In These Rapidly Changing Time, a Core Truth Reminder

This video gives new meaning to the term performance art. It’s a brilliant idea of an interactive piece, and it’s message is timely. It doesn’t get much clearer than this! Beneath it all, love is love.

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Scandal 4×14 The Lawn Chair: Review – I am Olivia Pope

Scandal 4×14, “The Lawn Chair” is not something I can do my usual recap and review piece on. Writing about Washington D.C. fixer Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) sleeping with the President, having a father running a secret CIA-like operation on American soil, and being kidnapped to force the President to start a war in Angola, has nothing to do with my life – or the lives of 99.9 percent of the general population. Although there were pieces of other storylines going on, this episode has one giant thruline: the Ferguson-like case that Olivia finds herself dealing with. It’s this story that the episode gets its title, and it’s this story that hits me close to home.

Scandal 4x14 Olivia

In 2014 the names of Michael Brown and James Gardner became synonymous with racism in our police forces. Their deaths at hands of police officers sparked protests, riots, articles and the social media trends of ‘Black Lives matter” and “I can’t breathe.” With the issue of black men being killed by white officers so high in the U.S. consciousness, it’s impossible to not have thoughts and feelings about it.

However, the situation in the U.S. between the various police forces and the African-American community, especially between the police and African-American men has never been one of ease. This quote is from FBI director James Comey, who gave a speech on the issue of policing and African Americans

“All of us in law enforcement must be honest enough to acknowledge that much of our history is not pretty,” he said. “At many points in American history, law enforcement enforced the status quo, a status quo that was often brutally unfair to disfavored groups.” (

As a black woman in the U.S. it was good to hear Comey acknowledge the things that are common knowledge to African-Americans – not just the issues of the past, but how those issues and biases affect things that go on today.

However these facts aren’t what makes covering “The Lawn Chair” so personal for me. I was already angry and upset about the underlying, at at times blatant, racism that runs through the narratives of too many shooting and killings of African-Americans by those who are sworn to protect and serve. While most officers in general do their best, the systemic biases in law enforcement and in our country have ended up in too many dead in at best questionable circumstances. This fictional story of yet another deadly shooting and all that occurs with the police system wasn’t eye-opening so much as giving voice to thoughts I and many others have witnessed playing out in the news, and at times our neighborhoods.

What made “The Lawn Chair” intense and hard to watch was the journey Olivia takes in the episode. Writer and show creator Shonda Rhimes writes Olivia’s reality in a way that is painfully recognizable. No, Olivia’s never been to that neighborhood before, but she knows of it. While she feels sad about the dead young man, Brandon Parker, (Washington plays that moment beautifully) she knows what her job is: to “handle the optics” and prevent a riot.

Chief Conners (Chris Mulkey) is quite worried about there being a riot.

Chief Conners: “I run a clean force. The last thing I want is a riot that sets my city on fire.”

Maybe that should have been Olivia’s first clue that something is wrong. Call it a freudian slip, but Conners doesn’t think of the city as belonging to the African-American community that he polices. Apparently, he doesn’t think of Olivia as belonging either – even though she’s whom he called to deal with “the optics. Even though he knows she’s the best, she’s also part of the optical solution. He assumes that her color will make the job easier to handle this problem in “his” city. It’s not “the” city, or “our” city – it’s his city.

Now, no one wants a riot – but there wasn’t a riot happening. There were people gathered around looking at the body, much in the same way people stop and look at a traffic accident. They stop and look at the cars, then discuss whose fault it must have been, based on where the cars are. This is why Olivia wants the body moved. With no body, there’d be nothing to look at, and hopefully the crowd would disperse. It’s a logical choice, but it’s also one that assumes nothing is wrong. It assumes the shooting is legitimate. At a crime scene nothing is moved until everything is photographed and checked for evidence.

When Brandon Parker’s father Clarence (the amazing Courtney B. Vance) shows up and fires a shotgun in the air, my first thought is that he’s lucky an officer didn’t drop him right there. That may have been the hardest part to go with. How did he get into the middle of the circle around the body with that shotgun. The place is crawling with cops? Still, it’s TV, and I’m willing to go with it.

