The premiere of Fox’s new series “Empire” was interesting to say the least. Viewers were introduced to former gangster couple Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) as rapper/head of Empire Records and Cookie Lyon (Taraji Henson) as pimped whore/drug dealer (or nah?) along with their three sons, one who is spoiled (Bryshere Gray as Hakeem), one who is gay (Jussie Smollett as Jamaal), one who lacks musical talent and is controlled by his white wife (Trai Byers as Andre). What a happy black family! This is a remix of Terrence Howard’s breakout movie, “Hustle and Flow.” The fact that the roll of gay male is becoming as regular as the token black or the ridiculous decision to name the black power couple Lucious and Cookie are not the reasons It’s highly likely I will not continue to watch this series. The major reason I don’t see myself getting hooked on this show is that the writing leaves nothing to be desired. The first episode piled on a lot of details. The use of flashbacks worked well in building the backstory, but revealing Lucious’ health problems and aggressiveness of the oldest son’s wife could have been magnetic elements for the second or third episodes. From this point forward the son’s battle to be the owner of Empire Records, Lucious’ health declines, Cookie continues to try to intimidate Lucious, there will be a couple shootings and threats for Lucious gangster secrets to be revealed. If I forget to watch an episode or decide to turn to Blackish at 9:30pm on ABC life will go on without feeling like I missed something.
Prior to the success of Empire Records, Cookie advocates for Lucious’ rap career as they deal drugs and have kids. Cookie does a dirty deed for money and gets locked up for 16 years. While she’s locked up Lucious divorces her, his rap career blows up, and he raises their three boys with a woman who eventually got shot on the block. The youngest son is a rapper (Hakeem), the middle son is a gay singer (Jamaal), and the oldest son (Andre) is a board member of Empire records. In this episode, the writers attempt to set up viewers for a developing plot. Cookie is released from jail in a leopard dress and a fur coat. She reenters her sons lives by randomly showing up at Jamaal’s then finding Hakeem and beating him with a broom for being disrespectful. Lucious is rocking a Five Heartbeats permed slicked back pimp mini fro while dressed in slacks and long coats that could easily be mistaken for expensive pajamas. The story is said to be set in 2015, however with the fashion displayed it could easily be mistaken for the 50’s or 60’s. Lucious hates super talented gay people (Jamaal), but loves reckless young rappers (Hakeem) with potential. Lucious meets with all three of his sons to let them know they are all in the running to become the owner of Empire Records.
In Cookie’s first meet-up with Lucious she demands “what’s hers” which she feels is half the company. Lucious explains that’s not the way it works (that’s not how any of this works!), but he will take care of her. Cookie and Lucious’ longterm friend bodyguard/butler/slob Bunkie, also demands (at gun point in Lucious’ house) what he feels is his which is 3 million dollars. Andre’s wife advocates for him to make a devious play for control of the company. Jamaal pays Cookie (his mom) a visit to discuss his plan. Cookie and Jamaal’s plan is to pit Hakeem and Jamaal against each other playing on Lucious’ hate for his gay son and belief in Hakeem’s potential. Somehow they figure this will push Jamaal to the forefront as the person who should be running Empire Records which doesn’t make much sense. Cookie bursts into a board meeting claiming that she will blackmail Lucious if he does not allow her to manage Jamaal. Lucious agrees. They sign a contract to keep the dirt under wraps. Oh yea, then Lucious is diagnosed with ALS and is given three years to live right before he kills Bunkie for trying to play him for 3 million dollars.
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