Empire Season 2 Episode 6 Recap – A High Hope for a Low Heaven
The previews for this week’s Empire leads to the assumption that the entire hour is focused on Cookie and Lucious rescuing Hakeem from his kidnappers. But no. Hakeem is back home within 15 minutes. Street thugs shaking Cookie down, however, will get a dose of her ferocity by time the episode is done. Instead, the focus is on Hakeem finding his way past pain and humiliation after he is beaten into submission by his kidnappers. He’s barely functional, experiencing PSTD symptoms that include fits of rage and disassociation. Lucious tries to take advantage of his son in his weakened state, but the boy eventually finds his way back to the light without daddy dearest’s help.
Becky is having an affair with one of Ghetto life’s artists. Andre, put in charge of the label by Lucious, wants to “clean up” based on biblical dictates. When he learns that one of the artists is really a closet Christian, Andre promises they are on the same page and hey—feel free to rap the word of God. Poppa P is also having an affair with Andre’s assistant, Becky, which Mr. Stick Up His Butt doesn’t appreciate at all. At the club, when the rapper busts out his new image, Lucious is not happy. Even Becky is kinda shocked, and wonders if Andre understands “the philosophy of the label.” These two are going to clash. Often. The crowd eats it up, though.
After Poppa, Lucious’ young protégé, Freda takes the stage to spit furiously. In the middle of her rhyme, she’s heckled by a dude who won’t stop, even as she tries to disarm him with verse. She loses her temper and kicks him in the head. Andre wants to drop her. Lucious reminds his son that Freda’s presence on Gutter Life is not even up for debate. What’s more, Andre is not in charge, rather he was put in place. You’re always going to be daddy’s bitch, Andre. Don’t forget it.
When the kidnappers contact Cookie with a video of a suffering Hakeem, his mouth taped shut, she assumes Lucious is playing with her! It’s a horrible assumption, but the alternative is too awful for Cookie to contemplate. Lucious is a monster, but c’mon. When Cookie confronts him, Lucious understand the game they are running. Cookie and her Lyon Dynasty are the new kid on the block, and thugs are showing her who is boss.
At the hideout, Hakeem’s kidnappers taunt him. “We should have kidnapped the more famous brother.” All of them are marked on their backs with a brand of a bull. They are definitely part of some gang. When Hakeem mocks their brand, one of them viciously punches him in the eye, and that subdues him.
The punks asked for a 40K ransom. Lucious is sure all they want is a payoff a “simple snatch and grab.” Cookie isn’t convinced. A lot has changed since the old days, Lucious insists. Lucious and Cookie wait at the “drop off” spot, and after a “proof of life” video of Hakeem stating he’s alive (shouldn’t he be holding up a newspaper?) they agree to the terms. Trouble is, when the car pulls up, Hakeem isn’t in it. The driver was paid to drop him off somewhere else. Hakeem wanders around in a daze until he makes his way to Anika’s door. He’s waiting for her as she finishes up a run. He kisses her. She responds in kind, lonely too, having just explained to her mom on the phone that she has nothing and no one.
Hakeem is a mess. He won’t talk about what happened to him. Lucious brings a doctor to the house to check him out. Other than the black eye, he’s fine. Physically. Mentally and emotionally is another story. When Cookie sees Anika’s digits on Hakeem’s phone, she’s pissed. She’s also mad that he disappeared for 5 hours and won’t tell her where he was. When Hakeem takes off his jacket, we see that he’s branded on his back with the gang sign. Hakeem blames his parents for being snatched. He leaves the house angrily. He’s humiliated, says Jamal. Leave him alone for awhile.
Porsha is back! She’s as fabulous as ever. Cookie threatens to fire her every other minute, but you know that’s not going to happen. She asks Cookie if she can stand in for Hakeem during rehearsal with the girl group. “I GOT SKILLZ!” insisting she can rap. The actress who plays her actually is a rapper. I get the feeling she will eventually convince Cookie to show off them skillz. PRAYING. Fun fact: Cookie has nicknamed Hakeem’s girl group “Destiny’s Problem Child.”
Jamal is back in the studio with Lucious recording some new tracks. His music for this episode is A+. Jamal is at a real crossroads. He and Michael split after last week’s BJ incident with pretentious photographer. Jamal is hurt, confused and having a hard time staying focused. Lucious tells him to channel his pain into the music.
When Jamal learns that the Staples Center passed on booking his concert because he’s “too narrow of an artist,” it’s sure it’s because he’s gay. Empire is marketing him as a “niche” artist, i.e. gay. Jamal wants to be promoted as an ARTIST who happens to be gay. He brings in a consultant, Jamison. Jamal quickly learns he has a history with Lucious. Years ago, after Lucious left Baretti’s label, Jamison was ready to sign him. But when Luscious found out he was gay, he backed out of the deal. Lucious calls him a vampire, ready to take advantage. Jamison snarks that the day he learned Lucious had a gay son, he knew there was a God. Jamal insists they put their differences aside. He believes he’s found a gay man with influence who can help him. In the end, Lucious is convinced to work with him. They shake hands warily, Lucious crushing his hand as a power play.
Sweet little Lauren sure has the hang of leading a girl group, with the grinding and the tight clothes. At rehearsal, Hakeem can’t concentrate. He sweats and disassociates. He stops rehearsal, as he freaks out and loses his temper. Back at home he rehearses with headphones. He’s hearing static in his head. His surroundings are in disarray. He keeps flashing back to his kidnappers. He finally punches a mirror, cutting his hand. He’s a mess.