Olivia gets that the man’s in a lot of pain and probably isn’t thinking straight. He doesn’t deserve to be shot. Yet, having grieving angry man – black or white – standing in the middle of a crowd with a loaded shotgun just adds to the powder keg that could go off at any moment. If the police shoot him or he shoots someone, it’s all going to blow up. She’s his only chance to get out of there alive.

The first thing Olivia does is remind Chief Conners of the cell phones recording everything. She creates the specter of what could happen if not one, but two African-American men are killed by cops at this scene. It will make things look worse than they already are. When it looks like Conners isn’t sure what he’s going to, she walks out towards the father and starts talking. With Olivia out there, Conners has his men stand down. The last thing he wants to do is get Olivia Pope shot. This is really where the difficult part of things for Olivia starts and where her realizations begin.

What is it like to be the one black person in the area confident enough in her status to know the police won’t shoot at her? We all know Olivia is one of the most powerful people in Washington, and she’s counting on her status to protect her from the police. At the same time, she’s counting on her color to keep the father from shooting her. She’s right on both counts. The scene shows Olivia as a double agent, but also that she knows the score. There would be no real negotiations with Clarence Parker if she didn’t start them. Shots would be fired, most likely by the police taking him down.

Clarence: One of them murdered murdered my son. How do you think cops that murdered my son are gonna handle the crime scene?

Scandal 4x14 Mr. Parker

Olivia’s confidence in her status is such that she promises Clarence that she can get US attorney general David Rosen (Joshua Malina) to come down and oversee the case. Clarence’s response is classic.

“Who are you?”

I don’t blame him. Who in general has that kind of clout, never mind someone black. The thing is, while Olivia’s situation is extreme, I know there are African-American’s who have never been poor, who’ve lived in affluent mostly white areas, have gone to great universities, and gotten into great careers . They have parents who gave them every opportunity they could: swimming lessons, trips to Europe, private schools. That place where race and class intersect – we don’t talk about it much beyond discussions about Ebonics and who wears saggy pants.

The thing that isn’t talked about – feeling like you’re living life as a double agent – gets seen in this episode. The optics may look good, but it’s a lonely place. David doesn’t see the importance of what Olivia is talking about. Brandon Parker is not a senator, or governor, or like any of the number of cases he’s stepped in on that she shouldn’t have called him for. Has Olivia ever called him for something that was minor? No. I’m not saying David should have dropped everything and run right over, but his singular dismissal of her saying this was important stung me almost as much as it did her.

Then there’s the way that the activist, Marcus Walker (Cornelius Smith, Jr) doesn’t trust Olivia. How could she want justice if she was working with the police? How much could she really care if she’s never spent time in that neighborhood? The mistrust is fair enough. They live in two different worlds. The mistake is thinking that Olivia’s world makes her oblivious to the injustices leveled upon his, and it assumes that being in powerful circles and having lots of money means she never faces issues of discrimination or racism.

As things progress the answer to how Olivia could care is simple. How could she, seeing what she’s seeing, not care? There comes a point when she can’t be diplomatic, where she has to take a stand. Yes, part of Olivia crossing over to the other side of the police tape and joining in with the chanters is knowing the police are less likely to shoot into the crowd if she’s standing on the other side of that police tape. More importantly, she knows that the right side of the issue she’s witnessing, is on that other side.

In this fictional case, the right side of things becomes very clear cut, but we know in reality that the way this case ends isn’t usually what happens.

Having proof that a cop planted evidence, disregarded protocol, and let go of suspects to facilitate a cover-up, makes a case like this easy. Officer Newton ranting about the racism that runs through his heart, is icing on the case. His rant displays some of the valid frustrations – and invalid premises – that are part of today’s law enforcement system.

The issue of cops not living in the neighborhoods they work in has long been seen as a problematic situation in urban areas. It adds to the “us vs. them” mentality and make it easier to dehumanize the people in those poor and working class black and latino urban areas where the officers work.

In a similar vein, Newton describes the people from Brandon’s neighborhood as “takers,” and implies all that the have has been given to them by people like him (as in white). He’s hitting all the racially charged buzzwords were being used by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and other republicans in during the 201 2 presidential election: coded talk about welfare and African Americans (

Most of all, Newton brings up the issue of respect and how one should act with a police officer. When he mentions Black on black crime and the risks police officers take every day, those issues ring true, but that doesn’t excuse racial profiling. He goes on and on about the people he polices having no respect for police authority, and seeing the police as the enemy. He sounds more like an overseer than what you’d expect from a modern day police officer, and with that kind of assumption in a person’s head it’s no wonder that a simple move to get a receipt is misinterpreted.

