(Editor’s Note: Though we’re part of the way through Fox’ hit show Empire, we’ve been holding off reviewing it until we found a recapper who was dying to write about the King Lear-ish hip-hop melodrama. Introducing tvDownload’s newest member, Elle.com contributor and Internet writer, Rightor Doyle!)
Fellow Empire watchers, welcome to your weekly recap of the show you always knew you wanted but never knew how to ask for. Since we are starting quite a few episodes in, I’d like to take a cue from our favorite new devotional hour of soapy HD and give you some sepia toned backstory. As our sister from another musical mister Fräulein Maria said to those devilish yet golden piped Von Trapp children: “Let’s start from the very beginning. It’s a VERY GOOD place to start.” All aboard the Lincoln Towncar Express to High Drama Station!
Fox (and the Illuminati) would like us to understand that Empire is King Lear set in a Puff Daddy world during the P. Diddy era. I can’t say they are completely wrong. King Daddy doesn’t have much time left, so he tells his kids that the most worthy child will inherit his kingdom. Yet, in true hip hop form this is more of a Shakespearean remix/mash up than a word for word retelling. It’s Lear, yes, but it’s also “Hamlet” in recording studio; “Macbeth” with shower scenes; Richard the III featuring Courtney Love. (More on that later.)
It dawned on me that Empire also has shades of our recently recalled Fräulein with an attitude and her fella that was in the mood. You see, I quote the mellifluous utterances of Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music on purpose. For as much as Empire stands on the crutches on Lear-esque family upheaval it also takes cues from everyone’s favorite sweet singing family running from the Nazis. HEAR ME OUT.
Luscious Lyon (Terence Howard in full Christopher Plummer pompadour and matching bravado) has raised his children without a mother. At the height of his success, he gets himself the Baroness, who is a walking Katy Perry song: Hot as balls and cold as ice. Enter Maria, or as we know her in the Empire world, COOKIE (Taraji P. Henson, collecting EGOTs with the blink of her fox hair lash extensions). She has come from the imprisoned life of the convent (i.e. actual prison) to rear the children (she left behind) and ends up finding great freedom and strength from being in the real world. She soon whips the kids into shape with her wacky mix of stern sass and music loving, all the while also making Luscious fall in love with her. And at the end everyone lives happily after…except for all of World War II era Europe…and Luscious who has ALS and has three years to live.
Ok, I got off track there, but now that you get the premise. Lets just dive in.
Episode 7 greets us as Empire Entertainment is setting up an investor showcase in the hopes of catching enough coin to go public (in the Wall street sense). Jamal, Luscious’s gay son, is having trouble going public (in the public sense) with his sexuality. Naturally, his cute Latino boyfriend leaves him. At the same time Jamal’s ex-wife from a previously arranged marriage by his (non-accepting) father rolls through with a cute little girl who she says is Jamal’s. (I don’t even think we are at the first commercial break). Cookie, who is managing Jamal, is angling for him to play the investors showcase. Luscious is having none of it. Only one son will play the investors showcase and that will be the straight one, Hakeem, who looks like Lil Wayne if Lil Wayne worked at Forever 21.
Hakeem is having lady troubles all his own. And by troubles I mean Naomi Campbell, who if I can just go on the record here and say is the goddess of everything that is beautiful and scientists should study her skin or rather scientists should tell all of us what they have been doing to her skin immediately. (Side note: Naomi Campbell and JLo must live in vats of petroleum jelly. That’s the only way to explain that wrinkle free glow. But I digress.)
So, Naomi Campbell, an impossibly beautiful beauty for the ageless ages (whose show name is Camilla Marks but who cares) is dating Hakeem. Yes, you read that right. Hakeem! A rapping Keebler elf with a taste for jewel toned leather goods and showing his penis to his male friends at piano bars is dating one of the most famous supermodels of all time. Love is blind or rather money has powerful yet ugly men’s faces on it and such is the way of the world. Not only is she dating him but she’s begging him to go PUBLIC with their relationship (Are you sensing a pattern/theme/metaphor/hammer here?) Naomi, don’t kiss this frog prince! Go find a real prince and kiss that! Or go find Prince and kiss that! He lives in Minneapolis! I know that cause Internet!
Luscious and Cookie’s other son, who’s name I always have to look up because I can’t remember anything about him (looking name up now….) ANDRE. Andre and his white Lady Macbeth wife, are working hard trying to get the money that would secure them the IPO deal and eventually Empire Records itself once daddy sees just how much Andre cares. But, of course, before the very dinner with the rich white investors where Andre could present his father with rich white investors, Luscious mysteriously passes out and ends up in the hospital.
We all know why. We all did the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s just his family doesn’t. With minor exceptions, only his new wife, who I will refer to as Halle Berry and Halle Berry only because that is what Cookie calls her and Cookie is queen, knows the truth. In the hospital we find out that the experimental drug Luscious took to “cure” is incurable ALS was actually just poison and is making him worse. Oops. I hate when I take poison. Except for when it makes me thinner.
Meanwhile Gabourey Sidibe (at her very best in a very Greco-Roman curly blonde wig with what my friend Megan calls “pregnancy roots”) finds Jamal’s little maybe baby daughter in an elevator because her momma has seemingly run off. Oops. I hate when my mom abandons me. Except for when it makes me thinner.
