For as much as I mock Empire and it’s often silly ways, I’ve learned to appreciate the emphasis on family that sticks at the heart of every episode. It reminds me of Bob’s Burgers or The Simpsons in that way. No matter what trials they go through or how terrible they are to each other, by the end of the episode or season, everything will be forgiven and we can all go to bed happy. That’s the warm, fuzzy feeling that I got watching Hakeem and Jamal performing a mostly touching ballad in honor of their older brother Andre, and when early on in this episode, Jamal stood by and watched with pride while his younger brother staked his claim as Empire’s CEO. That mutual love and respect will surely not last for very much longer, so I’m just going to enjoy it while it lasts. That is, after I’m done giggling at the craziness that took place in this week’s episode.
1. Lucious forces Camilla to commit suicide
After apparently filming his ex-girlfriend killing off her wife and trying to cover her tracks, Lucious decides that her best move is take a swig of the poison she used on Mimi. It made absolutely zero sense, other than maybe to feed the former Empire CEO’s bloodlust. If he’s got the video of her dastardly deed, why not use it as leverage to get himself back in charge of his company? Perhaps he’s playing the long game, but for right now, that move seemed really short-sighted.
2. Jamal gets called out by the Gay Mafia
Or, whoever the heck it was that surrounded him outside of Empire’s HQ and did a little song-and-dance number in protest of Jamal’s fluid sexuality. Is that how the writers of this show imagine that gay men approach activism: with a song in their heart and a pair of colorful flip-flops in their hands? It was the swishiest thing I’ve seen on a show that, up until now, has assiduously avoided that kind of campy nonsense with regards to Jamal’s sexual orientation.
3. Jamal’s anthem of defiance
What was more ridiculous: Jamal repeating the phrase “people tell me I’m just like my daddy” over and over again, his decision to reveal that his father wasn’t born Lucious Lyon, or the far-too-perfect timing of some dude with an iPad asking, “Are you saying Lucious is inauthentic?” I was somewhat charmed by the show trying to use music to move the plot forward, but this was far too much.
4. The ASA Awards
It’s been months now and I still haven’t been able to suss out just what the heck is going on with this award business on the show. The competition seems like some combination of American Idol or the Eurovision Song Contest, with judges hanging about waiting to hear new material from the nominees before making their decision. And why is it taking them so long to bestow these awards on people? What is the hold up here?
5. “So much pain”
As I said above, I was all in when Jamal and Hakeem took Andre to the recording studio to lift his spirits with a song they wrote. But that heartfelt spirit was ruined when I laughed out loud as the camera closed in on Hakeem as he said, with all the gravity in the world, “So much pain.” Sometimes your intentions are dramatic and moving… and you land on unintentionally funny. It happens to the best of us.
6. “You’ll always be my mama”
If the death of Camilla means anything, it’s hopefully the end of the gross sex talk that went on between Hakeem and his cougar lover. I’m all for a little role play to keep things interesting in the bedroom, but the use of “mommy” and “daddy” as affectionate nicknames is downright icky. Let’s nip this thing in the bud, shall we?
7. Hakeem’s scepter
At least that’s what I think that small staff with a huge lion’s head is. Or does it extend out to become a full walking stick? Or, maybe it’s a wand and he can grant wishes with it? Maybe we’ll find that out in the third season and the whole show will take an uncomfortable turn toward the fantasy and sci-fi. Something like Baywatch Nights but with much more spell-casting and dragon slaying.
8. “Your father is a tampon”
Cookie was firing some pearls this week, friends, and that insult she tossed out about her ex-husband was the best thing she’s said in a long time. That it stirred up hilarious memories of Prince Charles and his phone sex talk only made it that much better.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can find more of his writing here.