Empire Recap: Die But Once/Who I Am

“Game time, bitches.”

I mean that last line pretty much summed up Empire’s two hour season finale. So in that case, I can just leave my recap at that, right?


Oh ok. Let’s break it down then. Let me preface this by saying I looooovveeee as much as Empire as I can get but for the sake of my heart and high blood pressure, I need just one hour episodes from now on. I take back everything I said before, I see why we only get one episode a week – that is really all we can take.

So much happened just in the first hour of this season finale that I don’t even know where to begin. The episode starts with Lucious struggling to come up with some great material to perform at his concert. He urges Becky to find Cookie as she is the one who always helps him when he is stuck. She’s not available though and after learning from Porsha that she is in the Berkshires (where Malcolm also went), he looses it. Once Cookie returns with her sister, she finds out that her privileges have been revoked, she is no longer employed at the company and was never on the Board of Directors. Lucious’ bitter ass hit her where it hurts. What happened to Malcolm, you ask? Nothing really. Lucious didn’t fire him but he decided to leave to take a high level government job in Washington, DC that he was offered before he came to Empire. He asked Cookie to go with him but she couldn’t leave, she had to stay and fight for her Empire once again.

Let’s just take a second to mourn the quick demise of Cookie and Malcolm though. I mean, she finally got some reallllllyyyyyy good nookie and she had to give it up just like that. Damnit, man! Malcolm was everything Cookie needed at the moment and by the smile on her face at the cabin, he put it on her something proper. A part of me was really sad when she told him she couldn’t go with him.  “My time is up,” she sighs. “That’s a phrase I’ve heard many times before.”


Eventually, with Jamal’s insistence, Lucious apologizes to Cookie for overreacting but she freaks out when she realizes Hakeem and Jamal have gone to Beretti’s which leads to the next big fiasco.

Hakeem, obviously, is absolutely angry with his father after the fiasco with Camilla and lashes out in classic Hakeem Lyon fashion. At a concert where Empire announces Snoop Dogg as its newest signee, Uncle Snoop calls Hakeem on stage to kick a freestyle. What started off as a healthy rap session quickly changes when Hakeem airs out the family’s dirty laundry and tells his father that he will pay him back by sleeping with his “bitch” aka Anika.

Yes, he went there.

After dropping the mic and walking off the stage, Lucious follows him and punches him in the face. Hakeem spits blood and storms off and then proceeds to do exactly what he said in his freestyle, he plans to sign with Beretti at Creedmoor and he sleeps with Anika.

Oh so I may have buried the lead right there but yes, you read that right.

This little boy slept with Boo Boo Kitty.

Oh, did I mention that Lucious walked in on them when he went to pull Hakeem from Creedmoor’s clutches? Ha. Now if you think that was bad, you have no idea.

Now I mentioned that Lucious went to Beretti’s to get his son back but that was only after Jamal urged him to. Lucious basically promised Jamal Cookie’s reinstatement in the company and the successor position if he could get Beretti to sign the contracts that would give him full rights to the songs that Beretti filed an injunction for. How will Jamal accomplish that? Well, he lured Berretti out on the balcony at his own party and had him dangling off the edge until he agreed to sign. Yes, that’s right – Lucious basically drove his son, who has always been reasonable and the peacemaker, to the brink of murder.

I got a little ahead of myself so let me rewind. Why did Jamal even think that he could take over the company? Well because Daddy Dearest is softening towards him. After being rejected by Andre and Hakeem acting a fool, Jamal became the most logical choice (as I predicted). Even the media believes that Jamal is the future of Empire. Lucious is beginning to realize that he must respect his son’s craft and when he tells Jamal that the media might be right with their assumptions, as much as he tries not to – Jamal is intrigued by the idea of taking over as CEO from his after.

