Here’s the rundown on Fox’s hit nighttime soap, Empire.
Lets start with the characters:
You know when you pair Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson on screen you are pretty much guaranteed explosive acting and unmistakable chemistry. Let’s face it ladies, Terrence is fun to watch and listen to with his smooth as silk voice and not to mention he is extremely easy on the eyes. Taraji, is passionate, powerful and hilarious to watch. Her comedic timing is awesome. She delivers her lines with such intention that it resonates with you whether you are rooting for her or not. With that said, mix these two brilliant actors and you have a surefire hit.
Empire reminds me of that movie that Terrance and Taraji starred in back in 2005, you know, the sleeper hit Hustle & Flow, only in Empire Terrance is not a pimp but an ex-drug dealer turned media mogul. It feels like a continuation to me. Where Shug and Dejay have grown up and gotten their act together.
Fast forward to 2015…
Lucious Lyon played by Howard, is the head mogul of the entertainment behemoth Empire. Empire is not only the Universal Music Group of the drama’s fictional world, but there is also Empire footwear, Campaign, magazine and god knows what else. Lets just say Lucious makes Puffy look like a struggling artist. But before Lucious became king of his Empire, he was a struggling rap artist, who along with his wife Cookie (Henson) sold drugs in the hood to survive.
The back-story of the drug-dealing duo is told through flashbacks, further sealing Cookie and Lucious’s connection. It showed a different side of the couple, they were very much in love and Cookie always believed in her husband’s musical talents, so much so that when the shit hit the fan with the po-po, Cookie took the wrap for Lucious and left him to raise their 3 sons.
The series begins with Lucious diagnosed with the incurable disease, ALS. Lucious is given 3 years to live, but before he dies, he is determined to protect his legacy by taking his company public. Cookie meanwhile gets out of jail when she is offered an early release if she rats out a known drug lord from her past. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Cookie. She heads straight for Lucious at Empire’s HQ. She gets to see first hand the billionaire Lucious has become and wants a piece of the action. She wastes no time telling everyone and their mamma that she helped build the company.
Lucious tries to do what rich men do and throw money at the problem, but home-girl wasn’t having it. Cookie, being as street smart as she is wants in on the company. They ended up giving her a percentage of the company to keep her quiet.
Cookie’s next order of business was trying to establish a relationship with her sons who are strangers to her. Except for middle son Jamal who apparently visited mamma while she was in the can. The youngest son, Hakeem, had the worst reaction to Cookie’s return, he was downright mean and nasty, but no body disrespects Cookie, she taught him a lesson he won’t soon forget. Meanwhile, eldest son, Andre wants a bigger piece of his daddy’s business. He is the most corporate of the two and works in the legal department of Empire. He seemed indifferent to Cookie’s return, mostly because he has bigger problems of his own…
Let’s look at Andre, the eldest son.
On the surface Andre seems dull, he’s corporate, and would do anything to please his papa, or so it seems. Andre has his eyes on the prize, which is running Empire. As we get to know him better we discover that he is bi-polar and gets pretty dangerous when he is off his meds, but his wife keeps in him check. She is his brain when he cannot think for himself. She indulges him in whatever fantasy he has, to keep in him line. They seem to have an open relationship but not too much about that is revealed yet to confirm.
Middle child Jamal.
The very handsome middle child, Jamal Lyons has a voice similar to crooner John Legend. When Cookie sees potential in him for a career that could rival his father’s glory days, she appoints herself his manager (momager). As if that wasn’t enough to strain Lucious’s relationship with his son, Jamal is gay and Lucious does not accept his lifestyle. Viewers can tell that the love is there, but Lucious wants his son to be a man, so much so that he forced him into marriage (that’s where the story is at right now, they are exploring this further).
Hakeem, the gangster wannabe.
Lucious sees Hakeem as a version of himself. He’s paved the way for his youngest son to take over musically where he left off. But Hakeem is wild and privileged, the only thing he knows about a hard knocks life is that it is a sentence. Lucious constantly puts pressure on Hakeem to put more heart into his performance. OK Lucious how you gonna expect him to connect with the lyrics when the boy drinks Cristal for breakfast? In my opinion Hakeem sounds better when he is paired with Jamal’s smooth voice. Hakeem is more rap with infectious beats, kind of like Dr. Dre back in the day. Infectious like you didn’t agree with the lyrics, yet the beats get lodged into your cerebral cortex and replays itself though out the day.
So there you have it, two brothers, Jamal and Hakeem, both talented in their own rights, pitted against each other by their parents in a race to secure their seat in their father’s empire.
Do I love this show? Hell yes. I’ll keep watching because the drama is so juicy I cannot help myself. The music is fantastic! It’s all arranged by music genius Timberland. I love me some Timberland.
Click to watch the Pilot for Empire.