‘Empire’ Recap 1×8: Last Is First

Nothing is as important as family and/or music. (photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX)

Nothing is as important as family and/or music. (photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX)

DJ: Hot100. What song would you like to request?

Cookie: Can you please play “You’re So Beautiful?”

DJ: “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker coming right up!

Cookie: No, stupid, ‘You’re So Beautiful” by Luscious Lyon. We need to hear it a couple of time because this weeks whole episode centers on it, thanksinadvance.

That was a little FanFic I did inspired by last night’s episode and the song that kept Cookie Lyon sane in prison. Every night she would sing it in her jail cell. The song was so beauteous, so meaningful, so powerful that even in the choky right before ‘lights out’ no one complained that Cookie was kind of pitchy. (You’re my dawg, Randy Jackson.) To be fair, Luscious was also a tad under when he sang it to Cookie (and two marshals of the court) right before the verdict that sent her away for seventeen years was read. In fact, Jamal and Hakeem were auto-tuned within an inch of Britney Spear’s vocal cords while attempting the song for the family track. I mean, listen, even if Andre can’t sing, just let him try the song once. It’s like the Cinderella’s slipper of songs. If it’s not fitting anyone, let the maid try it on! Actually that’s a good idea! Let Luscious’s crabby maid sing it.

This week’s episode is all about family. Wait, when is this show not all about family? Double wait, I thought Luscious told Jamal that the only thing that matters is the music? Ok, this week was all about how your family should or should not make music together. Really though, this week was actually one giant metaphor with no real plot.

With Cookie producing and Jamal & Hakeem guesting they decide to make a family version of “You’re So Beautiful” for Luscious’s “Legacy album” aka Cookie’s genius idea aka the last way Luscious’s family can make money off of him before he dies from ALS. Everything seems to be going well until it doesn’t and then everyone is fighting. (Cut to my family on vacation.)  These are the fights: Cookie and Hakeem: “Mom, you don’t love me like you love Jamal.” Luscious and Jamal: “Dad, one time you put me in a garbage can for wearing high heels.” Luscious and Cookie: “You’re the only man I’ve ever been with which is an important distinction because I did have a couple of bitches in prison.” But, still, they record the song, and turns out they all want to be last on the track. Being last is good? Get me a hip-hop career immediately and tell everyone over in A&R I’ll be, minimum, an hour late for every meeting. I mean, last is first! Tell me more, Empire! I’m going to be dining off of that fact for at least a week. (Here’s an impression of me at dinner with my friends in two days: “Well you know Nicki went last on the track which means that she was the most important rapper on the song.” My friends: “Wow, interesting, Rightor! How do you know so much about rap politics?!” Me: “Much like Elvis, Eminem, and Justin Bieber, appropriating hip hop culture for my benefit will be my legacy.”)

So if you didn’t pick up what I was putting down: Everyone is fighting about who is the most important and why a certain someone doesn’t think a certain someone is as important as a certain someone, which is totally family with a capital F, am I right, guys?

When we left off last week, Luscious was ravaging Cookie in his bed. We, the audience, were so excited that Cookie, the Joan of Arc of hip hop music, finally got to be with her murderous, lying, coward of a dying ex-husband once again! You can’t stop love, people! After what I can only assume was the most satisfying scratch of a seventeen year itch, Cookie tells Luscious that he will never hit that good stuff again unless he breaks up with Halle “Boo Boo Kitty” Berry.  Luscious responds exactly the way any man who is obviously buried six feet deep in a post-coital fog would respond which is, “ergbilqrububuvbqeuirbSUREsbgeurgkqrbv.”

Once he snaps out of it, he tells Halle Berry about the affair. She, of course, already knows. Instead of getting mad, she decides to get married. I mean, this woman! She is serving her revenge up as cold as a Season’s arc will allow. Honestly, the problem with Anika (May I call you Anika?) is that she’s merely a roadblock between Luscious and Cookie’s eventual reconciliation. She has been made so unlikable and double-dealing that there’s not one ounce of me that thinks she and Luscious will or should be together. That, my friends, is called playing an emotional short game. The writers want to keep the drama high, so they make HalleAnikaNoniRoseBerryinto a straight up villain.  Unfortunately, that comes at the price of the audience’s investment in her character. It’s like they think: “If we keep putting car crashes on the road maybe everyone won’t notice that we aren’t actually traveling anywhere.”

