Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) may be facing murder charges in prison but he’s still on the top of his game is the main lesson of the “Empire” Season 2 premiere.
No one learned that lesson better than Frank Gathers (Chris Rock) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). The former street king found out in a fatal way that Lucious runs things even behind bars. Meanwhile, Cookie is still alive but she may have lost everything that means something to her.
The hostile takeover tanks when Lucious manages to convince Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei) that the smart decision is to send her millions of dollars his way instead of with Cookie, Andre (Trai Byers), Anika (Grace Gealey) and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray). Even worse, he uses Jamal (Jussie Smollett) to make it happen so the middle Lyon son finds out exactly what his mom was planning to do.
The problem is that Cookie was never planning to cut Jamal out of the picture, even if she was going to take control of Empire out from under him. She underestimated how much he would take to being CEO though, and finally feeling like he has the respect of his father. Thus, when the dust settles and Cookie is licking her wounds from losing the major play she’s not ready for Jamal to kick her out of his life.
Since the show’s premiere, Cookie and Jamal have been the closest of the Lyon pack. She pulled him out of coffee clubs and forced him into the studio. He released an album — that’s now sunk to No. 22 on the charts thanks to his hectic business schedule — and she’s encouraged him to come out of the closet and be the artist that’s true to himself. Cookie cares about getting her money, but she cares about her babies even more and to see Jamal slam the door in her face was the greatest heartbreak.
Jamal’s tears after the door closes shows it isn’t an easy decision on his part. While Lucious isn’t throwing homophobic slurs at him anymore, it’s still not the warm and fuzzy relationship Jamal has hoped for his entire life. He’s in over his head running Empire and he knows it, and his heart is back in the studio where he should be writing new songs. Now he’s kicked his best ally out of his corner and Jamal will face the lard truth that it really is lonely at the top.
"Empire" continues its emotional roller coaster of Season 2 Wednesdays on FOX at 9 p.m. ET/PT.