Empire: Die But Once, Who I Am
March 18, 2015 11:16 PM - Season 1, Episode 11 - Subscribe

There's an IPO. There's a concert. There's a confession of murder. There's fights. There's gold lion bling. Welcome to the season finale of Empire as everyone picks their teams....

Okay folks, bear with me because (a) I missed the first 45 minutes of show because I was in a class, and nobody else has put any damn recaps up yet so I can check what happened in that 45 minutes. Uh...I'm gonna have to infer some things.

I think at this point we're kinda gonna be divided into two teams tonight.

Team Empire (Lucious/Jamal/Becky): Good news for Lucious! He's only got myasthenia gravis, not ALS! Which I kinda guessed since ALS is a "diagnose by elimination" disease. He kicks the doctor out for that one. Anyway, myasthenia gravis isn't fatal and is treatable, so for the rest of the episode (uh, an hour-ish) he is literally feeling like God, and totally high on himself. He is feeling the love for everyone! He kind of even apologies to people! Only none of the kids are really having that. He also shockingly discovers Michelle the music therapist and makes her a staaaar. Which annoys Andre.

Bad news for Lucious! Hakeem just screwed Anika in a mutual revenge fuck and is no longer the golden boy heir to the throne. Oh, Hakeem and your older woman fetish.

Good news for Jamal! After Jamal nearly throws a guy off a building for dear old Dad (uh, sorry, I don't know why, I walked in on this*), Jamal is the new golden boy. Lucious gives everyone very nicely wrapped golden lion gifts-- a cross and a hundred million for Andre to run some foundation with, a bling wing necklace and a private jet for Hakeem, and Jamal...GETS THE RULING STICK BECAUSE HE'S GONNA RUN EMPIRE. Seriously, there is a ruling stick.

* Once upon a time I came home halfway through 24 and turned it on and had no effing idea what was going on. Kind of a similar experience tonight.

Bad news for Lucious! He tries a new drug regime which will get rid of his tremors in a few weeks, but also totally makes him blab all of his secrets--specifically who he's murdered recently--in his sleep. And Cookie hears it. And she attempts to smother him with a pillow. Which Lucious has on camera. His gift to Cookie is a pillow...and throwing her out.

Good news for Becky! She is now A&R. No more pouring drinks for her.

Good news for Jamal! He's gonna rule the empire, he bangs his boyfriend on his dad's desk, and after some idjit calling himself "Black Rambo" slams him at a press conference, elegantly sings his ass down in a rap battle (see below). And his momma has always got him. And he genuinely wants to be nice to his brothers about this.

Bad news for Jamal: his brothers are kinda pissed at him, Hakeem doesn't like being told he has to hold off a few months on his album to wait for Jamal's, and he finds out his dad killed Bunkie.

Team Everyone Else (Cookie, Andre, Rhonda, Hakeem, Anika, Vernon):
Good news for Cookie: she's producing the Lucious Lyon Sound concert, in which a bunch of big names perform Lucious' works before he does.
Bad news for Cookie: she hears that Lucious murdered her cousin, attempts to kill Lucious, is caught at it and thrown out and loses her name off the concert, and is dragged in by Agent Carter again and asked to testify against Lucious. She still won't, but possible other folks will-- some guy named "Shyne Johnson" that Lucious also mentioned in his sleeptalking. Oh, and Vernon apparently. Cookie makes darned sure she confirms with Vernon about that killing.

Good news for Hakeem: revenge sex. Bad news for Hakeem: revenge sex and losing the Empire. And he's not interested in Creedmore.

Good news for Hakeem: Cookie doesn't want him shut out of the business and proposes they start their own company together. She's done it before, she can do it again. But Hakeem has another idea... they don't have to start from scratch this time.

REALLY GOOD NEWS FOR HAKEEM: Hakeem starts developing more brain cells and starts conspiring with Anika, and Andre, and Cookie, into doing a hostile takeover of Empire. And we know for a fact that he has read at least two books! His current reading is "A Curious Mind" (yes, self-help, he's not ashamed) and he admits to having already read Machiavelli when Anika recommends it. She makes a crack about how Machiavelli didn't like "effeminate princes" and Hakeem thinka she means Jamal, but maybe not. Both Anika and I are feeling really impressed with Hakeem. He is manning up. Who would have thought this could happen with the little schmuck that he was at the start of the season?!

