him, “there’s no higher purpose than making music.”
Jamal and Lucious are chatting at Leviticus, where Jamal is doing an interview. Lucious says that Jamal can have Empire, as long as he has the “monster inside of him that helps him do what he needs to do.”
Later, Jamal drives Lucious back to their old house. He wants to help Lucious get his groove back and to get Cookie back on board. Inside, there are more flashbacks for both father and son. Lots of good and bad happened here. Jamal is pushing Lucious, taunting him to write better. Lucious says Jamal doesn’t have what it takes to write well. Apparently Lucious thinks dealing drugs and murdering people are “what it takes,” because he keeps flashing back to those events. In a weird but ultimately cool ‘life imitating art, imitating life’ moment, the two men sing it out — Lucious on guitar and Jamal on keyboard. They get up in each other’s faces and yell at each other. It sounds odd but it works.
Lucious Laughs in the Face of Death
Lucious tells Jamal to go get his music rights from Billy Beretti. That’s the price for getting Empire — get him his music. Jamal goes over to the Creedmore party house and asks to talk to Billy. And by “talk,” he means “hang his whole body out the window and threaten to shove him over if he doesn’t give Lucious the rights.” Lucious shows up, takes one look at the situation, and leaves. Billy doubts Jamal will really push him out a window. Jamal whispers that his daddy thinks he’ll do it. His daddy knows he has a monster inside of him. It would be almost sweet except it’s pretty terrifying. Riveting, but terrifying.
On Lucious’ way out of the mansion, he sees Anika from behind, knocking boots with someone. That someone turns out to be Hakeem. Double uh oh!
Lucious doesn’t have too long to worry about his son and ex-fianceÃ©, because his doctor tells him the Google Nurse actually caught something, and Lucious doesn’t have ALS at all! He has something that’s chronic but totally manageable! Lucious looks really angry. And then he cracks up laughing. Like evil-villain laughing. This does not bode well.
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Cookie Takes Matters Into Her Own Hands
At church, the newly non-terminal Lucious tries to get Andre back on board. He wants him to ring the opening bell at the NYSE on the IPO day. Lucious says Andre needs to stop hiding at the church. Andre says he intends to keep hiding until long after Lucious is dead. In fact, he’ll send him a prayer “down there, in a flame-proof jar.” Ouch. Lucious sees Michelle on his way out and realizes what heavenly body is keeping Andre at the church. He smirks, offers her a contract and she accepts it. Andre looks horribly betrayed that the one thing he had for himself is now owned by his dad.
Google Nurse is giving Lucious a shot for his tremors. She gives him a powerful sedative, which knocks him out. Cookie comes in to check on him and Lucious, in a drugged-out haze, confesses to killing Bunkie. He says he’s going to rise from the dead like Jesus. Cookie is horrified. Killing her cousin was the last straw. She picks up a pillow and smothers him.
They Should Call Him Lazarus Lyon
The next morning, the three Lyon boys sit at a table with fancy presents. In walks Lucious, apparently not dead. He tells the boys he’s been misdiagnosed and he’s seen the light. He’s not asking for forgiveness, just offering gifts. Hakeem gets an apology about Camilla and his own jet to tour wherever he wants. Andre gets a cross, an apology for stealing Michelle, and control of the Lyon Foundation, where he can do good work. And Jamal gets a sceptre. Empire is his.
Cookie walks in an acts surprised that Lucious is alive and not dying. Her gift? A pillow. She knows Lucious knows. And that does not end well for anyone.
Jamal meets with his brothers for the first time as the new head of Empire. He tries to lead fairly, but Andre and Hakeem aren’t buying it. An uneasy air is brewing between the Lyon boys.
Lucious calls Jamal and Cookie into his office. He shows Jamal the footage of Cookie trying to smother him. She tries to explain about Bunkie but the guards drag her out. Poor Jamal looks very sad.
“Find Another Snitch”
Cookie gets pulled into a black van. The FBI wants her to testify against Lucious in his murder trial against Bunkie. She refuses, telling the FBI to “find another snitch.” Lucious asks Vernon to tail Cookie.
Anika is watching Hakeem work out. She’s quoting Machiavelli and talking hostile takeover. Hakeem eyes her skeptically as he pumps iron shirtless. It’s clear who’s the brains and brawn in this team.
At the concert press conference, Hakeem approaches Andre for the takeover idea but he wants no part of it. As Lucious introduces the press to his successor, Jamal, some homophobic dirtbag (whose name is Black Rambo?) says he’s leaving Empire if Jamal is in charge. Lucious — wonder of wonders — stands by his son.
