Critic’s Pick: TV Picks: ‘Empire,’ ‘Broadchurch,’ ‘The Jinx’

Taraji P. Henson, as Cookie, in a scene from “Empire.”
(Chuck Hades / Fox)

“Empire”: It’s over already? Alas, yes, Fox’s super-hot music-industry-by-way-of-Shakespeare epic airs its two-hour season finale this week and as with its spiritual cousin “Game of Thrones,” the 11 episodes have flown by too quickly.

Like “GoT,” “Empire” is an exploration of power and family, loyalty and lies, in which a king may sit on the throne but the queen understands what’s really going down.

Also there’s music, some of it performed by A-list stars; the finale boasts appearances by Patti LaBelle and Snoop Dogg among others.

Mogul Lucious Lyon (Terence Howard) is fighting for his life (he was recently diagnosed with ALS), his legacy (his company, Empire Records, is beset by foes within and without) and, most important, his soul.


Having announced at the beginning of the season that he would be turning Empire over to one of his three sons, he proceeded to question each one’s ability, loyalty and masculinity to the point where, as we go into the finale, pretty much everyone hates him.

And Lucious is categorically hateful. Except Howard miraculously makes him human, a con man, yes, but one of such persuasive skill and desperate need that the viewer, like those around him, longs not for downfall but epiphany.

This kind of character would be impossible to maintain without a truth-telling counterpart, and that’s Cookie, Lucious’ ex-wife played by Taraji P. Henson who has pretty much stolen the show since she appeared, fresh out of serving 17 years for the drug dealing that funded Empire, and wanting her family, and company back.

Taking her place among TV’s truth-telling elite (see also Tyrion Lannister and “Downton Abbey’s” Dowager Duchess), Cookie is a survivor both self-centered and chronically insightful. Also she has all the best lines. Yes, she wants her piece of Empire, but more than that she wants to make up for the years she left her children in the care of a man who refused to value them as individuals.


Which is why we don’t want Lucious to fall so much as change; because as Cookie understands, every child deserves a loving father, even if it’s for only a short time at the very last minute. Fox, Wednesday, 8 p.m.

“Broadchurch”: The disaster of “Gracepoint” shouldn’t put viewers off the second season of the original marvelous and unsettling British murder mystery. Season two is much faster paced and plot driven than the first but remains as more character study than detective tale, albeit with a few rather eyebrow raising twists required to keep things moving.

Because the murder of young Danny Latimer was supposedly solved at the end of season one, with David Tennant’s Det. Inspector Hardy discovering that it was the husband of his partner, Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman). So where on earth does the show go from there?

Well, first off Ellie’s husband changes his plea to not guilty and gets a cut-throat lawyer to begin lacerating all the detective work and bringing all the principals together again. Then, the botched murder investigation that landed Hardy in Broadchurch, and possibly contributed to his worsening heart condition, catches up with him.

With Eve Myles, Charlotte Rampling, Marianne Jean-Baptiste and a deliciously menacing James D’Arcy adding to an already spectacular cast, “Broadchurch” may be a bit different this time around, but it’s just as good. BBC America, Wednesdays, 10 p.m.

“The Jinx”: What has up to now been a traditional, if thoroughly creepy, documentary about Robert Durst, the New York real estate scion suspected of, and in one case charged with, three murders but never convicted of any, has taken a radical turn. At the end of last week’s episode, new evidence appears to link him directly to two of the killings. This week will include his reaction when presented with the evidence, evidence that has already re-opened one of the investigations.

Durst, who initiated the project, has been a willing participant in the documentary and his deadpan, often obviously rehearsed description of events, and commentary are what makes “The Jinx” something far more disturbing and powerful than the regrettably standard tale of a wealthy man who may, or may not, have gotten away with murder. So this week’s episode should be a, well, killer. HBO, Sunday, 8 p.m.         

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