Good news for the viewers: COOKIE AND ANIKA CATIFGHT!!!!!!!! No clear winner in this, but it was fun to see.

Good news for Anika: revenge sex, joining Team Everyone Else, finally fighting with Cookie and recruiting a corporate raider named "Tricky Trichter" and his white rapper grandson to help out. Tricky suggests the best way to get Lucious out is to change the board of directors, and/or have a scandal. Has Lucious done anything scandalous lately, perhaps? HMM, LET US COUNT THE THINGS, I AM SURE WE CAN THINK OF SOMETHING.

Bad news for Cookie: having to listen to the white boy rapper. Who is something, all right.

Bad news for Andre: losing Empire, apparently having some kind of spiritual experience with Michelle causes Rhonda to walk out, Dad poaches Michelle, and he's mad at Dad. And Jamal. And kinda everybody.

Bad news for Rhonda: she doesn't know what's worse, that Andre "left her" for a phony or that he conceded to Jamal without a fight.

Good news for Vernon: he's out of rehab.
Bad news for Vernon: he tries to team up with Andre again and they end up in a knock down, drag out, furniture and head busting fight.

Good news for Andre and Rhonda: Rhonda rushes in to break up the fight! And she's pregnant!
Bad news for Andre and Rhonda: She broke it up by smacking Vernon with a candlestick and bashed his head in.
REALLY BAD NEWS FOR VERNON: That candlestick was fatal. Nope, we don't know how they disposed of the body, but feds are looking.

Back to Team Empire:

Good news for Jamal: Lucious is over his homophobia and says that bigotry has no place at Empire, and basically fuck that Black Rambo guy. And Lucious actually says he loves Jamal and was just worried about him being black and gay. (Got that.)
Bad news for Jamal: Andre is all, don't alienate the stockholders by saying things like that. "No offense, Empire."

Good news for Lucious: EMPIRE IS AN IPO!!!!! Ring that bell! Push that button! Make that money! ... or not.
Bad news for Lucious: your ass is arrested before you can even perform at your concert, for the murder of Bunkie. The stock is plummeting.
Bad news for everyone at the concert chanting "We want Lucious!" Those poor folks are the last to know about the arrest, unless they're checking their phones right now. Oh, who am I kidding?

Lucious just wants you to know from jail that he can't be killed even by God and he will return. "Game on, bitches."

"I'll send a prayer to you in a flameproof jar." --Andre to Lucious.
"Let's see who's more powerful: Your god or your daddy." --Lucious seriously, totally thinks he is God in this episode. He claims God has spoken to him, etc.
"My father is the devil and you just spread your legs for him." -Andre to Michelle.
"If you weren't already dying, Lucious, I swear I'd kill your ass."--Cookie means it!
"Everybody that crosses me dies."--Lucious.
"I'm your messiah." --Lucious.
"Don't tell me or anyone else ever to try to control you again."--Lucious to Hakeem. I think he's going to regret saying that, somehow. Call it a hunch.
"The Empire is yours, Jamal." -Lucious.
"I been meaning to ask you: what type of black girl named Becky?" "My mom's white."--Hakeem and Becky
"Checkmate, bitch." --Lucious to Cookie
"Sometimes you gotta be willing to sacrifice your queen in order to win the game." --Lucious to Jamal after his mom is dragged out by security.
"She really wasn't happy about her brother* having good health, let's put it that way." --Lucious to Vernon, explaining the latest situation with Cookie.
* cousin? pretty sure he said one and meant the other
"You are gonna be a much better king now that you have to fight for it."--Anika to Hakeem.
"Who's boo boo kitty now, bitch?" -Anika to Cookie."
"Okay, I will work with boo boo kitty this time." --Cookie
"You ever heard of a hostile takeover?" -Hakeem to Andre. I'M PRETTY SURE HE HAS.
"But if we can sell Kid Fo-Fo, we can sell this punkass grandson of yours." --Anika to Tricky's FACE. Damn, girl, that is some brutal honesty.
"Lucious Lyon, the immortal, the one who couldn't be killed." --Lucious on why he changed his name from Dwight Walker when he became an orphan at age nine, because Dwight wouldn't have lasted a week. Cookie doesn't even know his real name.
"Why did I end up with 99 problems?" --Jamal singing a song of his dad's. To which my answer is, "because you're on a TV show."
"I want to reign over my Empire like Caesar. I want to walk on water and die like Jesus." --Hakeem, singing a song of his dad's.

