Empire Season 2 Episode 4 Recap
Roxanne Ford tightens the screws even further on this week’s episode of Empire. The ambitious and corrupt prosecutor sends the feds after every member of the Lyon family, including their respective companies, Empire and Lyon Dynasty. She threatens Cookie with more jail time and, even worse, to come hard after her kids. Cookie ain’t havin’ none of that. But as she always does–the fierce, Lyon matriarch has the last laugh on Roxanne, while upending Lucious’ plans to keep Lyon Dynasty artists off the radio airwaves. It’s delicious.
Roxanne is working every angle she can in her case against Lucious in order to benefit her run for district attorney. But her carefully laid plans pretty much unravel by the end of the episode as Lucious joins forces with Andre to fight back. What began as a terrible mistake brings Andre back to Empire and the good graces of Lucious.
Marisa Tomei returns as Mimi Whiteman. As a 20% investor in Empire, she steps in to help when the feds raid the company. The family put aside their difference to band together against a common enemy. But the truce doesn’t last long. In the meantime, a pretentious Rolling Stone photographer becomes sweet on Jamal after a photo shoot–much to the chagrin of his current boyfriend, Michael.
The very real issue of police harassment of people of color is a theme that’s touched upon again and again. The Lyons often bring misfortune upon themselves, but it’s made clear that it’s all too easy for the system to destroy folks like them. For Cookie and Lucious, it’s either kill or be killed, in order to survive.
As Jamal records a new song, “Battle Cry,” The feds storm Empire. They have a warrant, and go about tearing the place apart. There’s a Rolling Stone reporter sitting in on the session. It’s the first step in the plan for the Jamal Lyon world domination, that daddy promised in last week’s episode. The name of the new album is The Artist. And Jamal called Cookie’s company name, “Lyon Dynasty” corny? Aren’t you being a tad obvious here, Jamal? “A manifesto of everything I want to become,” he calls the record.
Jamal’s cute white boy assistant interrupts the session to deliver the bad news. Jamal watches helplessly as the company is ransacked. A fed snatches away Becky’s phone as she films what’s going down. Yeah. Citizens have the right to record law enforcement action. But he stops her anyway.
Over at Lyon Dynasty, Anika pleads her case to team up again with Cookie, who pretty much blows her off. However, if Anika can sign the hot act, Royalty, she’s back in. Cookie wants Hakeem back in the studio to record some tracks they’ll upload to Youtube, as Lucious’ purchase of Apex radio effectively keeps them off the airwaves. Anika tips off Cookie that the Feds are raiding Empire. But before they’re able to really get the celebration going, the feds burst through Lyon Dynasty’s doors. Roxanne is going after them all.
Always one step ahead of EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. Thirsty bursts into Lucious’ bedroom–where he and a hookup snuggle–with word that the Feds are coming. Naturally, Roxanne and her obsessed ass lead the charge, and Lucious is right there to greet her. Butt naked. “Hi there baby,” he teases. “Look where ever you like.”
Mimi arrives to help oversee Empire in crisis. The plan is to restrict the company’s media presence, which includes cancelling Jamal’s RS cover story. But then….dun dun dun nah! Ignoring the court order to stay away from Empire, Lucious strides in with Thirsty and his bodyguard. Forget hiding, says Lucious. It’s time to expand and use the press to make Empire bigger than it’s ever been! The fed raid lends Empire a “ghetto pass,” explains Lucious. It gives the company more street cred than ever before. If Mimi didn’t think Lucious was a genius, now she’s positively sure. “This isn’t when we hide,” says Lucious, “This is when we roar.”
Cut to a family meeting. Thirsty implores everybody to bury the hatchet, at least for now. Hakeem asks Lucious straight to his face if he killed Bunkie. Flashback to Lucious pulling the trigger to shoot him. Cut back to the present. Lucious lies straight to his youngest son’s face, giving him the whole I-owe-bunkie-everything-I-miss-him-every-day spiel. Nobody seems to buy it, though. Arguments break out over Lucious’ dirty radio deals and him stealing Hakeem’s lead singer. Can the Lyon family join forces long enough to defeat those who seek to destroy them?
The heat isn’t going to come off, says Thirsty, until they find Vernon Turner and convince him not to testify. Dude, unless Vernon joins the ranks of the undead, you’re not going to have to worry about that. Lucious and Thirsty don’t realize, YET, that Andre and his wife Rhonda, solved their problem months ago.
