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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
FIXING THE BREACHES
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.”
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.