Here's Jamal's entire rap battle, sung gloriously:
"So what, I'm gay. It don't matter. God ain't made you no better than me. When I pray he still answers maybe.* You need to get on your knees, no weapon shall prosper. You sin ain't no better than my sin. Your skin ain't no better than my skin. So point all the fingers you want. Bitch." The punctuation of "bitch" and the tone he says it in is excellent. He walks out. FTW.
* Not sure if this is meant as God maybe answers, or maybe Black Rambo should get on his knees. Closed captioning was not super helpful.

And before I leave you all for the night (or morning), some Empire links:

For sheer nostalgia/comparison's sake: Dynasty catfights.

Video interview with Taraji.
Showrunner interview.
Cookie's best moments so far.
Interview with Porsha, who is pretty much playing herself.

I can't wait for this show to be back on again. It is my favorite right now since Parks left the building. Darn it. More episodes, plz!

posted by jenfullmoon (18 comments total)
The scene where everyone is opening Luscious's presents felt like something out of Clue. Someone is getting murdered with that cross.

Also, you missed a solid Becky line up front: after luscious yells at bet to get out of his office "You talk to Becky in your inside voice."
posted by gc at 12:09 AM on March 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

That quick, sly wink that Jamal gives Black Rambo on the, "You should get on your knees" line made me cheer out loud.
posted by gladly at 5:53 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh damn, I missed so much! Including that the episode title was wrong! Damn you, Zap2It! I missed Cookie getting laid and other stuff! Grrr!

Actual correct reviews:
AV Club
EW review.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:20 AM on March 19, 2015

I'm curious about the timing of the filming of the end of the season. Did they already know it was a success by this point? Because this episode was so chock full of plot reveals and change ups that it felt like they wanted to make sure to go out on (craziness) top if that was the case. Even for 2 hours, it was overstuffed. I enjoyed the heck out of it though.

My biggest surprise of this episode personally is how much I wanted Rhonda and Andre to stay together. A baby would have probably helped that anyway, but covering up a murder works too.

"I ain't know nothing since Y2K" - Porsha when she realizes she's let slip to Lucious that Cookie might be in the same place as Malcolm and tries to cover it up.

I'm also now curious if Iggy Azalea's grandfather is a corporate raider.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:48 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

McMikeNamara, from what I've seen, the show was picked up after episode 2. So they knew a good distance ahead of recording this episode.
posted by gc at 9:31 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Bad news for the hostile takeover team: if Vernon's dead the FBI's case against Lucious will probably fall apart.

I had heard someone was going to die in the finale and I was really hoping it was Anika. Ugh that the only way she could find to get back at Lucious was to sleep with his son who's basically a child. (And a well-read child, apparently. That bit of exposition rather heavy-handed.)

My biggest surprise of this episode personally is how much I wanted Rhonda and Andre to stay together. A baby would have probably helped that anyway, but covering up a murder works too.

I shudder to think what bringing a baby into that effed up situation will help. Holding a marriage together is a lot of responsibility to put on an innocent kid.

Seriously, there is a ruling stick

I wasn't paying full attention during that scene. Did someone actually call it a "ruling stick"? Because, um, "scepter".