We’ve seen in reality that being more polite is no guarantee of safety. The nation was in shock when the video of an officer shooting a man at a gas station. ( The victim was polite and compliant. His move to retrieve his license from the car is interpreted as him reaching for a gun. The officer is still shouting at him to get on the ground after shooting him when the victim is already down. Like in “The Lawn Case” evidence of wrong actions on the part of the officer in the gas station were clear. Similarly, the officer in question was also shown to have issues, removed from duty, and criminal charges were filed.

One could argue that these things are the acts of the individual officers. There is truth in that, but it doesn’t change the truth of there being a systemic problem. Even studies conducted by law enforcement note that an officer – black or white – is more likely to shoot a black male suspect because of bias (

With a conscious or subconscious racial bias built into an officer’s mind, manners don’t change outcomes – which is why why the idea that if one were only more polite these shootings wouldn’t happen is ludicrous. On the flip side, when the mayor of New York City spoke of teaching his biracial son on the proper way to interact with the police if he were stopped, he was slammed by many NYPD officers and officials for saying that he does so. ( So, people aren’t respectful enough to the police is said to be why situations escalate, but if you say that you are teaching your black son to be respectful and to avoid any movement that could be mistaken as combative then you’re still not doing it right?

Getting back to our Scandal episode, I don’t believe Olivia ever didn’t know the right side of things. It’s more that she thought that staying neutral would make it something she could fix. When she realizes that it’s not a one person problem and that she alone can’t fix it, there’s no point in neutrality anymore. There really isn’t.

Keep checking out for more Blacklight musings on Scandal and other shows. You can also follow me on Twitter, or find me at under Joy D’Angelo

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Empire 1 x 9 Recap & Review: War and Peace – Part 2

(Continuing from “Empire 1 x 9 Unto The Breach, Recap & Review: War and Peace)

We just left Lucious, Andre and Hakeem feeling good about convincing rocker Travie Wild to stay with Empire, but
Jamal is at that very moment calling his dad to let him know he’s still with Delphine and that they’ve got a real shot at bringing her to Empire.  He’s totally excited, and he’s right to be.  When a major star wants to record with you, that’s exciting!

Aren’t these one take wonders great? Got the mix right as they were doing it too – just like in real life. Okay, it’s not even close to real – it’s called creative license. Besides, it’s an excellent use of the song. It fits what Jamal’s gone through with coming out as well as what he and the whole Lyon family have been going through.

We all make mistakes, you might fall on your face, but you gotta get up…

What a perfect segue to where Cookie is!  It’s not surprising, but when return to her at the studio with Royale-T and the Creedmore rappers, she and Royale-T are the only two drinkers still conscious (the studio owner was not involved in this nonsense and is still eating a bowl of cereal) Royale-T tells her that if she can do one more shot and still walk he’ll stay at Empire. She nearly pukes, but she does it! Royale-T is staying at Empire!

Hakeem finally confronts his father about not letting him do anything – especially if he’s the one Lucious has picked to run Empire one day.  It’s right at the time Jamal calls his father, again.  This time it’s to leave a message letting him know that Delphine’s contract is up after she releases this album.  They really do have a shot to sign her and she’s agreed to meet with them that night! Lucious actually sees the call come in and ignores it.  Instead he deals with Hakeem.

Why do you think I picked you to be the one who watches and learns firsthand?

Even if Hakeem is whom Lucious wants to run the company, in Lucious’s eyes (and rightly so) Hakeem isn’t ready to handle running Empire.

Meanwhile, things aren’t quite done for Cookie because she’s still got to get home from this bad neighborhood, while wearing expensive clothes and being very drunk.  She’s perfect mark.  Luckily Malcolm had followed her and rescues her from being mugged.  Cookie throws herself at him, but it’s a no go.  Malcolm says he won’t sleep with her because it’s his job to read people and situations and he sees that Lucious is in still in love with Cookie!  Cookie, as drunk as she is, still manages to answer with some hard truth.

Cookie:     Lucious don’t care about nobody but hisself.

Malcolm: The way he looks at you – whatever that is, it’s too intense – which means you’re off-limits.

