T.V. dramas have dominated network television for decades. They can be separated into different subgenres such as courtroom dramas, crime shows, reality T.V., medical dramas and more. Regardless of the subgenre, you can expect a lot of drama. The T.V. series “Empire” is no different.
“Empire” is a musical drama series co-written by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, airing on Fox. Both Daniels and Strong co-produced Lee Daniels’ “The Butler.” Academy Award nominee Lee Daniels is also known for producing “Precious.”
The series follows Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) who is the hip-hop tycoon behind Empire Entertainment, a multi-million dollar music production company. The first episode begins with Lucious’ ex-wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) getting out of prison after 17 years for drug dealing. Lucious tells his three sons that he is choosing one of them to take over Empire. Lucious must deal with his sons competing against each other for power while his ex-wife Cookie plots to reclaim her family and her rightful place at Empire.
Previous Seasons Recap
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
In Season 1 we learn about the Lyon family. Cookie and Lucious were high school sweethearts who co-founded Empire Entertainment on nothing but love, dreams and drug money. After Cookie is released from prison she comes to know her now adult children Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray.) Andre is the CFO of Empire who is secretly struggling with bipolar disorder. Jamal is an R&B artist at Empire who is constantly rejected and bullied by Lucious for being openly gay. Hakeem is the youngest of the family and is his father’s most-praised child. He is a rapper at Empire and spends his free time partying and getting into trouble. Lucious has remarried a woman who works at Empire, named Anika (Grace Byers). Naturally, Cookie and Anika don’t get along. Cookie spends most of her time helping Jamal build his career since Lucious has neglected him for being gay. The three Lyon sons are constantly competing for control of Empire after learning Lucious is dying of ALS. Midseason, Lucious has an affair with Cookie and Anika leaves him. By the end of the season, Lucious realizes Jamal actually has talent so he decides to give him control of Empire. Everyone, even Cookie, is upset that Jamal is given control of Empire. So, Cookie, Anika, Andre and Hakeem begin scheming to overthrow Jamal. We then learn that Lucious was misdiagnosed and isn’t actually dying. Lastly, Andre shares the news that he and his wife Rhonda are expecting a child and Lucious is arrested for killing his long-time friend and Cookie’s cousin.
Lucious spends a few months in prison and tries to run Empire and make music from the inside. Cookie’s hostile takeover fails so she decides to create her own label, Lyon Dynasty, with Hakeem. Charges against Lucious are eventually dropped, and he returns to Empire. Hakeem is abducted and turns to Anika for comfort, and they sleep together. Anika gets pushed out of Lyon Dynasty and the entire Lyon family, then contemplates suicide until she discovers she is pregnant with Hakeem’s baby. Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) is receiving all sorts of attention from Lucious for being pregnant with his grandson while Anika gets none of his attention. Rhonda is pushed down the stairs by an unknown assailant and loses her baby. The Lyon family announces they will perform together at the ASA Music Awards. On the red carpet, one of the artists Lucious worked closely with discovers Lucious killed her father so, she plans to get revenge at the award show by shooting Lucious, but Jamal jumps in front of him and gets shot instead. Rhonda discovers Anika was the one who pushed her down the stairs and killed her baby and they get into a fight, resulting in one of them falling off the balcony.
Season 3 opens showing the fight between Anika and Rhonda. Rhonda falls to her death from the balcony, and Anika eventually gives birth to her and Hakeem’s baby girl. Lucious tries to win over Cookie, but she falls for a councilman named Angelo. Lucious is reunited with an old lover Giuliana and begins doing business with her, much to Cookie’s dismay. Angelo proposes to Cookie, but she rejects his proposal because she is still in love with Lucious. The break-up derails Angelo’s campaign for councilman and he and his mother begin plotting against the Lyons. Giuliana and Lucious plan to open an Empire-owned casino in Vegas that Cookie and her sons plot to destroy. Secretly, Andre plots to kill Lucious and name himself CEO of Empire. As Cookie’s plot is in progress, Lucious reveals he was never actually going into business with Giuliana and his plan was to get back at Giuliana for an old grievance. Cookie calls off the plot, but Andre’s men turn on him and continue with their plot anyway and blow up Lucious’ limo as he is about to get in with Cookie. Lucious goes into a coma at the hospital and upon waking up discovers he has amnesia.
Season Four Part One
Five months later, Lucious returns home with no memory and a nurse named Claudia who is helping him regain it. Cookie is skeptical of this new nurse and keeps a close eye on her. Meanwhile, Angelo and his mother continue waging war on the Lyons. As Claudia continues to work with Lucious they have a breakthrough and he regains his memory. Both of them get so caught up in the excitement that they sleep together. In the morning, Claudia tells Lucious she is in love with him, but he rejects her — telling her he’s in love with Cookie and asks her to leave. Behind the scenes, Andre is struggling with how he almost killed his father and is increasingly spinning out of control. Angelo and his mother hire a therapist to prescribe pills for Andre that cause him to have hallucinations and he has a psychotic break, landing him in a hospital. They also recruit a family member, Warren, to seduce Jamal and get him to fall in love with him, only to have him break Jamal’s heart. However, Warren falls in love with Jamal and joins the Lyons in exposing Angelo and his mother for the things they’ve done. Angelo tries to kill his cousin for betraying the family, but Jamal steps in. He struggles to get Angelo’s gun, but accidentally shoots Angelo and he dies. Lucious goes to visit Andre in the hospital and Andre unconsciously confesses that he tried to kill him. Meanwhile, Claudia is obsessed with Lucious so she drugs and kidnaps him.
Season 4 returns on March 28 on Fox at 7 p.m.
To Binge or Not to Binge?
Binge this show — “Empire” is one of the best shows I have watched. The drama is addicting, and each character has a rich background that unexpectedly unfolds in each season. Lucious is the lead man you will love to hate. The music in the show is amazing, available on iTunes and Spotify, and all of the Empire artists are talented as the show features more than just rap — there’s R&B, pop songs and ballads. Cookie Lyon is the best part of the show. She tells it like it is: she’s hilariously blunt and unapologetic for who she is. She would do anything for her family and knows how to fight for what’s rightfully hers. Cookie never forgets she came from the ghetto where she and Lucious had nothing but each other and the show pays homage to her and Lucious’ background. The rest of the cast is incredibly diverse and complex, adding to the show’s greatness.
The best episode of the current season would have to be the mid-season finale, “Slave to Memory.” I love this episode because I love when Cookie wins. She tells Angelo and his mom off in front of all their friends. I also love when Cookie and Lucious are together. The drama in the finale is captivating which is why it’s the best episode of the current season.
If you like “Empire” or want other shows like it you might like “Star,” “Nashville” or “Power.”
“Empire” is rated TV-14 on the Parent’s Guide and features profanity, violence and nudity, but no graphic sex scenes.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Available to stream on Hulu
57 episodes, approximately 58 hours