Whoa! Empire Had Some Believable Relationships This Week!
But which ones were the MOST similar to actual human behavior?
Holy crap, y'all! There were several scenes in this week's Empire that were emotionally affecting because they were rooted in recognizable human behavior. Is it Opposite Day? I mean… I like this show, you know? But my enjoyment typically comes from the hysterical hijinks that leave smoking skeletons in a DA's car. I'm not prepared to feel --- dare I say it? -- moved. But here we are. I give a lot of credit to Robert Munic (who wrote the episode) and Mario Van Peebles (who directed, thus maintaining the high bar set by his recent, awesome appearance on Last Week Tonight). And of course the cast is up to the challenge. That was never in question.
But which relationships popped the most? Let's find out!
- Hakeem and Anika
Say what now? How the hell did he stumble upon her on the sidewalk? And why did he randomly kiss her? And more to the point…why did she think that a passionate embrace following his escape from a kidnap/torture plot was going to result in anything like lasting love? When Anika shows up at Hakeem's place at the end of the episode, then looks all put out when he's obviously connecting with Laura, I want to reach through the TV and yell some sense into her head. None of these people are good for you, lady! And the fact that you got the weakest writing this week only proves it!
- Cookie and Laz
Laz is the name of Cookie's new head of security. Did you know? I didn't until I looked it up. Anyway…the big reveal is no huge surprise. OF COURSE Laz is connected to the gang that's shaking Cookie and her artists down. Cookie just wouldn't make sense if there weren't a man doing her wrong. (Which reminds me: She needs to sign Carrie Underwood to Lyon Dynasty and get her to record a few revenge anthems.) But that being said, I still got a perverse thrill out of watching his tattoo get revealed, and I'm even more excited about the inevitable scene where Cookie literally throws him under a bus while wearing a floor-length chinchilla coat and bright purple lipstick.
- Becky and Jamal
YASSSSSS! YAS, KWEEN! WERQ!
Ahem. Forgive me. My inner Drag Race fan had to celebrate the scene where Becky and Jamal trade snaps about the good dick that Becky's been catching from J Poppa. I've always loved their friendship because it allows Jamal to relax, but this week I saw what it gives Becky: Whereas Andre treats her like a suspect employee and Lucious ignores her altogether, Jamal actually cares about her. So when she literally falls out over her good man, he's there to celebrate. More of this, please. And if Latrice Royale could be involved, I'd appreciate it.
- Hakeem and Laura
Did you catch all the storytelling beats that unfolded when Laura helped Hakeem pull his shit together onstage and drop a sick verse? All without missing any of her own lyrics? For one thing, she emerged as a major artistic force in the show's universe -- the sultry yin to Freda's yang, if you will. For another, she sparked a romance with Hakeem without saying a word. She's "ride or die," as I believe the kids say, or as I believe the kids said 10 years ago, when I was already too old to be cool. Hakeem's journey to independence from his father's influence was a major arc of this episode, and it reached its conclusion here, with Lucious in the crowd trying to will his son into failure during a performance. But with Laura there to support him, he found his footing. It was a honest-to-god romantic moment because it arose from strength, respect, and support.
- Freda and Lucious
It's still possible, of course, that Lucious is just courting Freda so that he can eventually destroy her, the way he swore to Frank he would. However, their connection in the car, freestyling over the song that Lucious initially wrote for Hakeem, seemed genuine. Now that his sons have so firmly turned against him (for the time being, at least), I believe Lucious when he tells Freda that he connects to her life more than he does to theirs. It's all part of his narcissism, of course, but there also seems to be a glimmer of real desire to have a deep relationship with a young person. Meanwhile, Freda is one of my favorite new characters because she's so clearly gifted, even if she's just learning what that means. It was incredibly pleasurable to watch her accept Lucious's kindness and spit a sweet rhyme over his track. Plus, Bre-Z is a great rapper, which doesn't hurt.
- The Lyon Brothers
The scene backstage, where Jamal and Andre help Hakeem find the courage to go onstage after being berated by their father (and after chastising himself for not being a bigger man during his kidnapping), is one of my favorites in this history of this show. As Andre says, these three guys are amazing simply because they've survived their own upbringing, and it was nice to see them have a moment to support one another that wasn't tainted by a murder subplot or painting defacement. I'm sure they'll be scrapping again soon enough, but this week was a nice reminder that beneath all the brouhaha, Empire warrants our attention as a compelling look at the deep, necessary bonds of family.