With the Empire season finale just one week away, storylines are spiraling all over the place. And if “go there-iest” was a real term, then last night’s hip-hopera did just that. Tajari P. Henson and Terrence Howard proved why they were Strong and Daniels’ cast picks.
While things picked up where they left off last week – with Leah Mary Walker present with glazed eyes – it was Hakeem who set things off when he sat Laura, his now fiancée, down let her know that her career had reached its peak. And after just 14 weeks (in viewers’ time) of a couple hit songs with her man and opening Tiana’a tour, her singing aspirations should come to an end. [Obviously] in love with the money and fame, Laura tells Hakeem that being his wife is the only thing that matters.
Things then jump back to Ms. Walker, who’s sitting with Andre, in the living room, and asking why she isn’t going to the ASAs if it’s a family affair. Aged and bothered, Leah Mary Walker persuades her grandson to sneak her into the show with a mastermind plan in tact, which the dramatic background music strategically foreshadows. Alone, Leah tells herself Dwight has always been a liar, and the world has to know the truth.
And then there’s Carol. In case you don’t remember, Cookie’s younger sister is fresh out of rehab and already back to her bad habits. Frequently hitting the bars, she runs into Tariq Cousins, an friend from her old Philly neighborhood. When asked if he’s still working as a cop, he tells Carol, “No,” but leaves out the fact that he is a fed. Cookie gets wind of their random run-in, and goes to meet Tariq before he meets her sister for date number two. She then gets confronted by a naive Carol who’s clearly traded in her addiction to crack for alcohol, and doesn’t want to hear anything Cookie tries to tell her about a man who’s only using her. Carol ultimately tells Cookie that Candice, their older sister, is right, and that Cookie really doesn’t care about anyone but herself. Here is where Taraji P. Henson shows why she was nominated for an Oscar in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Henson transformed Cookie from a tough, always-about-the-business chick to a hurt, I’m-laying-it-all-out-on-the-table sister. In other words, she told her “crackhead” sister to get her things and get out.
While everyone else in the family seems to be preoccupied with professional matters, Jamal is engaged with his new man, D-major, in the studio. Lucious walks in on them, and D-major tells him to get his son in check. Lucious asks Jamal if D-major is still running around on the DL, and Jamal asks how he knew. Lucious’s reply, “A real dog can always tell a fake bitch.” Lucious then begins what can singlehandedly be called his best monologue to date. Disgusted and disappointed with his son’s “life choices,” the Lyon discloses his true feelings about his son’s sexual decisions and it isn’t pretty. But Jamal finally stands up for himself for the first time. After being ripped apart by his father, he simply claps back with a long, intelligent rendition of “yo mama,” and Lucious backed down.
Oh, and Rhonda subliminally tells Anika she knows she pushed her down the stairs.
Fast-forward to the last five minutes, and Carol shows up to the ASAs drunk – after Cookie tells her not to show up. When Lucious and Cookie subtlety escort Carol off the red carpet and out of the ASAs, she runs into Freda and asks to tag along as her plus one. When Freda says, “No,” because she has press to do, Carol calls her out and says she wouldn’t even have press if it weren’t for what Lucious did to her daddy (Frank Gathers). A mirage of memories then play while Freda processes what Carol’s talking about. Approximately 23 seconds later, Freda starts running down the red carpet, towards Lucious, and grabs an officer’s gun on the way. She fires with no hesitation, but Jamal saw what was happening before it happened and jumps in front of her father to stop Freda. Then, boom, boom, boom, boom!
Before closing out the second-to-last episode of the second season with a prolific speech, Cookie finally tells Jamal the truth about Freda and her family history. She begs him to let her go for the sake of the family because the feds are coming! Then her words help the episode fade to black.
“We’re not the Brady Bunch. We’re not the Partridges. Hell, we’re not even the Jacksons. We’re the lyons. Lucious might drive us a little crazy every now and again, but he’s our king! And he’s a genius. And he’s the reason why we are the first family of music.”