For starters, let's give a round of applause to Empire getting a renewal after only two episodes. Damn, Lee Daniels!
While folks pretty much agree the second episode wasn't as good as the pilot, we still learned a lot about the characters on Empire this week.
Last week, Cookie had the moving scene where she surveyed her ex-husband's office and realized just how far her $400,000 took him. This week, she goes to Lucious's classy mansion and does the same. While talking with Lucious, Anika interrupts wearing only her underwear (having been fully dressed only a moment earlier). Ladies, I thought that not only was her behavior tacky and childish, but a mistake. Anika is clearly threatened by Cookie (as well she should be), and now Cookie knows for sure.
Anika is actually smart to be threatened. Whatever Lucious and Cookie had between them is slowly coming back. Lucious's label comes under fire after one his of rappers - Kid Fo-Fo - inspires a shooting at the mall and his idiot son Hakeem is shown drunk on YouTube, peeing in an upscale restaurant and trash-talking Barack Obama. Protestors and press flood the steps of the company. While Anika and his other colleagues at Empire are coaching Lucious to appear non-threatening on "white TV", Cookie states that the Lucious she knew would get on TV and tell those people, "The streets weren't made for everybody. That's why they made sidewalks."
When Lucious actually goes on TV, he starts drowning almost right away. But then, a field reporter interviews Cookie who states flat-out on live TV that Kid Fo-Fo has nothing on Lucious himself from back in the day when he was about rapping cops denying him freedom life, and his willingness to kill one to defend his wife.
Now, before I continue, I should mention a few things. While this madness is happening, Hakeem is scheduled to debut at a club called Leviticus and Jamal - surprise, surprise - ain't invited. So Andrew (whom we've learned is bipolar) and his wife Rhonda (whom my uncle has dubbed "The White Sorceress") scheme to pit Lucious and Cookie against each other through their sons. Cookie thinks Jamal should come out on the same day as Hakeem's performance and thereby steal his thunder (an idea courtesy of her dim-witted assistant Porsha, who practically needs her own post). Lucious reminds Jamal about how who pays all his bills and what will happen if he comes out. So Jamal chooses to hang back, and compose his track about coming out.
He practices while watching Lucious flounder on TV - at first. But after Cookie's comment, something in Lucious's switches. Lucious reminds the anchorwoman about the nature and narration of hip-hop and how it is the voice of an oppressed people. He brings up Trayvon Martin and discusses how the new artists of Empire give hope to the next generation by expressing their anger through music and poetry rather than with a 12-gauge shotgun, thus ending his interview on a high note.
But while Lucious is clapping himself on the back in the elevator with Uncle Vernon, Anika, and Kid Fo-Fo himself (he and Cookie don't get along at all), Lucious stands idly by while Kid Fo-Fo calls Cookie a bitch. Uncle Vernon of all people tries to hush him up - the second time he defends Cookie in this episode, by the way. When Cookie looks to Lucious for backup, however, Lucious replies, "If [Kid Fo-Fo] says something I disagree with, I'll let you know." Anika's laughs, and would've gotten an epic ass-beating if Lucious hadn't intervened.
And that's when it happened, y'all.
See...I've been thinking. The reason people are so in love with Cookie is not just because Taraji is so next-level or that her lines are so hilarious. We love Cookie because she represents The Struggle; she's the Black woman who gives up everything for someone else. You know what I mean; she gives and gives and gives, and everyone around her just takes. And when she can't give anymore, she's discarded. If she chooses to take care of herself for a change, she's branded a bitch...and then discarded. Cookie lost her freedom, her money, and her own children for 17 years, and her husband rewarded her sacrifice and suffering with a divorce. And after he divorced her, he forgot about her. Got a new woman, a new mansion, built an empire off Cookie's blood, sweat, and tears, and now has the gall to feel inconvenienced by her presence (I swear we're going to learn he sold her out to the cops)!
So...you can imagine my shock when Cookie tearfully looks at Lucious and asks what she could have possibly done to deserve such treatment. After she's off the elevator and only Lucious and Kid Fo-Fo are left behind, Lucious drops Fo-Fo from his label "effective immediately". He later reveals to Cookie in a very touching moment that he dropped Fo-Fo (who actually made him a ton money) because he didn't like how the rapper spoke to Cookie.
Like, a Black woman cried...and it mattered, y'all.
Empire is dramatic and soapy, but it has layers, y'all. I've been paying attention. It deals with being gay and Black, having mental illness and being Black, and now, being a Black woman and having your tears actually matter to someone. *blink* What's it's say that I am so shocked by this?
The episode ends with Hakeem and Jamal surprising everyone by performing together and stubbornly resisting their parents' machinations, which I think is awesome as it is Hakeem's only saving grace.
Cookie admits to Hakeem's talent (and I'm like, okay...if you say so), but chastises Lucious for raising such a worthless waste of skin (she doesn't use those words, course). That's when Lucious says he doesn't want to fight, that he just wanted to apologize for standing by while that rapper mouthed off, and then lets her know he dropped Fo-Fo from his label. It's a beautiful moment which Anika interrupts, so Cookie - in typical Cookie fashion - suggests that Lucious "drop this yella bitch next."
Now, last week, when Cookie said she got out of prison on good behavior, I'll be honest...a part of me was like, "Um...sure." Well, I was right! Turns out, Cookie cut a deal, and now the Feds - in typical Feds fashion - are randomly changing the deal and want her to testify in front of grand jury, which Cookie is certain will get her killed.
Ta'Rhonda Jones (Porsha), nice to meet you! You were funny as hell girl! You had some folks thinking you were Leslie Jones's cousin!
Gabourey Sidibe (Becky), boo...they need to use you more. You are a star, chica! Five minutes an ep is not enough. Your wardrobe is too fierce for that!
AzMarie Livingston (Chicken, Hakeem's DJ); I see you sistah gyal! I loved the whole androgynous, sexy, irreverent, tattooed tomboyish thing you had going on in this ep. Nicely done!
Tiana (portrayed by Serayah McNeil), you are a shameless, gold-digging hoe. It'll be interesting to see what havoc you wreak upon Hakeem. I say have at it. Lay him low.