Smart man, Malcolm.  I wonder how long he’ll be able to hold out against the Cookie monster?  What? You know Cookie’s going keep going after him!

Having set Hakeem straight on where he stands, Lucious is back in the war room where things are running full tilt.  That’s when his personal assistant Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) comes running in with bad news.  Travie Wild is with Berretti!  He’s just ordered up his private jet to fly the guy to London!  Furious and a bit panicked, Lucious heads out. Hakeem tries to follow him, but Lucious tells him to stop acting like a puppy and sends him off to locate Andre and that briefcase full of money.

The Family Fixes…

Let me just run down some of  those Lyon family issues again.  Hakeem is feeling like his father doesn’t think he’s man enough to be of any real help in the family business beyond rapping.  Jamal is trying to get his father to get over his homophobia – at least in terms of Jamal being an asset to Empire, Andre is off his meds and seems to in a manic cycle, Cookie’s relationship with Hakeem is fragile, and she’s drunk, and Lucious is trying not to lose his best artists and not lose his IPO.  Got it?  Lets see how things go…

Hakeem and Jamal end up in the elevator together and tell each other what’s been going on.  However once Andre gets in the elevator, they realize they’ve got a bigger problem.  Andre has taken the briefcase full of money and bought a Lamborghini!  He’s also speaking super fast about how his job is to wine and dine the artists “in style” and being all huggy-kissy with Hakeem.  When Jamal taps Andre on the shoulder, Andre takes a swing at Jamal!  Clearly something is very, very wrong with Andre! If that’s not bad enough, the power blinks and the elevator stalls!

Malcolm, who’s still driving Cookie back to Empire, realizes – via the crazy data streams on his phone –  that Empire is being hacked from the 18th floor.  That’s why the elevator’s stalled.  They need to reset things to get things running again.

Lucious is unaware any of this is happening because he’s driven with some of his security people to try to stop Travie Wild from leaving, but he’s too late.  It’s a wild west type standoff with SUV’s between he and Berretti and his security and Lucious with his.  Berretti implies he slept with Anika, but Lucious gets the last word by saying he no longer feels sorry for him losing his son.  That, is cold!

Back in the elevator Andre is completely spiraling out, but in the process he’s revealing some bitter truths.  Like how their father doesn’t see him the way he sees Jamal and Hakeem and that they were just babies when things were really hard.  It’s an intense, powerful scene.  Andre is crying, yelling and banging against the elevator walls.

It was only me! Me! Me! You were babies! I worked harder than anyone up in here!  I made Empire! 8 to 10, 8 to 10! Every day! …I’d go home and work!

Jamal’s the one who finds a way to calm Andre down by reminding him of a song that he and their mother would sing to calm Jamal and Hakeem down when things got scary with gunshots outside or Aunt Carol going crazy while high on drugs.  It’s “Lean on Me.”  Jamal slowly brings Andre into doing the song, and soon the three of them are singing and hugging, and I’m weeping.  Tearing up just thinking about it.  Really, it’s the scene of the night.

Everyone ends up regrouping in the war room.  Even Cookie – who must have had a ton of coffee to be able to be in there and be clear in her thoughts.  She brings the news that Tiana (Serayah McNeill) is getting ready to meet with Anika. Lucious is all set to go after her, but Jamal stops him with the news about Delphine.   Lucious is says he’s rather go after Tiana even though Delphine is a bigger star that Tiana or Travie Wild!

Cookie shuts Lucious’s nonsense right down by saying she’ll handle getting Tiana back – and then tells Jamal to come with her.  Jamal can’t believe she wants him to come.  He’s even more shocked when she says that she needs him to!  In that instant things have changed for Jamal.  His mother has seen him as being helpful and valuable in a way his father hasn’t done all day.

Once they’re gonna stubborn Lucious tells Jamal he still doesn’t want to sign Delphine. Why?  He won’t admit it, but it’s because Delphine has no problem with finding out that Jamal is gay! Jamal totally checks him.

You said families put aside their differences.  So put down your played out homophobia – unless it’s more important to you than Empire.
With that Jamal storms off.

Obviously, nothing’s more important than Empire to Lucious, but first things first.  He has security lock down Andre in the war room and call his wife…

Cookie uses Hakeem to waylay Anika on her way to meet Tiana.  He plays it perfectly, asking why she’s doing this, how she’s a part of their family, can’t she forgive his dad.  All the stuff you’d expect from a young kid.  By the time she realizes what’s happening Porsha and some girls have arrived and block her from getting inside where Tiana is.