HalleBoobooLenaBerryKittyHorne asks Luscious to marry her tomorrow to make her feel more emotionally secure in his commitment to her. And by emotional I mean financial and by financial I mean she wants Cookie to PAY. Luscious agrees to marry her next week after The White Party. WHITE PARTY?! Once the words ‘White’ and ‘Party’ are uttered I black out until the shindig appears on my screen. My dream in life is to go to a White Party and here Empire is giving me one! White furs wrapped around body con dresses! All those men in Mandarin collared suit jackets! NO RED WINE IN SIGHT! #SOYBLESST

At the party, of course, the family track and the Luscious Legacy tour falls apart cause no one can decide who is going last (read: who is the most important). Halle Berry wants Luscious to announce to the press their intentions to marry now that the show got a Season 2 pick up. Cookie tells Halle Berry that she and Luscious are still rocking the boat, working the middle, changing positions, new positions. (RIP Aaliyah. We miss you, Baby Girl.)  Hakeem brings Naomi Campbell who has a Ms.-Jackson-if-you’re-DYNASTY off with Cookie so fire-y that my TV screen almost melted from the verbal heat. (The Alexis Carrington Award for Excellence in Bitchery goes to Cookie Lyon for her fabulously high/low blow: “You look like you have a long tongue…you would have made a good ‘bitch’ for me in prison.”)

The White Party culminates in Jamal, inspired by a gay Australian documentary filmmaker who I’m just gonna go out there and say is WAY LESS CUTE than Jamal’s perfectly sweet Latino ex-boyfriend, singing “You’re So Beautiful” with the gender pronouns switched to male. OMG! Did Jamal just come out?! Apparently so, because everyone is clapping with approval except for Daddy who can’t stop fetishizing throwing Jamal in the garbage for wearing high heels. (Was there something else that happened in Jamal’s childhood? Like anything else? Maybe think of just like one more thing to have happen, guys? Like I don’t know maybe Luscious called his son a sissy or something? I’m just spitballing here. You should try it sometime.) But, honestly, who really heard him switching all those pronouns? If the White Party was anything like any party I’ve ever been to where a live act is playing, the only thing anyone is listening to is the ice in their drink.

But anyway, there it is. Jamal is out of the closet, Cookie is queen, Naomi Campbell night have a long tongue, Hakeem loves Catholic churches and lighting candles, HalleBerryHallelujah is about to betray Luscious because he betrayed her, Courtney Love is probably still high as a kite flailing around on that bathroom ottoman from last episode, Raven Simone took Gabby Sidibe to the Cubby Hole and are dancing to Kelly Clarkson, and that’s it. That’s everything. No more to say….

Oh yeah, I almost forgot! ANDRE. Andre is the Jan Brady of Empire. Nobody remembers him, not even when he is the only person on screen. So, Andre tries to pimp out his wife, Lady MacBecky Newton from Ugly Betty (not really her, but it’s so very close) to anyone who will help him become the CEO when Luscious gets sick (yesterday) or dies (seven seasons from now). Lucky for Lady MacBecky, she gets set up with an old man in a wheelchair who is OBSESSED with The Theory of Everything. Like, it was literally his favorite movie of the year. I get where he is coming from because Eddie Redmayne is so good in it, but mostly because this guy’s in a wheelchair so his “this movie is really speaking directly to me and my life right now” must have been through the roof in the front row of the Chelsea Clearview. Anyway, Mr. Theory of Everything dines out (recall!) on the fact that the movie taught him that men with ALS can still get boners which we FIRMLY established at top of show. (Cookie knows what I’m talking ‘bout! Don’t you Cooks?) Lady Macbecky throws up Gak in her salad and JANdre doesn’t get the CEO position because, twist, Daddy votes against him. Turns out, Luscious hates JANdre for marrying a white woman and getting an education and conforming to white society. JANdre, going off his meds, plays Russian Roulette in the recording studio and wins. No, loses. Well he didn’t die. If you play RR and don’t die did you win or lose? Chicken or the egg? Laverne or Shirley? Gabby or Raven? (Gabby, duh.)

And, finally, we begin to see what Lee Daniels is really getting at with his epic, soapy, fabulous show about all things familial. Empire is about Lee Daniels (or men like Mr. Daniels) whose unsatiated need for approval from fathers (specifically black fathers) drive men to success and madness.  They won’t love their gay son (Mr. Daniels); they wont love their successful son (Mr. Daniels); they won’t love their wives or their mistresses or any woman for that matter, so who will they love? They will love themselves and only themselves; and, they will hate themselves for it until they die. Which is potentially in three years, maybe less, but split those three years up into seven seasons of TV and we got a deal.

‘Empire’ Recap 1×8: Last Is First