There were several things Jamal had to do though before Lucious would bestow the honor of CEO on him. He had to help his father get rid of his writer’s block. To do that, Jamal brought him back to the Philadelphia apartment that is filled with a lot of memories, both good and bad. It starts off pretty rough when Lucious cackles, ”You want me to throw your ass in the trashcan again?” as they walk up the stairs. That scene is pretty eerie as we get the juxtaposition of both men’s flashbacks of a young Jamal being treated like trash and even then, pleading for his father’s love and acceptance.  However, Jamal shows that he is a lot tougher than Lucious gives him credit for. He doesn’t take the bait and tells his father that he worshipped the way he made music as he tried to get Lucious to tap further into that creativity.  It was that and their surroundings that started a new connection with these two men as they add another layer to their relationship when they create a song called “Nothin’ to Lose”. It also had a Hustle & Flow reference which I love!

As they created this song, Lucious flashes back to another murder he committed back in the day that I have a few questions about. Because of that flashback, we are all a little taken aback when after they have finished singing, he exclaims, “That’s how you murder a track!”


Empire has now taken themselves out of that corner as we find out that Lucious has been misdiagnosed. He doesn’t actually have ALS but rather MG, myasthenia gravis, a similar but treatable condition. So while he still has a pretty chronic disease, it is not fatal. I know like me, a lot of you probably groaned and said, “Lucious is just going to think he is invincible now,” and if you did think that – you were night. No shame in that.

He is on a new drug regimen, but the pills he is taking for his insomnia causes some powerful hallucinations. These hallucinations happen at the most inopportune time as Cookie enters his bedroom. She hears him confess to killing Bunkie and roars about how he is like a phoenix rising from the ashes and being Jesus from the dead now that he knows he doesn’t have ALS. Cookie is obviously grief stricken over this news and with the previous events mounting up, picks up a pillow and holds it over Lucious’ face and says, “it’s over.”

Chuck Hodes/FOX
Chuck Hodes/FOX

She didn’t go through with it and the next morning, Lucious calls his sons over to relay the good news about his diagnosis and to give them gifts.  All of the gifts have some symbolic nature to them: A gold-wing necklace for Hakeem, who will be getting a jet with which he can tour and promote his music;  a cross for Andre who will run Empire’s newly minted Lyon Foundation that will start with $100 million; and a scepter for Jamal, who has been chosen as the successor of the Empire. I should also note that there is a gift for Cookie who came in late. When she opened the box, she found a little pillow – letting her know that HE KNOWS.

For what seemed five minutes, the brothers were going to work together. That all ended pretty quickly as they were both disgruntled. Anika puts in Hakeem’s head that he needs to stage a hostile takeover after they discuss Machiavelli and Brian Grazer. Hakeem had to get Andre in on it but initially he wasn’t game. It wasn’t until Empire artist Black Rambo crashes a press conference and made homophobic slurs that things started to change. Lucious and Jamal dismiss Andre’s idea that dropping Black Rambo will hurt them as it will alienate a lot of their customers. This, along with Rhonda leaving him after expressing her anger over Michelle and giving up the CEO title without a fight, caused Andre to change his mind.

You know who else is in on this hostile takeover plan? Cookie! Yes, that is right. After sweeping up after Hakeem’s haircut with that same broom she beat his ass with earlier this season, she brings him the idea of building their own legacy together. That is when he lets her in on the takeover idea.

This gave way to the most epic catfight on TV since my early soap opera days. Why? Because Hakeem, Andre, Anika and Cookie are all in the same room and YOU KNOW Cookie has been waiting to tear into Anika. Well she got her chance – Cookie threw a drink and a punch that sent Anika to the ground. Anika grabbed Cookie’s hair and Cookie threw her ass on the pool table like a rag doll.

Did I mention Cookie snatched Anika’s pearls? Literally.

Whew! I am here for all of it!

After that, I had to clutch my own damn pearls.

So they all met with billionaire Tricky Trichter who specializes in hostile takeovers. After Anika and Cookie promise to launch his grandson’s career, who doesn’t have a lick of talent, he agrees to put up half of the $500 million they need. All they have to do is come up with the additional money and discredit Lucious with some type of scandal.

