Screens: Fox

The Revenge Of Cookie's Side Eye

Cataloguing the most important faces from this week's Empire.

Welcome to The Faces Of Empire, where I select the shameless mugs that best express the weekly spirit of America's favorite hip-hop soap opera.

This week's installment, "The Outspoken King," finds Cookie and Lucious playing out their barely repressed sexual tension by moving their own sons around on the chessboard of music industry fame. Who will get the most press attention for his publicity stunt/live performance -- Hakeem or Jamal? And how will that victory symbolize mom and dad's ongoing struggle for power?

Well...those are moot questions, actually, since Jamal and Hakeem end up performing together at their dad's new club. Everyone wins. Except for maybe Andre, who literally loses his mind in the corner during the show. Turns out Dre is bipolar in a manner that makes him act like The Joker if he misses two days of his pills. That might undermine his attempt to take the record label public while destroying the rest of his family.

Or maybe not! Maybe his theatrically florid mental problems will pave his road to success. That's for future Faces to decide. For now, let's read the oracles of this week's expressions.

Daddy's Tears

On one hand, it's telling that Lucious named his club Leviticus, which is the site of so much Biblical law. After all, that particular book declares declares homosexuality a wicked sin, which is why Lucious doesn't want Jamal to come out of the closet.

But on the OTHER hand, Lucious himself murdered his friend last week, and now he's crying in front his family and pals like he's desperate to find the killer. Where's his sense of Biblical law now? When Lucious cries, what can we actually believe?!?!

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This two-faced Face gets a boost from the leitmotif of Lucious's own gangsta rap past. Cookie makes a big point of saying he's "grown a vagina" since his early days, now that he's trying to appease white bankers who might want to buy stock in the company. But was that old Lucious ever authentic? Or was he always waiting to become the business man he is today?

(Sidebar: Cookie sure does seem to have a lot of knowledge about how the record industry works. How can she toss around so much attitude about her ex-husband's business decisions when she's been in jail for seventeen years? Wouldn't she have missed, oh, EVERY moment of Empire's rise? Did they teach artist management seminars in jail?)

Cry Like Everyone's Watching

Jamal wants out of the closet, but he feels conflicted after Lucious threatens to cut him off for coming out. So what does he do? He finds some time alone at a keyboard and sings, sings, sings through his pain, with beautiful tears rolling down his cheeks.

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This Face makes the cut because it's clearly designed to (a) contrast with Lucious's fake crying, and (b) further establish Jamal as the heart of the show.

Meanwhile...I wonder if Jamal has noticed that Cookie called his boyfriend "Dora." As in Dora the Explorer. Not cool.

Shut UP, Porsha!

You could argue that the most shocking element of this episode arrives when Hakeem gets drunk, pees on the floor of a nice restaurant, and films himself dissing Barack Obama. Which apparently results in Obama cursing Lucious out over the phone and hanging up on him.

You also might argue that it's the final scene, when Cookie gets dragged into a dark car and confronted by "Agent Carter," who apparently wants to force her to testify in some kind of trial. Even though Cookie insists that it will get her killed!

But I'd assert that this week's most delicious and startling twist is the arrival of Porsha, Cookie's new assistant. In about one second, she establishes herself as gum-snapping, shade-slinging comic relief, always ready with side eye and pissy comments about people she JUST MET. (Don't waste time! Call those fools out!)

Screens: Fox

Even better, Porsha quickly enters a vaudeville-style relationship with Cookie. They have a whole prop bit when Cookie loses a shoe, and they bicker like old lovers in at least twenty different scenes. And that leads us to amazing Faces like the ones we get above. These ladies aren't having it. ANY of it.

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