8.4

Empire Review: “Out, Damned Spot”

(Episode 1.06)

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<i>Empire</i> Review: &#8220;Out, Damned Spot&#8221;

It’s time for you and your celebrity-loving friends to start making some bets on what other former anointed star from the music and acting world is going to make a splash on an episode of Empire. Mekhi Phifer? Nelly Furtado, maybe? How about Wesley Snipes as Luscious’s long-lost brother?

Whoever it may be, Empire is proving that it has a big enough umbrella to fit everyone from Naomi Campbell and Cuba Gooding Jr., to Judd Nelson and Antwone Fisher star Derek Luke underneath. And if the appearance of Courtney Love in the role of Elle Dallas, a drug-addled former superstar wasn’t enough, they had to drop a little bomb on us at the end of the episode with the arrival of Raven-Symoné. Did I mention she’s playing the apparent former paramour of Jamal, with love child in tow? How Raven is that?!?

While I can’t wait to see what comes as a result of that little surprise (they didn’t even list Raven in the opening credits), what I really want is more Cookie and Elle. Love may not be much of an actress—or much of a singer these days if the Empire-anointed cover of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” that is online is an indication—but it was so much fun watching her and Taraji P. Henson going toe-to-toe in a scuzzy motel room, and in the recording studio. Just like Luscious keeps doing with his charges, Cookie brought something out of Elle that they apparently haven’t heard in a long time. I don’t think this means a comeback for the actress, but it could spell nice things for the character. At the very least, it’s going to help me entertain fantasies of Love and Henson in a remake of Thelma & Louise, directed by Ava DuVernay.

This week also temporarily put to bed the tension about Bunkie’s death. Luscious is, for the time being, in the clear, after his right-hand man Vernon paid a con to confess to the crime. All it really does is give Vernon and Andre something to lord over their employer as they team up to take over Empire, but for now, the show can concentrate a while on the ALS diagnosis. Luscious is starting to take some experimental Russian drugs to stave off the symptoms and… that can’t be good. They made it sound downright sinister though,ass with the sketchy doctor offering up illegal meds from Moscow, letting us know that the medical industry over there is as corrupt as the mob. I half expected the crime ring from The Equalizer to burst through the door to demand studio time and some Empire-branded sneakers.

Outside of the drama that Raven brings to the show now, I’m quickly becoming less and less invested in the gamesmanship going on between Luscious’ children and their pithy attempts to take over the throne. So far, none of them have done much but bluster and monologue and furrow their brows and snipe at everyone around them. As I said last week, I know we have to drag this out to 20+ episodes of TV, but there’s nothing that even indicates that these guys want the job that much. I almost want the show to brush that aside and focus on the disease, the murder, and the diva-esque antics of a washed-up grunge queen. Blow the whistle, lifeguard, and call out the adult swim.


Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.

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