Back at Empire, the lawyers advise against denouncing Black Rambo. Andre agrees. The stockholders don’t want to see their audience alienated. Come ON, guys! We’ve finally got Lucious on board and now you’re playing homophobe? Many people have decried this show’s depiction of homophobia in the black community as unrealistic and dated, and I can really see why. It just falls flat for me.
Takeovers and Takedowns
Evil Wife Rhonda (EWR) is packing her bags at home. She’s leaving Andre, and she’s not sure what’s the worst part: that he “cheated” on her with Michelle or that he’s giving up Empire without a fight. It’s you, EWR. You are the worst part.
Cookie approaches Hakeem about starting their own label, just the two of them. Hakeem shows off his new vocab words he learned from Anika. Andre, Hakeem, Cookie and Anika meet to discuss Hostile Takeover. For essentially no reason, Cookie and Anika get in a no-holds-barred, hair-pulling, neck-strangling, WWE-level fight. It is rather tremendous. Andre ruins all the fun by informing them they need to stick together if they’re going to pull the takeover off.
Meanwhile at some gross club somewhere, Black Dirtbag, I mean Rambo, is in a rap battle. He wins and is seeking a challenger. Who should step up but Jamal? Both men take off their jackets. It’s going to get real in here. BR makes a pretty mediocre homophobic rant. Jamal takes it without batting an eyelash and I’m cackling with glee in anticipation of his epic takedown. Jamal doesn’t let me down. He sings a raw, gospel-style anthem about how “God didn’t make [BR] no better.” It’s very powerful and moving and it end with Jamal calling BR “bitch.” He literally drops the mic, among cheers, and strides out.
Tricky McTrickerson and EWR
Anika apparently has connections to a man gifted in the art of hostile takeover, whose name sounds like Trick, and they call him Tricky. Several people make this dumb joke. His grandson wants a record deal, and if Empire will take him, he’ll finance and organize the takeover. All they need is a) a scandal and b) 250 million, and then Empire is all theirs.
At the concert rehearsal, Jamal is practicing and he sounds awesome. Cookie shows up and tries to apologize. Jamal says “all I ever wanted was for that man to love me.” Cookie replies, “I know baby, me too.” She reminds him of all the good times they’ve had together, aided of course by a flashback.
Vernon shows up at Andre’s house. He wants Andre to work with Jamal and be a part of Empire. He tries to talk some sense into Andre, but they end up beating the stuffing out of each other instead. It’s a big, ugly fight and it looks like Vernon might kill Andre when EWR runs in and brains Vernon with… something. Maybe a candlestick? I can’t tell. Anyway, EWR wants to fix their relationship. But oops, she accidentally killed Vernon! And she’s pregnant! Oh, EWR. You are too much!
Lucious Lyon Legacy
At the stock exchange, all the boys are behind their dad, who is wondering where in the world Vernon is. Andre, black eye hidden by shades, jokes maybe he’s fallen off the wagon. Lucious, under a barrage of flashbacks, pushes the green button, and it’s a real deal. The IPO is official.
At the concert, Lucious stares at himself seriously in the mirror backstage while people perform. Hakeem and Jamal are up first and they sound great together. It’s a wonderful performance. It’s too bad they will hate each other in about 10 minutes.
Juicy J and Michelle are up next. She is perfect, of course. Jamal comes backstage to check on Lucious, who has been staring at himself for approximately six hours at this point. Lucious tells Jamal his real name, something not even Cookie knows. He apologizes for the “really terrible” things he’s done, but Jamal brushes them off. This father/son scene is broken up by the FBI, who busts in and arrests Lucious for Bunkie’s murder. Cookie protests that she didn’t turn him in, but Lucious calls her a “ghetto rat.” How dare you call Cookie names like that!
As they’re leading Lucious out, Becky, ever faithful, tells Lucious that Vernon is still MIA, the stock is plummeting and hostile takeover is in the air. Andre and Hakeem just leer at Lucious as he’s led out. The FBI mutter to each other that Vernon’s disappearance is bad news, because it turns out that he was their star witness. Too bad that EWR accidentally murdered him. How will they ever manage the takeover now?
The final shot is the same dank prison hallway where Cookie was held (which doesn’t make sense because men and women are housed separately, but whatever). Lucious is grimly doing a voiceover as the camera pans down the hall, which ends with him saying “game time, bitches.”
So what did you think? Did it live up to your expectations? Will you watch Season 2?
(Image courtesy of FOX)