The much-talked about IPO that Empire is supposedly going to enter into has become like something out of Bunuel movie. Every step the Lyons take to move them closer to being billionaires, something jumps in their path to knock them back.
Tonight it was… well, a lot. Andre refused to take part in it, sending Rhonda as his proxy and, in doing so, sending Luscious back on his heels. Camilla showed up to throw a wrench into the proceedings, which Luscious managed to intercept. And Lola’s mother returned to the scene, bringing with her an unstable ex with a handgun.
By the time the pistol came out, we learned that Luscious is really the father of Lola, not Jamal. And all hell quickly broke loose. At this rate, when Luscious finally does start signing the IPO paperwork, I’m expecting an earthquake to break out or some kind of Biblical plague to befall the city.
While the show stretches out the supposedly monumental financial deal that will rake in boatloads of cash for Empire, it also keeps revealing its penchant for introducing and quickly abandoning characters and subplots. We’ll probably never see Lola or her mom again. Vernon is likely on his way out after bringing Olivia and her ex into the house. Who knows if the Christian music therapist working with Andre (and played by Jennifer Hudson) will ever return? And where did all this nonsense about Luscious wanting to remarry Cookie come from? Just one week ago, he was insisting that it was all over and seemed ready to shove her aside, without a second thought.
However, with his near-proposal tonight, there came the one kernel of truth that this episode had in it: Luscious is afraid to die. The IPO feels now less about the money than it does about cementing his legacy before he goes, to carve his image into the mountainside. There’s also no doubt that he doesn’t want to die alone, but he also feels like he’s owed this honor from the kids that he either dismisses or degrades, and the wife that he let fester in prison for over a decade.
It’s a conflicted line of thinking that I’m sure a lot of people with a terminal illness are dealing with. There’s that pull to be altruistic and caring of those around them in their last hours coupled with the more selfish desire to do whatever they hell they want while they still can. Again, that’s one of the few things that Empire and Terrence Howard are doing very well here. Otherwise, the show keeps quickly shifting in tone and tempo as if we’re watching a compilation of Vines rather than a scripted drama.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.