Hakeem goes into the  to join the talk Cookie is having with Tiana.  Tiana thinks Empire was getting ready to drop her because of the break up with Hakeem.  Hakeem then vouches for his mother.

You will never find anyone who will work harder for you than Cookie

Once she learns otherwise she admits she’d like to stay at Empire.  Even more than that, she wants to get back together with Hakeem.  Surprisingly, Hakeem is mature about it and says that while he forgives her, he can’t date her again, not even to keep her at Empire, because he’s still in love with Camilla.  I guess Hakeem’s decided that in this respect, he does not want to be like his dad!

Cookie seals the deal by telling Tiana that no matter what she’s family to them – and that Empire was built on family.

Lucious does go and have dinner with Delphine, her manager, and Jamal – at Empire’s club.  That’s when we learn they had a chance to sign Delphine six years ago, but Anika didn’t want to sign her!  Lucious informs her that Anika is gone and that he’ll be the one handling Delphine’s career if she signs with Empire.  Delphine’s a huge fan – as a child she used to dream of doing a duet with Lucious –  so it’s a done deal! In fact, Lucious tells her they can fulfill that duet fantasy right there!

Yep! It’s an Empire family affair: Lucious and Cookie are sitting on the piano and singing, while Delphine, Jamal, Hakeem and Tiana are all singing along.  It looks like the breach – in the company and the family – has been dealt with.  Except…where is Andre?

The last scene of Empire “Unto the Breach” is sad and chilling. Andre is still locked in the war room, a guard on each side, and his wife Rhonda in the center trying to get him to calm down. It’s bad. Andre’s yelling at everyone, and throwing things around. Lucious shows up and Andre questions him about who he’s picking to run Empire and offers him some “business advice.”

"You pick the one that knows you're a murderer."

“You pick the one that knows you’re a murderer.”

I’ve got a piece of advice for Andre – don’t tell a murderer you know his secret…

After that Andre gets totally out of control, pushing people and threatening to kill anyone who touches him. A stretcher arrives and they tackle him, inject him with a sedative and take him away. Lucious makes Rhonda sign the papers to have him committed for forty-eight hours.

All I’ve got to say is Trai Byers’s performances this episode are outstanding.  The mix of real issues with his manic state, is painful to watch – scary and tragic all at once.  You start to wonder where his choices – from the very beginning – have come from.  The cold calculations, the sexual power game highs.  Are they part of his mental illness, a result of what he’s gone through with his father since he was a child…or is it just the same thirst for power that his father has?

As for where all of this is going to go…we’re going to have to wait a week to find out!

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Empire 1 x 9 Unto The Breach, Recap & Review: War and Peace

Lucious, Cookie, Andre, Jamal, Hakeem the Lyon family of Fox’s Empire have taken to filling my dreams! I so wish that was just a line, but damn-it, I was dreaming about this show Tuesday night! Empire 1 x 9 is titled “Unto the Breach.”  Which breach? That’s a good question!  There are certainly a number of them.  This Empire 1×9 recap will be covering them all!

Empire 1 x 9 Official Fox Promo Still

I’ve been asking myself why the hell I didn’t start watching Empire from day one. Especially since there’s nothing I really watch on Wednesday nights anyway.  Maybe it’s because the last show on Fox I loved, Almost Human, got cancelled after one season. There’s also the continued, never forgotten heartache of Firefly…. I suppose I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a wait-and-see approach to Fox shows.

That being said, after the twentieth of my family and friends asked me if I was watching Empire. I sat down this weekend to watch an episode – and finished all eight in two days.   It’s no wonder that this show is the first in TV history that has grown its audience week after week….Okay, that’s enough about my personal regrets and dream life – on with the recap!

Last week Anika Calhoun (Grace Gealey) learned that her fiance, the co-founder and head of Empire records, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) had slept with his Cookie Lyons (Taraji P. Henson) again. Cookie was all too happy to tell about hooking up with Lucious after he’d promised Anika it would never happen again. As a result that night she went to the home of Lucious’s sworn enemy, Billy Berretti (Judd Nelson). It’s the most obvious point breach into Lucious’s music Empire.

