By now, you’ve surely heard the hype about season 2 of Empire. If you can believe it, this season is even bigger than ever, with an appropriate amount of hip-hop cameos that doesn’t distract from the story. Returning to FOX on September 23, the dark and glamorous series led by Terrence Howard and Emmy-nominated Taraji P. Henson premieres the first of its 18-episode season.

Warning: This article contains spoilers from season 1 and the first episode, “The Devils are Here”, of season 2.

Where We Left Off

The first season of FOX’s smash hit left Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), hip-hop mogul, behind bars and on trial for murder. His son, musical artist Jamal Lyon was left in charge of Empire while his siblings Hakeem and Andre as well as their mother Cookie were all fighting for a piece of the dynasty.

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Who’s On Top?

While Dre and Jamal still struggle with their personal demons and immaturities that they have yet to move past, it seems likely that Jamal will discover traits more similar to his father than he ever realized. It’s that vindictiveness that led Lucious to the top and may be something that Jamal finds himself indulging in a bit, now that he’s in a serious position of power.

Cookie Is Calculated, But Still Unpredictable

When we first met Cookie, we never had any idea what she was thinking or what she was going to do. In many ways, it seemed even Cookie didn’t have those answers. She acted out of passion and rage to get what she wanted. This season, Cookie seems to have adjusted a little more to normal society. She still has her motives and an agenda that we’re not always aware of, but her methods feel far more calculated. While she’s not as crazy in her actions, it almost feels more dangerous that she handles things in a much calmer way.

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Don’t Rule Out Lucious Just Yet

There were some murmurs that Lucious wouldn’t be as much of a focal point this season as the show moved to other’s journeys to power and control of Empire. Based off of the first few episodes, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Yes, the show does have a focus on Jamal’s power more than Lucious, but Lucious is still heavily involved and his comeback is not something you can ignore. Though behind bars, Lucious still plots his return, which even includes getting back into music more than production. I guess prison will do that to you.

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Don’t Worry, There’s Still Cameos

Though the season tries not to distract as heavily with the overwhelming amount of cameos, you can still expect to see many familiar faces. Among some of the first you see are Chris “Ludacris” Bridges who plays a guard with his own motives, Chris Rock as a dark, savage gangster, Andre Royo as Lucious’ defense attorney and Tyra Ferrell as the prosecutor. Later appearances include Becky G, Marisa Tomei, Bre-Z, Al Sharpton, Sway, Don Lemon and Pitbull.

Empire season 2 premieres Wednesday, September 23 at 9pm on FOX.

(Image courtesy of FOX)