So, the only thing that needs to happen now is for Taraji to snag an Emmy nomination. Too bad she's probably going to have to compete with Viola Davis for the actual win. What a wonderful contrast to the Oscars...
posted by fuse theorem at 10:07 AM on March 19, 2015

During Lucious's post-MG-diagnosis-slash-what-a-wonderful-world phase Becky was named head of A&R, possibly something she had been promised before Anika showed up.
In the closing montage Anika is shown in the control room of an Empire studio.
I doubt Becky would delegate that, so she's not A&R-ing anymore.

Luscious has gone from CEO to inmate, a great loss, and in the world of Empire, having flashbacks about loss while writing music are a source of power. He will rebuild his Empire on this new Lucious Lyon sound. Upon his inevitable release (Vernon was the star witness in the Fed's argument that Lucious murdered Bunkie) anticipate that Lucious records some amazing music at Ghetto Ass Studio. Like Hakeem, though, Lucious seems to need a muse. Look for Becky to be his muse for at least the beginning of S2.

I, for one, hope for a Becky/Anika catfight. Team Becky!
posted by otherchaz at 10:14 AM on March 19, 2015

I think Hakeem is at least 18. So he's barely legal for all these older women, but legal. (And also, he reads? I about fainted.)

I just wanted to call it a ruling stick for my own amusement, like "boomstick" or "something Lucious will probably use as a weapon in the future." I don't think they named it as anything per se.

Hitfix review.
Vulture review.

Oh, and I missed this precap before the finale. He called that the ALS "was a clerical error."

Is Lucious the black Don Draper?
"Hakeem and Andre fashioned personas that were tailor-made to get their intractable, maniacal father to love them in the ways they were not loved as children. Hakeem became a stereotypical bling-obsessed Lothario with designs on being a larger-than-life superstar like Lucious. Producing extravagant music videos and having a woman by his side made him a man. Andre, on the other hand, chose business. He sought his father’s approval by molding himself into the ideal corporate figurehead. With Andre, you’d think he was born with a suit on and a calculator up his ass, but that’s far from the truth. Through 12 episodes, it became apparent that Hakeem and Andre chose these paths to please their unapproachable, emotionally withholding patriarch. In the end, Lucious chose Jamal to run Empire Entertainment — the son who was the most comfortable just being himself and who chose to stand defiantly against the very idea of conforming. If you’re Hakeem or Andre, that amounts to the ultimate betrayal."
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:47 AM on March 19, 2015

I just wanted to call it a ruling stick for my own amusement, like "boomstick" or "something Lucious will probably use as a weapon in the future." I don't think they named it as anything per se.

Oh of course Lucious will be beating somebody with it. I wish he would call it some kind of stick so the show could use a hip hop version of this song as the background music.

I think Hakeem is at least 18. So he's barely legal for all these older women, but legal.

Emotionally he's a child though, and one with huge mommy issues. He really seems to be seeking these older women's approval.

Thank you again for all the work you do on these recaps. It really is excellent.
posted by fuse theorem at 12:57 PM on March 19, 2015

Aw, thanks! Hah, listening to "Licking Stick" right now.

More link fun because Slate just had a field day, apparently.

The "Splash, Punch" move.
Another catfight.
Just give Taraji the Emmy already.
Empire season finale parties.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:08 PM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow, what a ride! When does Season 2 start again? Next week, right? Team Jamal, but with the family so fractured the ruling stick seems pretty hollow. (what? I like the ruling stick) It's touching that he's finally getting what he wants -- and his duet with Lucious may be my favorite music scene of the season -- but knowing his dad, what he wants is not going to be good for him, and I don't think he can deal with his brothers effectively.

Speaking of brothers, with Hakeem comparing himself to Caesar and Jesus, I think there's definitely some pain coming for him in season 2. When you're 17, 33 seems like a long way away, but it's still a little much to ask for a crucifixion. I thought the book discussion was an interesting callback to Camilla talking to him about the 48 Laws of Power. I thought that'd never get picked up again, but I think I can assume that if he's read Machiavelli, he started with the 48 Laws of Power. The scene where he went after Lucious and dropped the mic was only topped by the scene showing him with Anika, during which I may have literally reached out to the screen and shrieked "No way!!" (How in the hell do you think that happened? As much as Anika might have wanted to get back at Lucious, that must have been a hard sell.) At the beginning I couldn't stand Hakeem, but now I genuinely worry for him. And I never thought I'd miss Camilla, but Anika seems like a step down. However, I do relish Anika and Cookie having to work together.