The Setup

That’s what makes the opening of Empire 1 x 9 so surprising.  It’s Anika and Lucious at the house with wedding planner talking about how many doves to release at the wedding The wedding planning doesn’t last long though. Cookie and her assistant Porsha (TaRonda Jones) come traipsing in talking about how Anika is playing Lucious and just stalling for time.

I love Cookie! Henson’s larger than life portrayal is 100% real – which is what makes her so fabulous! Anika is literally stammering in the force of her whirlwind accusations

It’s good to know that while we all saw Anika try to buy Porsha to spy on Cookie, her plan didn’t work.  Porsha took the money, but stayed loyal to Cookie and spied on Anika instead! Loyalty can not be bought. Porsha and Cookie are cut from similar backgrounds and totally get each other. Boo-Boo Kitty didn’t stand a chance with that!

Lucious is shocked and hurt by this information, but not enough to forget about business. While Cookie and Porsha are throwing all of Anika’s clothes out the window of the second floor onto the driveway, he’s on the phone with his new head of security Malcolm Devoe (Derek Luke) telling him to lock Empire down.  Anika is on the phone making a deal to steal another artist from Empire when Cookie has Porsha take the phone from her because it’s Empire’s property.

Lucious goes after Anika demanding the truth and she claims it’s all his fault.  Now, Lucious is a self-serving dog whose idea of loyalty seems non-existent.  However, I’m not sure what to make of Anika’s “you have twisted my love and made it some awful thing” speech. I’m sorry, but she lost my sympathy when she slipped drugs into the drink of Elle Dallas (Courtney Love) – a woman who had just gotten clean and was trying to get her career back together. I don’t care how much she hated Cookie, sabotaging Elle just because Cookie helped get her together and she wanted Cookie to look bad was super low.  Hell, Lucious hadn’t even screwed Cookie at that point.  Miss debutante has known the man Lucious was for a while, but she sure didn’t mind being the head of A&R at Empire, or all the money, cars, and fame that came with it. What she couldn’t stand was Lucious cheating with ex-wife and ex-con Cookie. In all the other episode I’ve always felt that if Cookie were from a similar background as herself Anika would have dealt much better with the situation.

Of course, Lucious doesn’t help the situation either.  When he’s begging Anika, talking about “when a man in my position says please, it means something.” she’s waiting – we’re all waiting – for him to ask for forgiven, beg her to take him back, give him another chance. Nope! He’s asking her to please tell him what she and Berretti planned to do to destroy him so he can fix it!

That’s really when it’s over. Had he shown even a moment of concern about them and the relationship Anika might have caved, but Lucious is still Lucious. When she storms off, Lucious threatens her life, but tells her what he means is that if she tells Berretti about him having ALS and his IPO doesn’t go through he will have her father go down for fraud. He’s got her there! Because her dad lied and signed that clean bill of health for him, he could lose everything. Neither say anything after that, but they both know it’s true and that she’ll be keeping her mouth shut on that.

Crying, Anika walks to the gate of the mansion and a couple of black SUV drives up. She get in the front of one and the back window rolls down. It’s Berretti.

Berretti: Lucious.

Lucious: You started this. But I’m gonna finish it.

This Means War!

Jamal Lyon is sitting, and singing, pretty! After coming out with a big splash at the white party last week, he’s apparently been working on a super hot new song and music video. The video’s been shot by Ryan Morgan (Eka Darville) the new filmmaker shooting the Empire Legacy documentary, who’s also his new boyfriend, who incidentally is exactly the kind of man Cookie told Jamal he needed to be with: successful in his own career and understanding of the music business. Don’t play Cookie stupid – she knows what her baby needs!

Ryan’s also working with a famous singer named Delphine (played by the Grammy-winning British singer Estelle) whom Ryan says loved Jamal’s rendition of his dad’s song, “You’re So Beautiful.” The two start to get physical, but are interrupted by Porsha. She’s summoning Jamal to Empire headquarters for Cookie.  She informs him that, “they’re at war.”

At Empire headquarters things are buzzing. People are being escorted off the premises, as Cookie and Luscious come sweeping in. They look Fierce! Aside from Cookie’s “I told you so” commentary about Anika these two are of one accord, protect the Empire.  Malcolm is there to greet them both, and he is on it!

“Don’t worry, we’re on top of it sir. But, we’re sweeping hard drives, checking cell phones. Rest assured, I will be defending your empire.”

