By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed Wednesday, September 30, 2015
After last week's over-the-top return packed with celebrity cameos, this episode featured just one major guest: Atlanta rap star and actor Ludacris.
He plays an unsympathetic prison guard McKnight who is not intimidated by Lucious Lyons.
"The world would be a better place without you," he sneers at Lucious.
But like Chris Rock's comically mild-mannered drug lord Frank Gathers character last week, a somewhat more convincing Ludacris isn't going to beat Lucious on "Empire."
McKnight is a pawn of the prosecutor who has him withhold meds from Lucious that would keep him healthy. The hope is that she can leverage his lack of meds to get him to cooperate with her.
Of course he won't. He's no snitch b****! Hey! That's a great idea for a song!
Lucious runs into an oily attorney who is comically named Thirsty Rawlings. The attorney helps get him his meds and equipment and a room to record a song while in prison with a laptop Rawlings supplies. That's a man with connections!
Sure, Ludacris' McKnight catches Lucious, confiscates his laptop and throws him in the "hole." There, he tries to scare Lucious with all the nuance of a jackhammer: "You rap like you're some sort of tough guy but inside, you're just another prisoner. I could kill you right now! No consequences. Just another dead rapper."
Before McKnight has a chance to do anything of the sort, Thirsty's minions beat up Ludacris' McKnight and gets the laptop back. Soon, Lucious' "Snitch B****" song gets played on the radio.
Soon after, Thirsty finds S&M blackmail photos about the judge at a bond hearing and shows them to said judge. Guilty judge quickly gives Lucious bail much to the prosecutor's shock. Lucious is free at last!
This storyline, in fact, was far more interesting than the family shenanigans outside the prison walls.
With Cookie on the outs with Jamal, who is now running Empire while Lucious is in prison, she decides to start her own label with a reluctant Hakeem and Andre in tow.
Hakeem brings Akina along, much to Cookie's dismay. And the man/child is obsessed with starting a trio a la Destiny's Child. He tests out ladies, seeking one white, one Latino and one black woman for some "Rainbow" combo but that didn't pan out. His efforts to bring his old squeeze Tiana into the fold fails as well either. Instead, he finds three Latino women, which Andre notes is a smart marketing move.
Jamal tries to get Hakeem to come back to Empire, telling him he'd release his album he had already recorded. Instead, Hakeem "leaked" the album himself and decides to stay with Cookie. The new name? Lyon Dynasty.
"Our little dynasty will crush your empire," Hakeem said to Jamal.
We know the writers have paid homage to "Dynasty" with the entire show so this is a not-so-subtle tribute.
Andre, on the other hand, is torn. He loves his mom but decides to go back to Empire because that's where his heart is. But when he seeks Lucious's forgiveness for betraying him, Lucious decides not to do so. But he will eventually. Why? He forgave Jamal for being gay and Hakeem for sleeping with his ex Akina, as Andre properly pointed out. Hate is not in his equation when it comes to his sons.
And if you were hoping for some great Cookie lines this week, they were in short supply. The verbal sparring between her and Akina is becoming quickly tiresome.
"Anika knows marketing. She made a whole career selling her a**," Cookie sneered at one point.
"As opposed to your stellar career in pharmaceuticals?" Akina shot back.
"Let me tell you ho. If it weren't for women like me, b***** like you would be spending a lifetime on your knees or underneath my 20-year-old son."
Snooze. Come on, writers! You can do better than that!