The thing I love about soap operas is how they can bend the genre to suit its needs. You can make anything dramatic, and Empire‘s clearly enjoying itself juggling all its different elements. First it’s a musical, a family drama, a mystery, and now a crime, gangster….something. To be fair, Lucious shooting Bunkie in the pilot didn’t exactly indicate we wouldn’t be seeing more violence on the show, but the promos, with their shattering windows, gunfire and people flinging themselves to the floor feels just a little bit different from Lucious pulling a gun on his longtime friend. But all this just further expands the world of Empire, which is one that’s significantly more dangerous than anticipated, where Lucious beats managers in trailers and gets caught in drive-bys meeting with others and where Becky attends a concert that ends in the performer shooting another man and being arrested.
The shooter is Titan (actor here), “the most authentic artist since Tupac”, signed with rival company Creedmore. With Hakeem putting off recording new music, and lacking Titan’s real-life experience, Lucious sets out to steal Titan away. Strangely this makes for an almost intriguing turn of events for Anika, who’s only role so far has been Lucious’s girlfriend and Cookie’s adversary. Both of those things are in play here, but Anika begins to resemble a three-dimensional character as Lucious tells her about his diagnosis, which elicits a nice scene of her helping him shave when his tremors become too severe. And since this episode keeps tapping authenticity, Anika’s well-off roots don’t make her an immediate standout when it comes to recruiting Titan, but she does her best to prove herself capable of handling a world she’s unfamiliar with. Like Cookie she’s shrugging off people’s misconceptions about her as well, having to tell one of the managers that she’s head of A&R, not Lucious’ assistant like he thinks.
And to be fair, Anika doesn’t really fail. She and Lucious are just bested by Cookie, who has the bright idea of talking to Titan’s family (who are Muslim), who tell her that the man Titan shot was one who burned down a community center. And though this should be a way in (which it later is) it’s a source of momentary uncertainty since Lucious isn’t a fan of the Nation of Islam, because “the Nation killed [his] father”. That was an eyebrow raiser, let me tell you, but it’s tossed into the episode like there’s nothing to it, a small detail to add to her facts about Lucious Lyon that may or may not ever pan out. A run-in with Billy Baretti (Judd Nelson), Creedmore’s Lucious, gets Lucious back in the game, paying Titan a visit and getting him to gift Empire with some jailhouse tracks.
Meanwhile Cookie’s moving up in the world as Tiana picks her up as her manager and producer, but there’s still a lot left missing from Cookie’s return. This episode further highlights her sad return home, with only Jamal interested in spending time with her. “False Imposition” may be the first episode we get of Lucious not being completely awful to her. He snaps at her once during a meeting where he’s biting everyone’s heads off and spends the rest of the episode flirting with her. That they’ll hook up again isn’t a question, as they circle the possibility anytime they’re onscreen together, it’s just a matter of when. Likely when it’ll cause the most ripples in the show’s landscape (which will hopefully be before the season’s up). With Jamal not doing what he’s supposed to do this episode either, Lucious (and Tiana) end up being the only people hangs out with this hour. As for her other children, Andre’s indifferent, and Hakeem’s mommy issues get more uncomfortable by the second.
If we were supposed to care about Hakeem and Tiana (Takeem), it didn’t quite take. It never felt real for one thing, which was fine because it was never supposed to be. Tiana only hooked up with Hakeem at all because she saw he could enhance her star power. So she doesn’t care that Hakeem’s hooking up with Camilla on the side, only bothered that he skipped out on dinner with her and Cookie to do it. I love Naomi Campbell as much as the next person, and as awkward as Hakeem calling the woman he’s having sex with “mama” is, I just can’t stop loving watching it all unfold.
Which is the deal with all of Empire.
- Every time Cookie calls Anika “Boo Boo Kitty” an angel gets its wings.
- Andre s a break from the scheming this week, but provides Lucious with an alibi for the night of Bunkie’s murder. A flashback reveals Andre’s no stranger to taking some measures to protect Lucious, once hiding his father’s gun in his toys when cops came by to search. Did Andre simply react instinctively to protect Lucious? Does he think Lucious did have something to do with Bunkie’s murder? Uncle Vernon didn’t look too pleased about that development so I’m interested to see what happens there.
- Jamal’s also on the backburner this week, getting used to his new home. I wanted to see him jumping right in to screwing Lucious over so hopefully we’ll get that next week.
- Does Becky want to be a record producer, too? Yes, please!
- Cookie: “Baby? You might want to clear that with Anika.”
Lucious: “Okay. Baby Mama.”
Cookie: “Ha! Still crazy, Lucious.”