Andre, in the meantime, is still having nightmares about the murder. Rhonda wakes up to her husband vomiting in the bathroom. Even though it was her candlestick-wielding that put an end to Vernon’s life, her conscience seems to be clear. Andre, not so much.
Cookie arrives at Lucious’ office for a meeting she’s called. He’s standing there looking at a photo of himself with Bunkie and Vernon. He’s got a twinge of guilt. Enough all the way around that he’s agreed to meet with Cookie. She wants a truce. If Lucious lets Lyon Dynasty back on urban radio, stops poaching her artists, and promises not to steal her recording masters, she’ll allow Hakeem to film a video with Jamal. A joint music video will send a message to the feds that the family is united.
Lucious agrees to the video, but refuses to budge on Apex radio. He’s teaching Hakeem to be a man. If he wants back on radio bad enough, he’ll find a way to get back on it. Left unsaid: He’ll come back to Empire. He calls Anika a liar regarding the masters. “I don’t know who the biggest snake is,” says Cookie. “You or her.” When Lucious asks why she’s doing business with her enemy, that shuts her up. For a minute. Lucious calls Cookie “Grandma Moses.” She slaps her ass on the way out of the room, “Don’t tell me a grandma got an ass like this.” She also warns Lucious he better be nicer to Andre if he wants to see his grandchild. That strikes Lucious right in his heart. Cookie always has the last word.
Jamal sits for an at-home photography session with an hilariously pretentious RS photographer, who doesn’t make his attraction to his subject a secret. Instructing Jamal to use his pain over his father’s legal battle during the shoot, he spouts over the top nonsense like “This is wrecking my soul” and “I want to be inside of you.” Michael, sitting off to the side, throws massive shade with his eyes. Jamal sings ‘When Love Finds You,” at the piano as the obviously smitten photographer snaps away. Michael taking back Jamal means he’s forever going to be competing for attention with more powerful forces. Playing the stay at home wifey has its disadvantages.
Lucious meets Andre at Leviticus to humble himself in front of his son. He apologizes, but still won’t allow Andre back into Empire as a “consequence of what you did.” Lucious apologizes. “I didn’t grow up the way you did,” he confesses. Flashback to little Lucious and his mama (Kelly Rowland) sitting in a meeting with Child Protective Services. He begs to stay with his mommy. Back to the present, Lucious explains that he wants to be the kind of grandpa that he wasn’t as a father. He promises to love and protect Andre’s child. Andre assures his father he won’t use his grandson as a bargaining chip. He also offers to fix the Vernon Taylor problem for good IF Lucious will finally allow him to return to Empire. Lucious is wary, but agrees. “If you can make this mess go away, you can have anything you want.”
On the set of the music video, Hakeem is chilly to Lucious’ friendly advances. The youngest son only agreed to film the video because he can’t get on the radio, and he’s STILL pissed that Lucious broke up his girl group. Hakeem had it coming as far as Lucious is concerned, after leaking his album. Dad still compliments him for the way he’s been dealing with adversity. Lucious tries to lure Hakeem back to the den with the promise of some brand new beats. All this niceness is about Lucious’ never ending quest to bring Hakeem back to Empire. Hakeem knows it too. He refuses at first to even listen to his dad’s gift. He changes his mind, but Lucious is all. “No. When you’re ready.” Lucious figures it’s just a matter of time. He’s willing to be patient.
Cookie walks in, and she’s furious, because “the lying bastard” promised not to poach any more of her artists. Hakeem assures Cookie she has nothing to worry about. “You and me are in this together,” he says. She feels reassured.
Mimi is on site for the shoot. She confides to Lucious that she had cancer. When she found out she was in full remission, she decided to have a lot of fun with the rest of her life, which is why she invested in Empire. Lucious, who once thought he was a dying man, can relate. Cookie strides up. “WHITE BITCH YOU GOTTA GO” she snarls at Mimi, who reminds her Empire ownership means she can stay. Hakeem calms mom down.
The concept for the video is “a post-apocalyptic black panther theme with the brothers fighting police oppression.” As if that isn’t too obvious, notes Cookie. Mimi says it is not time for subtlety. “It’s time for the Lyons to send a clear message they will not tolerate police harassment of people of color.” That entitled white bitch and her message of black power–Cookie’s eyes couldn’t roll to the back of her head any farther. “So what, you and K.D. Lang are best friends now?” she snarks at Jamal. Hakeem, who is being unbelievably level-headed at this time, says they’re all best friends. Let’s shoot a video!