Speaking of abandonment, Courtney Love, who is actually good at acting (write that down and remember it), comes back as a recovering addict/rock star who is looking to make her big PUBLIC (Patterns! Signs! M. Night Shyamalan!) return to the spotlight. And Cookie, who is now managing /coaching Love off the drugs, thinks the investor showcase will be just the thing. In a tight grey dress and heavy contouring, Ms. Love sings a musical number that like most of the musical numbers on this show had me like: “Wait, this is kinda…I NEED THIS SONG IN MY LIFE.” So, once again, Cookie has used her Maria Von Trapp-ness to make the world and Courtney Love’s image a better place! Alas, it doesn’t last long, because Halle Berry, who is jealous of all things Cookie (As she should be! KNOW YOUR PLACE!!!!), travels with liquid drugs to slip into Courtney’s tea. Team CoLo gets so high off of one sip of tea, she pretends to be a menthol smoking fish out of water on a red velvet ottoman in the ladies bathroom. Ugh. There goes her comeback. And now she can’t do that song I love again. Dammit. Oh, later would you remind me to get a cloth ottoman for my bathroom? I think it’s really chic and super hygienic, thanks.
Now, with CocoLoco out of the picture, the gang needs a new big performance. After some light drama involving Jamal and Hakeem not wanting to sing together, Cookie sets her boys straight about how hard their father worked to get them here. They agree. All Better! It’s a miracle! Cookie, you are the Annie Sullivan of Hip Hop!
Cut to the Investor Showcase! Hoards of white people crowd the room to hopefully throw a fiver into the Motown of now, but first they must be very impressed OR ELSE. The boys come out and impress they do, putting on a real show whilst girls in gold bikinis with TVs for heads gyrate around them. Sidenote: If I were investing in a publicly traded company, I have to say that this performance would totally get me involved in a very significant way. But what do I know: I once thought about buying stock in both McDonald’s AND Burger King cause I didn’t want to play favorites.
In a cruel twist of writer’s room fate, as his boys shine, Luscious ALS starts closing up his throat. In a panic about who in the family can give the big investor speech seeing as how his voice sounds like helium balloon on a respirator, Luscious bypasses Halle Berry and the son I forget for The Cookie Monster! Clever girl , Mr. Lyon, clever girl.
Cookie gets on her A++++ game, which is always at the ready because Cookie was born A ++++, and walks out to the sea of white people, dollars dripping from their pockets. She takes one look at that teleprompter with a jumble of business-y words on it and thinks, “NAH I’LL WING IT.” And you know why she did that? You know why she trusted her gut that hard?! Because, ladies and gentleman, SHE IS COOKIE LYON. Cookie is street and everyone else is sidewalk (HER WORDS!), Cookie is a forest fire and everyone else are gas burning heat lamps. Cookie is Gmail and everyone else are wingless carrier pigeons! Cookie has been making speeches in her brain for 17 years in the clink. She’s got this! She knows she he never stutters or ums or says like a lot. Cookie is Cookie and the only person who does Cookie better than Cookie is Cookie at a podium with two glass of Pinot down her gullet! Do I even need to say she kilt it? CAUSE SHE DID. Of course she did! She has white lacquer acrylics for god’s sake! Show some respect!
Luscious thanks Cookie for saving his ass and she only requests he tell her what’s wrong with him, cause obviously Cookie noticed him passing out a lot and not explaining it. Nothing gets by Cookie! After Luscious sends Halle Berry to go manage Lana del Rey in Chicago (Cookie is the only person who can save Lana Del Ray. Just saying.), he has his family (including his new maybe baby granddaughter) back to his mansion so he can explain that he has ALS. They all are shocked. The one whose name I can’t remember with the white Lady Macbeth wife, oh ANDRE, gets nervous about how the business with be affected, which upsets Lil Wayne for Top Shop. Gay Jamal seems to take the news the best but let us remember that Luscious once put Jamal in garbage can for wearing high heels as a child. So, in that context I understand if he’s like maybe kind of blasé re: his dad’s incurable autoimmune disease too. (PS. Shout out to my dad who never put me in garbage can (for wearing heels)!)
And how does Cookie handle this terrible news, you ask? Oh you know as only Cookie can! She pours two glasses of red into Courvoisier glasses and puts on some classic Luscious tracks as the two divorced equals reminisce about the good times. They laugh, they cry, they dance, they kiss, they go to Luscious’s bedroom and get it on! Cookie Nookie! But twist! Halle Berry comes through the bedroom door. Maybe she didn’t go to see Lana del Ray in Chicago cause I guess Lana Del Ray is beyond help right now? Well, gosh. I’m sorry, Berryness, Fräulein Cookia and Captain Learcious are indisposed at the moment! Order everybody a pizza and put a sock on the handle on your way out.
Cookie Lyon 1000
Halle Berry 0
Lana Del Ray -12967
Next week: Julie Andrews lays down 16 bars as the brothers put on a puppet show about a lonely lion herder name Luscious. Be the Cookie you wish to see in the world, guys!