Is Empire's Thirsty Getting Too Big For His Britches?
There's a lot of good reasons this episode is entitled 'The Naked Villainy'!
Lucious has been bedridden by a flare-up of his myasthenia gravis -- remember, that's what he is afflicted with instead of the ALS he thought he had in Season 1
in case Terrence Howard went too nuts and the show had to fire him due to a tragically incompetent physician. His new doctor, it appears, isn't much better, allowing the ailing Lyon to make his bedroom into "an ICU environment." It's hardly ethical, but is argued for so persuasively by a more-powerful-than-ever Thirsty that the medical man could hardly say "no," right?
The senior Lyon's illness, which in this case requires intubation, is apparently just the window various members of his family have sought to make various moves. It also seems to provide an opportunity for Thirsty to really take charge, which seems...unwise on Lucious's part. Let's begin with that, as we address some questions raised by this week's Empire.
Is Thirsty getting too big for his britches?
With Lucious sick, Thirsty gets to -- literally -- speak for him, and what comes out of his mouth isn't pretty. When the news breaks that Kennedy is holding Empire responsible for her assault, Thirsty goes straight to a plan to dig up dirt on Kennedy in an effort to deter her from moving forward with the suit. This kind of move has resulted in threatened sanctions for New York defense attorneys in the past, and Jamal is immediately disgusted at the thought. (Meanwhile, Andre wants to settle; Hakeem wants to apologize.) But it's Thirsty's tactic that moves forward, at a deposition improbably scheduled while the bruises are still fresh on Kennedy's face.
That's hardly the worst thing Thirsty pushes while Lucious is laid up, though, as he also informs Anika (in her own home, no less) that Lucious and Friends could just have her killed and frame Tariq for the crime. If Lucious is smart, he's paying attention to this ruthless behavior -- after all, what reason does Lucious have to think this jail-visiting-room opportunist will be loyal if a chance to grab even more power presents itself? Does Lucious think Thirsty is his Sancho Panza, when he's more than likely his Iago?
Are you kind of on Anika's side this week?
It's a testament to Grace Byers's (née Gealey) abilities that, week by week, my feelings about Anika shift. This week, she's my favorite version of herself: crazy, but rightfully so.
After Thirsty's threatening remarks, she pulls Lucious's breathing tube and reminds him that their federal-shotgun wedding didn't have a prenup, so if he dies, everything he owns is hers, so he must "tell Thirsty [she is] not his bitch."
Later on, Anika goes to visit Cookie, asking her to care for Bella if she dies or is imprisoned. Not Hakeem, the baby's father; not Jamal, who seems like he'd be a sweet dad; and not her parents...but Cookie? I worry that this is a contrivance to set up some baby poop-on-Gucci jokes, but whatever, I'm kind of down for it.
How cute is Jamal's opening When Cookie Met Lucious single?
Comparing it to Beyonce's drop of "Formation" in advance of Lemonade, Cookie pushes Jamal to make a video teaser for the first single from his upcoming album while Inferno languishes in Lucious's sickbed. The result is a delightful Michael Jacksonesque confection (pre-scandal, of course) -- a fun rooftop romp intended to show how something "could begin so beautiful" before, as the album progresses, it "turns into something ugly."
The song must be effective, since it sends Cookie into a reverie in which she recalls volunteering to take over Lucious's drug dealing duties so that he could keep working on a particularly promising song. Hey, sometimes when I'm busy watching/writing about TV, my husband will take out the dogs! Does that mean I'm the Lucious in my relationship?
Shaken by her flashback, Cookie is uncharacteristically vulnerable with the crew shooting the teaser, talking about how much she loved Lucious. I'm sure that will not have a single repercussion on her current relationship with a certain mayoral hopeful!
Is it spelled "Coocious"?
Cookie says it sounds like an STD, while I think it sounds like a delicious Mediterranean dish. ("I'll have the dolmas, the spanakopita, and the coocious, please!") But what it is is a portmanteau settled upon by Empire fans entranced by the story told in Jamal's successfully-dropped trailer...which appears on the same day as the Democratic mayoral primary, because this fucking election will apparently last longer than the endless Illinois Governor's race from that rapidly declining season of The Good Wife.
We learn this when, as Angelo and Cookie leave their polling place, a pair of fans accost them and demand a photo. A photo that Angelo is cropped out of!
Girls, this is a man who looks like Taye Diggs here, but with political power! You are barking up an unhealthy tree, shipping Cookie and Lucious. Cut it out.
Will Hakeem keep up his non-misogynistic ways?
I'm pleased that Empire addressed the persistent problem of misogyny in R&B and hip-hop; as a show with strong female figures, it only makes sense that they tackle this issue head on. And I'm impressed with how elegantly they weave the narrative in, rooting it all the way back in Hakeem's yucky "clap-back" at Tiana and his livestreamed homophobic attack on Jamal.
After being briefly called out by Jamal last week, the youngest (and, let's face it, dumbest) Lyon has finally realized that his lyrics and lifestyle are as big a part of the problem as the hanger-on rando who actually hit Kennedy. Of course, it takes watching a deposition in which Thirsty attacks Kennedy's character to shake Hakeem up, but the result is heartwarming -- a come-to-Jesus conversation with Jamal and Cookie, followed by an Empire Xstreamed broadcast of a pro-woman song and apology.
But what I'm wondering is, will it stick? After all, Tupac Shakur "released pro-woman anthem Keep Ya Head Up" in 1993. That same year, he was convicted of the sexual assault of a fan. In 1996 he had dropped "All Bout U," the song that contains the lovely line "No matter where I go, I see the same ho." The late artist was honored last week at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which makes you wonder, does the public care if a man respects women or assaults them?
For an answer to this burning question, I'd like to direct your attention the the White House. But, seriously, this isn't just me going on a frustrated tangent! Given precedent large and small, what incentive will Hakeem have to stay on Gloria Steinem's good side?
Is Giuliana inadvertently about to save Cookie from a dreadful mistake?
It's clear that between their midseason premiere kiss and all the reminiscing, Cookie's starting to get a little bit hung up on Lucious again. This means that I'm yelling "Cookie, no!" at the TV a lot, which is rough because the dog thinks he's doing something wrong and goes to hide under the bed.
A remarkably recovered Lucious (more evidence for my Devil theory) seems to sense that, and starts ticking the ivories just the way Cookie likes them to be tickled at Angelo's (Democratic primary) victory party at Leviticus, because what smart mayoral candidate wouldn't hold his celebration at a venue recently named in a $50 million man-on-woman assault case!
Thank god for Giuliana, who earlier in the episode cleverly dimed out Andre "I went to Wharton, and yet the way I do business must involve my penis" Lyon to Nessa for his "we have an arrangement" bullshit. She suddenly appears by Lucious's side, asking him to "play the song you wrote about me," and doesn't appear even remotely thrown when he threatens to kill her "on the spot."
Guess there's more to Lucious's dislike of Andre's deal with Giuliana than Lucious's contempt for Las Vegas!