Empire is back to kick out another run of episodes that will finish off the second season, and we couldn’t be happier about it here at Paste. This time around, though, we are going to eschew recaps/reviews of each episode and instead highlight the most outrageous moments that happen from week-to-week. It’s something we’ve been doing with Vinyl, but with that music industry drama, it’s more ridiculous than outrageous, since the producers of the HBO series seem to think they’re making great art with each episode. Empire’s team has no delusions of grandeur. They know they’re making an over-the-top soap opera and play that up to the hilt. So, we’re looking for the details that go above and beyond with this show. And we’re loving every minute of it as we do.
1. Lucious, Hakeem, and a Gun
How do you make your first episode after a long hiatus memorable? By closing the hour with a standoff between father and son. Lucious does his best to play the part of the martyr, by handing his youngest child a gun and ordering him to shoot. “You want to be king? Kill your father and sit on his throne.” Yes, indeed, the Shakespearean melodrama has returned and it is in full effect. Now it’s time to wait and see if Hakeem’s decision to defiantly toss the gun aside will come back to haunt the young man in the weeks to come.
2. Cookie vs. Camilla
There is nothing finer on TV right now than watching Cookie, queen of sass, getting up in the grill of someone that’s threatening her future. In this case, it’s Hakeem’s ex-girlfriend, who is conniving her way to the top at Empire. And, oh mercy, does Cookie give her the business. At first, in a childish fashion by calling Camilla a “scallywag,” and, on her way out the door after one heated conversation, grabbing a handful of candy and tossing it around the room. Later, she turns the screws as she uses her sway over Hakeem to find her way back into the offices of Empire. This fight is far from over and I can’t wait to see the fireworks.
3. Cookie vs. Hakeem
Cookie has always been one to express a little tough love when necessary. And when she does, look out. That kitten’s got a whip. Or in this episode, a broom that she breaks over her youngest son’s back (that should sound familiar) before smacking him around with her purse. You should’ve listened to your mama, Hakeem. Would have spared you another beatdown.
4. Lucious vs. Empire’s board of directors
It would appear that Lucious is getting a little bit of his swagger back, as he faces an uphill battle to reclaim his title of CEO at Empire. He gets a little help from his former prison buddies who start a reign of terror on a few of the board members. They get pretty vicious too: blowing up cars, handing out a beat down, and, worse, murdering some poor woman’s cat. Lucious is two small steps and 250 pounds away from becoming the next Suge Knight.
5. Hakeem As Jesus
In case you missed it, Hakeem pulls a Jesus-on-the-cross move right after giving his big sermon to insist that he take over as CEO of Empire. I like the attitude, kid, but Christ had a little more humility than that. We’ll let him have his moment for now, while we wait for him to go from Kanye to Icarus, flying too close to the sun.
6. Thirsty packing heat
There Lucious sits in his soon-to-be former office in Empire’s headquarters, loaded semi-automatic in front of him, when his trusted lawyer and accomplice decides to prove his bona fides to the boss. “I’m down, Lucious… I’m down,” he says, as he pulls a pair of pistols out of his pockets. Gotta respect the man’s moxie. Still, to tease a gunfight and not deliver on the prospect is just poor form, Danny Strong. Let’s get some bullets flying this season!
7. Hakeem’s power suit
I’m all for Cookie’s flashy dresses and big beautiful furs. Hakeem wearing a suit that looks like it was stitched together from a pile of British pound notes, on the other hand… One of the silliest costume choices in the show. Not to mention the big lion’s head walking stick he had with him. Even Yeezy would look at that and say, “That’s too much.”
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can find more of his writing here.