Episode Reviews will all start with SPOILERS in the title incase you haven’t seen the episode in question yet. The first episode to be reviewed is the season 2 premier for Empire, entitled The Devils Are Here. Spoilers below!
Three months after the arrest and incarceration of Empire Entertainment head, Lucious Lyon, Cookie arranges a star-studded #FreeLucious concert in his support, while scheming with Andre, Hakeem and Anika to get an investor, Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei), to finalize the hostile takeover of Empire. While in federal lockup, Lucious tries to run Empire from inside, with the help of Jamal, who is getting closer to his ex-boyfriend Michael. Frank Gathers (Chris Rock) threatens Cookie after she turned him to the police, but Lucious stops him. The hostile takeover fails when Jamal reveals to Cookie, Andre, Hakeem and Anika that Mimi instead is working with him and Lucious. With his new position, Jamal’s relationship to his family is diminished, and is destroyed after the failed hostile takeover.
This was such a good episode! I really enjoyed how they got us back into the show without missing a beat, or any clunky let’s reintroduce you to everyone business. They know that you know who everyone is.
The show opens on Lucious in prison where he has been for three months. I like that the show did that time jump so enough time has passed that we didn’t need to see everyone adjust to him being gone or to Jamal running Empire Records. There’s some mystery in what everyone is doing and how these relationships have shifted.
Lucious: Even in prison he is scheming and trying to be the boss. I really enjoyed watching him in prison interacting with Jamal and Cookie. Those scenes were so well done because we really got a sense of how Jamal has changed as he talks to his father about Empire and the things he has to do to keep it on track, and how Cookie and Lucious still love each other in their own way. The only thing I had a problem with was Chris Rock being cast as this tough drug dealer, Frank Gathers, who Cookie used to work for. I know he’s supposed to be intimidating despite his thin physique, but Chris Rock could not pull it off. I didn’t believe for a second he was a murderous drug dealer that could really scare Cookie.
Cookie: She had the best lines of the night, especially when she was making Anika dance with Mimi in order to get her to go along with the take over plan. I love that Cookie’s motivation is always for her children. In a soap opera it’s always good to have a fiercely protective mother on the show. Cookie’s reaction to the severed head that was sent to her by Frank was very well done. We saw the fear and protectiveness come out in an instant.
Jamal: He probably had the best change from season 1 to season 2 that we’ve seen so far. I like that he’s a little more hardened now. He tells Lucious that he hates that hasn’t been in the studio making music in three weeks because of running the business. His relationship with Michael is more interesting this season because it’s not as defined. And at the end of the episode when he throws out his family from Lucious’s house, including Cookie, we see him break down and cry, but then recover quickly to continue the work. This should be an interesting journey for his character this season. Will he become Lucious, or can he go back to who he was?
Hakeem/Andre: Neither of these characters had much to do this episode. Andre’s wife is pregnant, which I had forgotten, but other than that it was some bickering with Jamal over Hakeem’s album and Andre taking orders. I’m sure in future episodes they’ll get more to do.
I really like Marisa Tomei as Mimi Whiteman. She feels like she’s been on the show for a while, and they did a really great job of getting her into the action quickly. She should bring a dose of fun to the show in the coming weeks.
We’ve got 17 epsiodes left this season. What did you think of the episode? Did it live up to the hype of last season? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you on Thursday!