Empire 1 x 9 Cookie Lucious Malcom collage

Cookie is totally checking out Malcolm, again.    Remember, Lucious is the only man she’s ever been with – and she’s been in jail for 17 years.  I do not blame her one bit!

Andre’s Downward Spiral

Last week oldest son Andre Lyon (Trai Byers) was so devastated by his father not backing him to be CFO if anything happened he contemplated suicide. Plus, his wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) finally drew the line in their sick little sex and power games. He’s been unraveling bit by bit, but this week we find him the bathroom contemplating the meds he’s supposed to take for his bi-polar disorder. The ones his wife is always on him about taking, and that he’s supposed to have gone to get adjusted and skipped the appointment for a few weeks back. As he starts to shove a bunch of pills in his mouth.  He’s got the voice of his father about Andre being married to that “white bitch” means that he’ll never be the head of Empire. (Racist much, Lucious?). Andre spits out his meds and dumps them all down the toilet. Oh boy…he’s screwed.  The only question is if he’s gonna go manic or go into another major suicidal depression. He’s mad, so I’m betting on the manic side….  Rhonda  comes in and can see something’s up, but she’s bringing him the phone with the news that something’s big is going down at Empire.

The War Room

The main conference room at Empire is now a war room with monitors showing all the artists being fought over, the ones who’ve moved, the ones who’ve committed to stay and the ones in flux. Cookie is cementing Dallas in at Empire. (I don’t blame her. I wonder if anyone has figured out what Anika did to her…I so want to see Anika exposed for that!) Jamal is breaking down the kind of information they’re going to need to get in order to go after some of the artist. That’s when Lucious’s youngest son Hakeem (Bryshere Gray aka Yazz the Greatest) walks in and tells his dad that one of his friends has gotten some C4 and they are going to go blow up the Creemore headquarters! Jamal, Cookie and Lucious all look at him like he’s lost his mind, but it’s Lucious that addresses him.

“Do you know how serious this is? This isn’t a video. You wanna learn something? This is war. Tuck in, and learn.”

I feel bad for Hakeem.  He’s basically still a kid. I can see how he connected going to war with C4 – as opposed to the protecting of Empire’s finances music assets. Still, he’s listening when his dad quiets everyone down to make this speech.

This morning Berretti tried to test our heart. Now where I’m from, someone tries to test your heart, you take their head off. Now the heart of Empire is its family. And like any family, we’ve had our differences, but when a family is in crisis they put the differences aside and they come together. So we have less than 24 hours to assure these streets than Empire is stronger now than it’s ever been before and this family can take whatever artists it wants and can keep the artists it has. You draw blood.

Lucious’s speech contains the engine of the whole episode. In various ways, the Lyon family has to deal with the breaches within their lives in order to handle the one created by Anika, Billy Berretti and Creedmore records. The biggest family rift is between Jamal and Lucious over Jamal’s public coming out last week. Even though no one cares Jamal is gay, Lucious is determined to make it an issue. Jamal is totally on point in this business crisis, but Lucious keeps shutting him down by citing his gayness as a problem for dealing with the artists. He says Jamal’s hurt the Empire brand by coming out, and that’s Jamal shouldn’t be talking to a rap artist because Jamal’s gay – even though the artist clearly didn’t have a problem talking to Jamal. He completely ignores the comment about Jamal signing Delphine.

It’s for damn sure going to hurt us with Royalty. You don’t contact Royalty.”

This is a fun little moment because it’s a double meaning.  Lucious is talking about a rap artist called “Royale – T” (Ivan Ellis)- not high tier artists in general, even though he does in fact Jamal shouldn’t be talking to anyone!

Poor Hakeem tries to be helpful again, this time suggesting he could talk to Royale-T, “MC to MC.” His dad dismisses him again.

He’s way too hood, and you’ve got to be a real monster to deal with him.

That’s Cookie’s cue! She knows Lucious means she’s got to go deal with the guy. Hilarious! (I gotta say, once we meet Royale-T, it’s clear Lucious is right about Hakeem. That guy’d eat Hakeem for breakfast!)

