Empire Recap S2 E1: “The Devils Are Here”

Empire Season 2 Premiere

Last season, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and the Lyons cubs successfully sent Lucious (Terrence Howard) to jail for murder. Now, three months later, the family is pretending that Lucious is being falsely accused and leading a #BlackLivesMatters-esque protest in his honor, complete with a gorilla in a cage skit and cameos by Reverend Al Sharpton and Don Lemon.

I guess they realized it would be bad for business if the founder/CEO of Empire was doing time.

Surprisingly, Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) is the only one showing self-awareness and protests piggybacking an actual movement addressing actual problems for Lucious’ benefit but Cookie dismisses his concerns. “This is about us taking over the empire,” she snaps. “Stay focused.”

The family needs to impress investor Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei) so she will fund their hostile takeover of Empire and formally oust Lucious for good. Hakeem worries that Jamal (Jussie Smollett), who was crowned the official head of Empire last season, might view this move as a backstab but once again, Cookie barrels on.

For Lucious, life in prison is more Oz than Orange is the New Black. Frank Gathers (Chris Rock), the drug dealer that Lucious and Cookie worked for once upon a time, is back in jail. While the two play nice in front of the other inmates, you can tell that there is uneasiness between them.

Remember how at the beginning of last season Cookie spent the most time mentoring Jamal to be more confident and attempting to win over Hakeem’s affections? Now, Hakeem is the one Cookie is fussing over while Jamal ignores her and barks orders at everyone. Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) sums up the new Lyons’ dynamic: “You’re rude, he’s crude and both of y’all are socially unacceptable.”

What is especially unacceptable is that Jamal is visiting Lucious and taking his advice on how to run the company. Lucious warns Jamal that he knows all about Mimi Whiteman and that Cookie is up to something.

Meanwhile, Andre (Trai Byers) is still angsting with his wife, Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), about killing Vernon (Malik Yoba). He’s sorry that he took another man’s life. Oh no, actually he regrets the murder because Vernon’s testimony could have put Lucious away for good.

It goes without saying that the Lyons are pretty self absorbed. #ONLYLyonLivesMatter to this crew.

At a party thrown for Mimi Whiteman, Cookie is initially furious that Hakeem brought Anika (Grace Gealey) as his date. Me too. I thought that once Cookie and Hakeem made up that his penchant for dating mother figures would go away. For God’s sake Hakeem, Anika was almost your stepmother! Cookie doesn’t let her Anika anger distract her from her mission. She puts cardigan-clad Anika and her twerking skills to work “entertaining” Mimi.

There is also drama at the prison but thankfully it isn’t about pseudo-incest. Jermel (DeRay Davis) is in trouble. Remember Jermel from last season? He’s the hitman Cookie hired to kill the guy (a member of Frank’s gang) who had been sending her death threats. Frank found out, and Jermel’s scared. He begs Carol (Tasha Smith), Cookie’s sister, to send help, but Cookie ignores Jermel’s pleas; she’s too focused on her hostile takeover plans. #ONLYLyonLivesMatter . . .

However, it turns out it’s all for nothing because Jamal secretly brought Mimi to Lucious to cut a deal. Anika’s twerking abilities apparently weren’t enough to seal the deal because now, Mimi is supporting Lucious’s interest in the company. Through a video feed, Lucious calls in to gloat. “Game over, bitches,” he laughs.

Cookie is furious at Anika (“You can’t even dyke right!” she snaps) and at Jamal for betraying her. Jamal brushes her off. “Yeah Mom, you sacrificed but that doesn’t give you the right to tear us down,” he tells her.

In prison, the power hungry federal prosecutor Roxanne (Tyra Ferrell) offers to cut Lucious a deal but he ignores her to find Frank, who is enjoying a visitation from his daughters, one of whom is an aspiring rapper. Lucious is impressed with Frieda’s flow. Hm, perhaps Empire will have a new artist very soon?

Frank tortures Jermel, who admits Cookie was the snitch who put Frank away. Frank sends Cookie and Carol the literal severed head of Jermel as a gift and a warning. Cookie breaks down and visits Lucious to reluctantly ask for help with Frank. After trading a few barbs, Lucious also breaks down and agrees. “It’s crazy how I can love your ass and hate you at the same time,” he says.

Meanwhile, Jamal is reaping the benefits of success: he has a cool apartment, he’s dating his ex Michael (Rafael de La Fuente) again, and is in charge of Empire. However, he is reluctant to involve himself with Michael’s gay/lesbian groups. GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) representatives want Jamal to be involved in their events but Jamal would rather donate a check than his time.

Lucious attempts to bribe Frank to leave Cookie alone by promising his daughter a record contract but Frank isn’t easily swayed. “I love Cookie so if you got war with her, then you got war with me,” says Lucious. Frank tries to order his cronies to attack Lucious but it turns out that Lucious bought them all off. “You see Frankie, you always wanted to run the street but I wanted to run the world,” Lucious announces smugly. He orders the cronies to kill Frank. “Make it loud and make it long,” he tells them, an ironic twist on Frank’s orders to kill Luscious.

Well, that’s the end of that subplot. Now that his life is no longer in danger, Jamal kicks his family out of Lucious’ house and informs them that he doesn’t need them anymore. Cookie attempts to assert her authority and you can see the fear and confusion in her eyes as she realizes Jamal is no longer under her control.

For now, at least.

And now, let’s hand out the Empire Episode Awards!

Best Outfit:


Miss Lawrence. I never knew sequins could really work in daytime. Plus, eye makeup was on point.

Worst Outfit:


Anika. For wearing a cardigan to a party. Girl…


Mondays 9 pm/8 pm on Fox

  • Nice job, Susan! I must admit, I’m still trying to love Empire as much as everyone else. There are some aspects of the show that just really bug me. What was the point of the Porsha “I’ve got to go boo boo” moment? Is she 5?

  • Cookie’s opening outfit – the one she wore at the concert – what did people think – fashion win or fail?

    I thought it looked CRAZY and not in a good way. The gorilla costume looked better.