We can all agree that there is no “Empire” without Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) — few alive can keep up with this whipsmart, confident woman with zero filter — and zero shame — when it comes after getting what she wants. Cookie is a force to be reckoned with — the spiciest possible version of what Sheryl Sandberg was looking for when she asked us to “Lean In.”
But with Rhonda’s (Kaitlin Doubleday) sudden death, Boo Boo Kitty (Grace Gealy) relegated to house arrest to keep up her ruse of a marriage to Lucious (Terrence Howard), and neither Tiana (Serayah) nor Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) featured in a given episode, the show has been seriously lacking in the girl power department.
But on Wednesday’s (Nov. 30) episode, “What We May Be,” viewers meet Angelo’s (Taye Diggs) mother — and even Cookie crumbles in her presence. It’s hard to think of another actress that could possibly steal a scene from Henson on “Empire,” but Phylicia Rashad slays as Diana Dubois — the former Mrs. Huxtable is looking absolutely regal, and clearly having a ball playing a bougie queen of New York City’s upper class. She can read someone in the blink of an eye — and, like Cookie, never hesitates to make her opinion heard.
Cookie’s never scrambled so much to please anybody — not even her parole officer: Mama Lyon is not easily rattled or bothered by what others may think of her. But not only could Diana turn out to be her future mother-in-law, one of Cookie’s deepest insecurities stems from the thought that she will never be taken seriously by a well to do family like the Dubois’. It’s the same reason Cookie tried to dump Angelo in the first place — she doesn’t see herself as worthy.
However, Angelo clearly disagrees with Cookie’s assessment of herself, and is eager to introduce her to his mother. Cookie, however, sweats this meeting hard. After missing the political fundraiser at which they were initially supposed to meet due to family drama, Cookie goes overboard redecorating her entire apartment in order earn Diana’s approval.
Of course, Diana can’t be fooled. She sees Cookie’s fur coats hidden in one the bedrooms, and doesn’t see it as a coincidence the living is done up in all her favorite patterns. But when absolutely nothing about this special dinner party goes to plan, Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) shows up with his baby, Lucious (Terrence Howard) storms in with Boo Boo Kitty, Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is high as a kite, and Andre (Trai Byers) doesn’t show up at all — Cookie throws in the towel on fronting for Diana.
What’s funny throughout this entire ordeal is how similar Cookie and Diana are. Cookie has met her match, but it’s not a fair competition. She is just as quick and witty as Diana, but Angelo’s mother has about 20 years of life experience that Cookie has yet to learn. Cookie’s never had a female role model to look up to. As a mother and sister, she’s always been teacher, and around Diana, she can finally be student.
Diana is all class and full of fierceness. She demands respects and attention from everyone who approaches her, especially when it comes to anything dealing with son’s life. Diana is basically like a more refined, slightly older version of Cookie. Ms. Lyon can learn a lot from Angelo’s mother, and so we fingers crossed Diana sticking around. For anytime these two are in the same room, it emits the kind of girl power as if Beyonce and Michelle Obama were hanging out.
“Empire” airs on Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.