This is probably where I should mention that Vernon is back. He is out of rehab and once again doing Lucious’ dirty work. All of this doesn’t last long, however. After admitting to Cookie that Lucious did indeed kill Bunkie, he goes to Andre’s house. While there, they have a knock out drag down brawl which ended when Rhonda arrived and knocked Vernon over the head with a damn candlestick.

Yup, you guessed it.

Rhonda killed him.

Didn’t I say Vernon wouldn’t make it past the first season? I surely did.

Mind you, I didn’t think Rhonda would have a hand in that but still.

And when Andre tried to call the police, she stopped him by saying they wouldn’t understand what happened and told him that she was pregnant. So what do they do? They cover up the dang murder.

At the legacy concert, Lucious is arrested for Bunkie’s death after having one of the most heartfelt conversations with Jamal. He immediately assumes it is Cookie who ratted him out as he walks away and in turn Jamal believes the same thing which effectively severs their close mother/son relationship. This hurts Jamal even more because just before that, Cookie told him that no matter what ‘I got you.” And this, to Jamal, didn’t seem like that.

As the agents lead Lucious away, we find out that Vernon is the one who actually snitched on Lucious. Agent Carter can be heard asking, “Where’s Vernon? He’s our star witness!” She’s going to need another witness because Vernon is dead. This might have a soap opera feel but this isn’t General Hospital, he’s not coming back from the dead.

The episode ends with Lucious behind bars and promising that he will get his revenge. “You may think you’ve gotten away with this” but God, the streets and disease couldn’t kill him so this definitely won’t. He’ll be back and with a vengeance. A close up of his face is shown where he utters that now soon-to-be infamous line, “it’s game time, bitches.” Sounds like everybody, except maybe Jamal, is going to have watch their backs come season two.

So in the end, Empire is divided.

Hakeem, Andre, Cookie and Anika vs. Jamal and Lucious.

Honestly though, out of everyone I feel that Jamal is getting the short end of the stick. Yes, he got control of the Empire but everything else is working against him now. It’s almost as if he shouldn’t have gotten it. Even though his father “seemingly” accepts him now, he feels he can’t trust his mother and his brothers have basically turned on him. In the end, Jamal probably had one of the worst times growing as a Lyon and all he really wanted was for his father to love him. Now that he has that love, everything else is slipping away. I am very interested to see his evolution next season. Jamal is much stronger than people have given him credit for, we have seen that for sure tonight. His growth, in a number of ways, has been very interesting to watch.

One thing for sure: Empire has to turn it up several more notches next season. It is a very tall order to fill but something tells me Empire will be able to do it.

Two other important things to note from this episode:

  • Andre did not want to return to work at the beginning of this episode. He started hanging around Michelle’s church as he struggled to find where he belonged. Lucious was obviously not happy with this decision, even though he basically tells Andre that he will never be more than CFO. Andre rejects the notion of ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange and Lucious sees just the amount of interest Andre is taking in Michelle. So what does he do? Lucious offers Michelle a record deal which she accepts. Andre is not happy about this because he feels that Michelle has betrayed him in a way, especially because she has been guiding him on his religious journey. He doesn’t believe she should have given in so easily to the lure of this fame. “My father is the devil — and you just spread your legs for him!” he snarls at Michelle. Granted, she will be a Gospel artist but still. This relationship will be very interesting to watch next season. Like I said last week, I hope Jennifer Hudson is back for season two. There is no way that this particular story line can end here. There is so much potential and too much left unsaid.
  • Lucious Lyon is not his real name. Lucious revealed to Jamal that his real name is actually Dwight Walker – something he says that not even Cookie knows. Hmmmmm.. what does this mean? Honestly, I thought Lucious was a slightly outrageous name but since it was never brought up in even the littlest of ways, I never thought anything about it after the first episode. There’s definitely more to the story then what he told Jamal. I can’t wait for us to learn more because I feel that little piece of information is vital.


Until next time, Cookie Monsters!

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