Points for Porsha's line "I ain't know nothing since Y2K." She's definitely hiding her brains, I do wish we could have seen her dealing with Anika.

Thought it was funny how Andre walked into the church as Michelle sang "There ain't nothing too hard for my God." Was Andre thinking that He hadn't ever dealt with the mess the Lyon family had made?

I laughed at Lucious saying "This is the age of social justice." If more "SJWs" were like him, we might actually get something done about all the rape and death threats to people like Anita Sarkeesian. Also, I was really touched by the scene with Lucious talking about his real name. I've been thinking about him as a main character who remains somewhat sympathetic even though his flaws, mistakes and cruel deeds have been amply documented over the course of the show. I don't want Cookie to get back with him, but I do want him to succeed in creating his business and making peace with his family, and he's not a character I 'love to hate' even if he's not someone I like. When I think about Empire I often think about McKee's book about screenwriting, Story, and what he said about how an audience can be brought to empathize with a morally repellent character if there's some positive qualities within them and they're contrasted with "a background of negativity." Well, Lucious created Empire out of his talent and his drive in a deeply racist society, and that informs everything he does. One of the extra articles talks about Lucious wanting to create "the new black Wall Street" and even if we never see the framed newspaper article that the article references, I can totally believe it's in his office. He had to fight so hard for success in a society where "Black Lives Matter" even has to be said, and that fight twisted him.

Cool graph from Twitter showing tweets about Empire over the course of the night.
posted by shirobara at 3:01 PM on March 19, 2015

Oh my God, I had missed that Anika said "Who's boo boo kitty now bitch?!?" during the fight. I also missed it in your recap and just heard it in the Slate video.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:03 PM on March 19, 2015

Okay, I finally saw the other 45 minutes.

"You use your inside voice when you talk to Becky!" You go, Becky.
"There's no higher purpose than being a maker of music. That's the voice of God." Lucious is not only God, he's the damn Metatron too.
Cookie hoping Lucious would die so it would jack up the concert ticket prices. Hoo boy.
Titan is Snoop's nephew?
You know, once upon a time I would have enjoyed Lucious punching Hakeem in the face.
Who the hell doesn't put their kids under contract? I kind of have to agree with the IPO reviewers that this show sucks at business.
Will Porsha be fired next season after blabbing?
"Hell wants its devil back and Lucious is on his way." --Cookie
Lucious is amazingly polite to Carol.
The Cookie/Malcolm breakup would have affected me a bit more had it not been so ...short of a relationship. Would like to see him come back though. But probably not happening.
There's something just funny about Lucious sucking up to Jamal as "Keep Your Money" plays.
Kinda creepy how Lucious wants Jamal to go "full monster" and poor Jamal wants his dad's love so bad he goes out and does it.
I am surprised how much of that episode was NOT a weird dream sequence.
"Oh, I get it, you want me to throw you in the trash can again?" OUCH.
"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were a complete fraud." OUCH part two.
I love that Lucious used to dress like a pirate. Where's his earring and parrot?

I had that quote earlier about how the other two boys tried to be what Daddy wanted, but so did Jamal, he just went through music--and beating up a guy over a balcony.

Cookie Don't Crumble.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:59 PM on March 19, 2015

Vibe Interview with Taraji Henson
posted by otherchaz at 3:20 AM on March 20, 2015

A Prayer for Cookie Lyon.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:54 PM on March 20, 2015

Titan is Snoop's nephew?

IRL Snoop calls just about everyone "nephew". Because his nickname is "Uncle Snoop".
posted by billyfleetwood at 4:04 PM on March 22, 2015

Season 2 coming soon -- here's some promo photos.
They're all looking great, but once again I'm wishing for our assistant duo special series...
posted by shirobara at 3:49 PM on August 6, 2015

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