“Ain’t about the Money” is the song they’re shooting. Hakeem and Jamal are dressed in Black Panther uniforms, in a big dome like thing, with fires and a decaying car, wielding guns, while girls in 70s style afros dance around. It’s dystopian blaxploitation. Watching from behind the cameras, Lucious notes that it’s “nice getting the family together.” Cookie even smiles.
On break, Cookie heads outside to check in with the office. The NYPD pull up to arrest her. “PORSHA CALL MY LAWYER” she shouts into the phone, before the cops grab her. She’s being nabbed for an outstanding warrant to appear in court. Undoubtedly, it’s a load of bullcrap trumped up by Roxanne Ford. Just as they are pulling away, Cookie screams, “If I die in police custody, I did NOT COMMIT SUICIDE.”
Cookie’s put in a jail cell, and she flashes back to her own stint in solitary, where she’s huddled on the floor, shaking and crying. She freaks out, banging on the door until someone comes. Roxanne waltzes in, with the evilest grin on her face. That bitch is a sadist. The warrant is for jumping a turnstile. And it turns out it was Porsha, who gave the officer Cookie’s name and then forgot about it. Cookie tells Rhonda to push as hard as she wants. “Dig away,” she says defiantly, not even afraid when Roxanne reminds her that she’s on parole and could be sent back to jail for years. But then, she plays real dirty, and mentions Andre’s bipolar disorder. Roxanne is willing to mess with her kids. “I will hurt them real bad,” she says, threatening to leak his medical records. “Oh child, I sure hope he doesn’t kill himself.” Roxanne. PURE EVIL.
“You need to kill yourself of that wack weave you got up top your head,” says Cookie, trying not to show how rattled she is. Roxanne warns her one more time that she’s coming after her boys.
Back at Andre’s place, he continues to be wracked with anxiety and guilt over Vernon’s death. Rhonda notices, wondering if he’s alright. He reveals a plan to dig up Vernon as a way to get back into Empire. Rhonda thinks it’s a horrible idea, not to mention she’s the actual killer. He promises if push comes to shove, he’ll take the fall for her. He has a darker secret. He believes GOD has been speaking to him. Is Andre falling so deep into mental illness, that he’s hearing voices now? God is telling him to keep seeking Empire. And he’s going to follow his word. He has to. Rhonda plays along, while barely containing her fear.
Andre grabs a shovel and a pick. He’s about to take off in the car when Rhonda appears. She’s coming with him. He says it’s too dangerous. She says simply, “I’m ride or die. All the way.”
Hakeem finally listens to the beats Lucious composed for him, and he loves them. They are his, if he comes back to Empire, says Lucious. “I’m rocking with ma now,” Hakeem insists. Lucious promises to put him back on the radio immediately AND he can manage Valentina, IF he comes back to Empire. In the meantime, Cookie has been gone for hours. She’s unreliable, says Lucious. Hakeem begins to consider the offer.
Cut to the jail where Cookie is being held, and she flashes back to when she was in solitary, physically and emotionally deteriorated into a broken state. It seems like Cookie is breaking now too. Ready to give Roxanne what she wants. Or is she?
Back at the video shoot, pretentious photographer arrives with a huge painting he created from the photos he took of Jamal. Lucious arrives and is literally flabbergasted, raving about how gorgeous it is. Hakeem’s sibling rivalry is immediately activated. So much for that truce, and the new mature Hakeem. He calls it “tacky and ugly” and wants it out so they can get back to work. Pretentious photographer is offended. Hakeem says Cookie would have had that painting out of there before it even came through the door. Lucious calls him a mama’s boy. Hakeem threatens him back. Lucious says he made Jamal the head of the company because “he could do the work without his mama.” With that, Jamal grabs a knife and sticks it through the painting, right at Jamal’s throat. Oof. “Alright. Let’s shoot,” he says. Lucious’ lips curl up into a smile.
Now, it’s time to shoot the part where they defeat the riot squad with their “brotherly love.” Needless to say, it doesn’t go well. The performance becomes angrier and angrier, until they’re shoving each other and the scene devolves into a fist fight. Hakeem picks up a baseball bat, and stops short of cracking Jamal’s head with it. See what happens when Cookie isn’t around to keep her boys in line? “Why you all look shocked?” shouts Hakeem. “This family never been a real family.”