Meanwhile, Cookie and Lucious bicker. Hakeem being snatched only proves that Cookie can’t go it alone. insists Lucious. She and the rest of the family need his protection. Using Hakeem’s unfortunate experience to finally get him back to Empire, the Lucious attempts to guilt trip Cookie into just handing him back over for his own good. “These wolves are going to sunk they’re teeth into you,” says Lucious, “They aren’t going to let go until they open a vein.” Cookie is having none of it. She walks out of the house, and takes an expensive bottle of wine with her. “Cookie,” she mocks Lucious, “My ass.”
When Cookie meets with Laz, the hot promoter dude, he suggests putting the thugs on her payroll. Back when he was a cop, street violence finally stopped when the labels hired the punks who were trying to shake them down. Cookie refuses. “I don’t want those wolves in my house.” Laz promises to protect her. That, before he comes on to her. She’s ready to do business. She sets up a meeting with the snatchers. She brings Hakeem, whom she hopes will be able to reclaim his manhood. But when the young son comes face to face with his tormentors, he pulls a gun. Cookie steps between them. She swears if he shoots, she’ll take the bullet, because she’d rather be dead than lose him again.
While this is going on, one of the thugs slowly goes for his gun, but not before Cookie notices, grabs Hakeem’s gun, and sticks the nose in the dudes face. Right here, she shows the punk ass bitches exactly who they are dealing with. She cocks the gun “Are we clear?” When the dude is scared into submission, Cookie declares, “Welcome to MY street, bitch.” Do not f*ck with Cookie.
The girl group and Hakeem are booked for a massive show called “The Big Apple Jam.” Hakeem is so messed up, Cookie considers cancelling it. Jamal offers her his support. It’s the first step he has taken toward healing the rift with his mother, after she tried to grab Empire from him.
When it comes time for the Big Apple Jam, Cookie is barking orders at the girls. “Shake that ass…Remember…sex sells!” Lucious arrives, making another bid to bring his youngest son back to Empire. He’s got another track for him, the percussive background vocals , “Boom boom boom boom , bang , bang bang bang,” are punctuated with enticing, middle-eastern accents. Lucious reminds him that it’s about life or death in this business, and that’s what the track reflects. Lucious hands him the pen drive. “No strings” he says. ” Hakeem answers, “With you. dad, there’s always strings.” before tossing the drive in the street.
Hakeem heads inside where everyone is waiting for him to perform, but Lucious follows him. Angry. The father WILL NOT be denied. Next time he should pull the trigger, says Lucious. It’s better to end up behind bars if it means growing a sac. Is Lucious trying to break Hakeem out of his funk, or use it to manipulate him? Count on the latter. Andre and Jamal arrive. They throw the parents out so they can have a word with little brother.
They promise him he doesn’t have to perform. They’ll take him home if he wants. The floodgates open, and Hakeem admits that when the punks beat down on him, he didn’t fight back or was strong. Jamal and Andre assure him he did the right thing. His actions kept him alive. They would have done exactly the same. Andre jokes that they’re stronger than just about everyone by surviving a childhood as the kids of Lucious and Cookie Lyon. “You’re a better man than your father already,” Andre says, “Braver too.” True that!
They pull Hakeem out of his funk enough that he can take the stage. During the performance he spots Lucious out in the audience, and at first, he’s dissociated. Lauren has his back, grabbing his face and singing into it while behaving like it’s part of the act. He looks at her, and the light switches on. He takes the spotlight, like there’s nothing wrong. Lucious, ever the a-hole, turns and walks out–disappointed that Hakeem is a man, with or without him. Scheme 20146 to get Hakeem back to Empire? Fail.
At a party afterward, Hakeem thanks his family and friends for pulling him through. There’s a knock on the door. It’s Anika checking up on him. You can see the steam coming out of Cookie’s ears. She and Lauren eyeball each other. Hakeem practically closes the door in her face to ditch her. “Now isn’t a good time,” he says. Damn. Anika has been reduced to such a pathetic creature. What’s up with that? We need her back to scheming and butting heads with Cookie, otherwise, what good is she as a character?
Lucious hunts down Freda in her hood. She thinks he’s going to ditch her after she caused trouble in the club. But no. He’s pulling her in closer. RUN FREDA RUN. Since his actual children have his number, Lucious needs a new victim. Who better than the daughter of the man he killed? There’s something Shakespearian, mythological going on right there. He confesses that he feels more of connection to her than any of his kids, and presents a track he wrote JUST FOR HER. Yep. It’s the “bang bang” track, written JUST FOR Hakeem. Watching them trade lines to the beat, it becomes clear that Lucious has a point.
Empire isn’t Empire if it doesn’t end with a shocking moment. Cookie shows up at Laz’s door and does not mince words. She’s ready to do the thing. He pulls her in for a kiss as he slams the door shut. Cookie pulls off his hoodie to reveal Hakeem’s kidnapper’s bull brand on his back! Damn. He’s one of them, in an elaborate scheme to get Cookie to pay protection. Damn girl, you need to do background checks on potential Lyon Dynasty employees! And we’re out, until next time.
Another fun fact: Legendary African American director, Mario Van Peebles directed!