If you thought Lucious was running the game well from the depths of the penitentiary, his release has put even more fire under his tail. And suffering the wrath will be Lyon Dynasty, Cookie's new label featuring Hakeem, V. and Tiana.
In the third episode of "Empire's" Season 2, titled "Fires of Heaven," we begin with Lucious' return to Empire Entertainment, or at least its steps, as his bail conditions stipulate that he cannot enter the building. Following an impassioned speech to his flock about the eventual domination of his label, we flash to Hakeem's latest booty call, Valentina (Becky G).
But at least he's fooling around with someone his age and the mommy issues seem to have subsided.
Cookie barges into Hakeem's apartment noticing that he isn't ready for his upcoming performance on Sway in the Morning — ironically, the same place Jamal first performed during Season 1. After realizing that Valentina, the lead of the Hakeem-produced Latina girl group Menage a Trois, has spent the night, Cookie gives her some much-needed advice: "I'm not talking to you, Guadalupe. You need to find your draws."
When Hakeem and Cookie finally make it to Sway's radio show, the host throws some much-needed shade toward rappers Azealia Banks and Lil Wayne, who both (in real life), like Hakeem, leaked their albums. When Sway calls Lucious fresh off his press conference for comment, father and son make no secret their disdain for each other.
In an effort to let bygones be bygones (or squash the competition before it begins), Lucious invites the entire family to dinner at his castle, the one Jamal kicked them all out of in the first episode. Papa Lyon gives his traitorous family an ultimatum: cease and desist and return to Empire, or wait for their impending demise. But no one puts Cookie in a corner.
As she exited the home, effectively denying Lucious' wishes for the whole family, she pulls the table's runner behind her, slowly knocking off all the food.
But just as Cookie is running away from the Empire, Anika is running back, sort of. Following a meeting with Lucious (where he confesses that if Anika wanted to sleep with his son, all she had to do was ask), it looks as if Miss Boo Boo Kitty wants to re-assume her spot on the righthand side of Lucious.
Meanwhile, a new-ish character is (re)introduced, Freda Gatz (rapper Bre-Z), the daughter of Chris Rock's character from the first episode. When Jamal is unable to convince her and her gang of goons to sign a contract, Lucious reveals both his plan to resurrect the defunct Gutter Life Records label with her and that he may be having second thoughts on his choice as a successor.
While Lucious is reprimanding Jamal for not being "street enough" to handle Empire, he places his hand on his son's shoulder. It might just be me, but I found it concerning, slightly predatory and inappropriate. But I'm sleep!
At the same time, we get a little deeper into Becky's background. As she tries to convince Freda to sign the contract, we learn that Lucious has a hankering for saving people from the ghetto. Becky is proof as a former resident of the projects who Father Lyon took a gamble on... and now she's VP of A&R.
We jump back to Anika, who is waiting in Cookie's office. After bowing to the queen (and admitting defeat), Anika informs Cookie of Lucious' plan to use her as a double agent, since he thinks Boo Boo Kitty and Cookie are on working terms. Intrigued by the idea that she could turn this circumstance on its head, Cookie welcomes (for now) Anika into the Lyon Dynasty family. For the first time, they seem to be ready to work together to get back at the man who broke both of their hearts. Their first task together is to crash Lucious' coming-home celebration at his club Leviticus.
Pause: It just hit me that the name of the club is Leviticus and Lucious thinks he's a god. Leviticus is also one of the main chapters of the Bible often used against homosexuality, and we are very familiar with Lucious' disdain (even if more subtle this season) with Jamal being gay. It will be interesting if this comes into play sometime later in the season.
As Lucious is celebrating his freedom, Pitbull makes a cameo during a performance with Jamal of "No Doubt About It."
But Cookie is right behind them (to save the day?). Decked out in a massive, gold neck piece, matching bustier and mane-like hair do, she interrupts the performance in the manner only she can. She bursts in with a team of bodyguards to introduce Lyon Dynasty's No. 1 artist, Hakeem, who performs a definite club banger, laden with shade, featuring a small cameo by Timbaland, who oversees the entire show's music.
Lucious, however, always comes out on top. As the episode ends, and Hakeem's girl group is set to premiere on Sway's show, Lucious enters the room as the new owner of all major urban radio stations (including Sway's). As if that wasn't enough to trump Cookie, Valentina, who is late, signed with Empire Entertainment behind her group's and Hakeem's back.
And that's how the Cookie crumbles. Or does it? We'll surely find out next week.
Other moments of note:
- Cookie gave us a good Laurieann Gibson-Debbie Allen tease as Menage a Trois' choreographer. What if she gave us a nice Janet Jackson moment and jumped on stage to perform during one episode? (See Taraji P. Henson in Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" or "Hustle and Flow.")
- When Lucious realizes that Jamal is teetering with the idea of reaching out to Cookie to help him create music, Papa Lyon finally commits to giving his son the attention he craves.
- It's confirmed, I think. Lucious' mom (Kelly Rowland) was bipolar. When Andre reassures his father that his baby (because Rhonda is pregnant) won't have "mental issues" because it doesn't run in the family, Lucious recalls a moment in his childhood. In the flashback, his mom has gone on an impulsive shopping spree, much like Andre's during Empire's IPO, despite them not having food in the house to eat.
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