Over at Creedmore, Anika and that group are listening to one of Anika’s steals from Empire.  The song, “Black and Blue” is a perfect fit for describing Anika’s state of mind. Berretti’s gung-ho on this artist, but when Anika pulls him aside to tell him about three other artists that are going to come with her as well, he tells her he wants Tiana – Hakeem’s ex-girlfriend.  The only reason he wants her because she’s Hakeem’s ex.  This thing is all about sticking it to Lucious and the Lyon family.

Later when the two are alone, Berretti asks Anika for anything on Lucious than can help bring him down, revealing to her that Lucious was the first artist he signed after his son died of Leukemia. She’s uncomfortable, because she knows if Berretti finds out Lucious is sick her dad’s life will be destroyed. If that wasn’t bad enough, Berretti also puts a hand on Anika’s knee talking about how he knows that Lucious hurts people. Anika makes it clear she wants a professional relationship – so we can assume she didn’t sleep with him when she went to his place that night.

Back at Empire, Hakeem tells his dad he’s got a connection to another artist – a rocker he “partied with in Belize” that’s in town looking at labels. Dad’s cool with that, but then tells Hakeem to put him on the phone and let him do the talking…. It’s fair to say this is now a pattern. Hakeem is feeling completely dissed by his father. Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to the boy doing anything stupid! While Hakeem is dialing, Andre finally shows up to work. He’s a bit jittery, but he’s brought a briefcase full of “untraceable” cash to help seduce artists into staying.

Jamal is appalled at this, but he then gets really mad when his father suggests that if Jamal hadn’t come out they wouldn’t be in this mess and quickly gives Lucious a reality check:

You know what? You’re right about one thing. Sexual proclivity is what put us in this position.

"Your proclivity, in that you can't simply manage to keep it in your pants."

“Your proclivity, in that you can’t simply manage to keep it in your pants.”

Once again, Lucious is on Jamal about being gay hurting the business, but Jamal sure put him in his place. His coming out has nothing to do with the mess Empire is in. It’s all Lucious!

I like that Jamal isn’t okay with the idea of using drugs and hookers to keep artists at Empire, but Lucious is totally down with it. Now, I’m not surprised by this – I just like that the idea comes from Andre, a man we know is off his meds and completely unstable. It underscores the insanity behind the idea. Not that I don’t think such things occur in that business…it’s just one of the reasons they say show business is a crazy business.


Speaking of crazy, what Cookie has to do to get Royale-T to stay at Empire is equally nuts! She’s got to go back to recording studio that Jamal was at when he wasn’t taking his dad’s money. Now it’s filled with a bunch of thug looking guys.

“Are you really doing this? Hanging with these roaches from Creedmore?”

The encounter turns into a showcase for the misogynistic side of the rap music world – but Cookie totally shuts them down. Royale-T is impressed that Cookie’s done time in prison….(See why I say Lucious was right to not send Hakeem?) Cookie then challenges them all to see who can drink the most of a potent homemade alcoholic drink.

While the drink off was going on, the rest of the Lyon’s family was also working to secure artists. Jamal goes to meet the great Delphine , who’s thrilled to meet him.   At the same time, Lucious has a meeting with Hakeem’s party buddy Travie Wild (Shane Kenyon) – with Hakeem and Andre in the room. Lucious is pitching that Empire is the most artist-focused label in the business, but Travie isn’t interested in signing with any labels at all. He has total respect for Lucious, but as he sees it, the age of big music labels is dead because of the internet. Why should he give a label 30 percent when he can just release stuff on-line?

Lucious tells Travie that the whole point of going public is to put the artist back in control of the music while sharing in the profits. It all sounds vague – until Andre steps in!

“You won’t be robbed by streaming services, Travie because you’re not going to need streaming services. The Empire catalogue is going to be its own streaming service – a joint venture, with our artists. But that’s just one component of our model, a new paradigm. You see, music isn’t the cargo anymore my man it’s the track – and faster than ever.”

Hakeem has no idea what Andre is talking about.

Hakeem has no idea what Andre is talking about.

Basically, Andre is saying that the artist’s music, concerts, etc, will be a direct line on Empire’s streaming service and that every artist will become an equity partner in the company, thus profiting not only from their music, but from the company as a whole.  (This actually is a very cool idea!)  Travie is interested, but still isn’t into that 30 percent bit.  Andre tells him they can cut it in half and they’ll still both make more money. That sells Travie who tells Lucious his people will be calling him.

Click here to continue: EMPIRE 1×9 – PART TWO

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