Back at jail, Roxanne negotiates with Cookie, seemingly with the upper hand. That is, until our girl lays the biggest load of horsecrap at her fee. Roxanne gobbles it right up. In one fell swoop, Cookie gets herself out of jail AND torpedoes the Apex radio deal. Cookie could have told Roxanne that Lucious confessed right to her face that he killed Bunkie. But instead, she feigns ignorance about whether or not Lucious did the deed and spins a yarn about a fight Lucious had with Bunkie over the Apex deal. Right after Bunkie stopped the deal, he turned up dead. Roxanne gleefully adds the rest–Lucious bought the radio stations during the first few weeks after he got out of jail. Roxanne is more than happy to let Cookie free ahead of beginning a massive investigation, that will put a halt to the deal. “At the very least, we’ll tie it up for years,” Roxanne promises. Ya’ll been played y’all. Cookie is the best. She even apologizes for dissing Roxanne’s weave. “It’s really nice,” says Cookie, not meaning a word of it. “And so is your wig,” Roxanne shoots back. Despite colluding to screw over Lucious, they did not become friends.
Out in the woods, in the dark of night, Andre and Rhonda frantically dig for Vernon’s body, but they can’t find it. They realize the tree they think they buried him under is like every tree around them. They begin to panic.
Back at the video shoot, Jamal apologizes to pretentious photographer for his little brother’s behavior. Weirdo dude is not even upset. He’s convinced Hakeem just “changed” it. “Art is fluid, Jamal” he explains. “It represents the violence and the anger of a racist and homophobic society.” Michael is all like SURE DUDE.
Back at Vernon’s gravesite, a car pulls up, just as Andre and Rhonda are about to call it quits. The couple are approached and told to put their hands up. Petrified, they are convinced it’s all over. But when the mysterious voice identifies as “The devil himself!” Andre finally recognizes who it is. “DAD!” It’s Lucious and Thirsty. HARDEE HAR HAR. That Lucious is such a jokester, having his kids believe for a hot minute, that their lives were essentially over. Sociopath. Lucious didn’t have a good feeling at the end of their last conversation, so he had Thirsty put a tracking device on Andre’s car. “What did you do to your uncle?” Lucious wants to know. Rhonda explains how she hit Vernon in the head with a candlestick, in order to protect Andre. Lucious ain’t mad. “You saved my life!” he says, gratefully. Thirsty, the dilemma solver, has brought a “corpse detection system” with him, which Rhonda cannot believe. He finds where Vernon is buried in a few seconds.
Cut to a bar, where a rat pack type is singing “Sunny Side of the Street.” Hakeem sits glumly, almost sending a text, and then not, until the next act is introduced. She’s an absolutely gorgeous Latina singer, who performs a haunting , Spanish language version of “Blue Bayou.” He’s transfixed. Hello new lead singer of Ménage Trios.
Pretentious photographer helps Jamal put up some posters on the street. “You are more than an artist now,” he says. “You are the art.” Jamal is flattered. Michael feels threatened.
Lucious and Thirsty stuff poor Uncle Vernon in the trunk. A remorseful Andre says goodbye and apologizes for ending his life. Lucious, on the other hand, takes a minute alone with Vernon to say, “You rot in hell, you snitch,” before slamming the trunk shut. As they leave, Lucious welcomes Andre back to Empire, with a hug.
Cookie arrives to an empty soundstage. Anika comes up behind her to say the video shoot ended hours ago. Also, she is nearly ready to close a deal with Royalty. Cookie tells her the deal is off. Yes, Lucious was a liar when he said he didn’t intend to steal the company’s masters, but she trusts Anika even less. “Don’t show up to my studio again.” Anika is upset. She really wants to join Cookie’s fight against their ex.
In the meantime, Lucious is back at his office. He sets fire to the photo of himself with Bunkie and Vernon. He’s lost his closest allies forever. He remembers his mama as the flames consume the picture.
This week’s parting shot it another shocker. Roxanne heads to her car, on the phone instructing her people to send out the press release which outlines how the FCC has blocked the Apex radio deal. She slides into the driver’s side. Sitting next to her in the passenger seat is the horrifyingly decomposed body of Vernon Turner. Roxanne screams bloody murder. Payback is a bitch.