Empire Recap S2 E2: Making the Band


It’s the morning after the failed hostile takeover. Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), Hakeem (Bryshere Grey), and Andre (Trai Byers) clean out their offices and prepare to launch their own rival music company. Andre points out the business has changed since Cookie last put in her “fo’ hundred thousand” to start up Empire. However, Cookie barrels on and she and Hakeem get to work poaching artists, finding workspaces, and coming up with their own name.

Cookie and the Lyon cubs return to Ghetto Ass Studios, where Jamal (Jussie Smollett) got his start in season 1, and Cookie is furious that Jamal secretly invited Anika (Grace Gealey) to come along. Cookie quickly kicks her out and returns to Empire’s offices to convince Jamal to release Hakeem’s album to their new company. “All Hakeem’s got is his music,” pleads Cookie. “Lucious is trying to make you like him but you ain’t him.”

Meanwhile, Lucious is finding out firsthand how much prison health care sucks (or how low corrupt prosecutors and prison officials will go to get their way). A prison nurse claims he can’t find Lucious’s medical file and, therefore, can’t give him any of his crucial medication. His new prison gang attempts to cheer him up by freestyling in the yard but a cruel prison guard (played by Ludacris, who is not playing an inmate for once) puts a stop to their fun. He tells Lucious that if he cooperates with Roxanne Ford, the prosecutor, maybe his medical file will magically reappear.

Watch out, Orange is the New Black! Is Empire going to start tackling corruption in the prison industry?

Instead of focusing on finishing his album, Hakeem decides that he wants to discover new artists for the company. The only good auditionee (and you know she’s good since she’s the only one who got backing music) is Valentina Galindo (Rebecca Marie Gomez), a stereotypically Spicy Latina who yells in Spanish when she finds out she’s competing for a spot in a girl group.”I’m not interested in being part of a group,” declares Valentina. “With or without you, I shine.”

Uh,  without them, you still don’t have a record deal so…She must have made the same calculation because later in the episode she showed Hakeem a little more about how much she can shine — in a hot tub.

Auditions are interrupted when Andre storms in and yells at Hakeem for holding auditions without telling anyone. “I don’t need your permission!” says Hakeem. “We’re partners now!” Andre asks Cookie to get Hakeem back on track but Cookie is confident that Jamal will hand back the rights any moment.

The team has a meeting to discuss their progress and Cookie is annoyed that Anika has been invited again. However, her annoyance temporarily transfers to Hakeem when he announces his plans for his girl group. “I’mma call them Rainbow Sensation,” he says proudly. “That is the dumbest name ever,” snaps Cookie and the entire audience watching at home.

Jamal visits Lucious in prison to discuss his upcoming bail hearing. Thirsty Rawlings (Andre “Bubbles” Royo), a lawyer thirsty for a big case, overhears their conversation and offers his services. Jamal doesn’t trust the fast talking purple suited stranger but Lucious likes his moxie, especially his inside information. Thirsty reveals that Roxanne is deliberately denying Lucious his medication to pressure him to to plead guilty. Thirsty promises he can play dirtier.

Jamal offers Hakeem the chance to come back to Empire and Hakeem seriously considers the idea. Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) is also seriously considering getting Andre back there too. She meets with Jamal secretly and she begs him to take Andre back. When Jamal refuses to budge, Rhonda reveals that she is pregnant. Jamal decides that least that he could do is provide a future for his future nephew or niece so he agrees–but warns that Lucious has to approve the decision first.

I always knew Lucious’ prison was a little lax–Frank Gathers (Chris Rock) mailed a decapitated head out of there, for God’s sake–but this is beyond Orange is the New Black levels of laxity. Lucious gets a mini recording studio set up for him and his prison buddies to record their freestyle. I won’t lie, it’s a good song but this is so unrealistic that it’s laughable. They have backing vocals and Autotune on the track already! They all somehow memorized the lyrics! They recorded it in one take!

Prison Guard Ludacris breaks up the fun, confiscates the music, and puts Lucious in solitary as punishment. He warns Lucious that he better cooperate with Roxanne (Tyra Ferrell) or else. Lucious is unconcerned, probably because he knew some of his goons were waiting to give Ludacris a parking garage beat-down to retrieve Lucious’s prison single.

This entire storyline is a little odd. Does it really help a prosecutor’s reputation to get a guilty plea? Isn’t it more beneficial to win a high profile case? Would she really risk the chance of serious legal and PR ramifications that could destroy her career by withholding necessary medications from a wealthy inmate because she was scared of losing at trial?

At Lucious’s bail hearing, Thirsty blackmails the judge with embarrassing photos so the judge immediately releases Lucious pending trial, over Roxanne’s protests and despite her heaving bosom.

Meanwhile, Hakeem announces that he is going to stay with Cookie and has leaked his album himself. Andre is rightfully furious because Hakeem has put them all in a dangerous legal position. Fed up with his family’s unchecked impulses, Andre quits. He visits Lucious to beg for his job back but Lucious coldly rejects him. “Why do you hate me, Dad?” cries Andre.  A flashback to Lucious’ childhood with his mentally ill mother (Kelly Rowland) reveals the answer but Lucious sends Andre away without explanation.

Hakeem informs Jamal that he is staying with Cookie’s new company, which is now called Lyon Dynasty. “That’s corny,” scoffs Jamal and the audience at home. Is this a wink-wink nudge-nudge towards the comparisons between Empire and the old school prime-time soap opera, Dynasty? Hakeem promises that they will take over Empire but that’s doubtful considering Lucious just dropped a hot new single from prison. “We better hurry,” says Cookie as she and Hakeem get to work renovating their new office space.

Lyon Dynasty may be trouble before it’s even started and it’s not just about the tacky name. Cookie always talks a big game how she started Empire. That may be true, but the company was built into an actual empire without her. Lucious has a knack for business. We don’t know whether Cookie can match Lucious’s business acumen (or play the game quite as dirty). Sure, Cookie is great at mentoring artists and taking charge of situations but does she have the head for numbers to take on a multi-million dollar company alone? Sure, she still has Hakeem with her, but he doesn’t have much sense either–business or common.


And now it’s time for the Empire Episode Awards!

Most in Need of a Hug and Stable Paycheck:

Andre Lyon. I feel bad at how unappreciated Andre is in his own family–he has a background in business but because he isn’t a “creative” spirit, he gets ignored.

Worst Namer of  Band/Girl Group:

Hakeem. Rainbow Sensation? Boy, this is not 1970s Motown.

Cookie’s Worst Outfit:


Leave plaid suits in the 70s, dear.

Most Inappropriate Courtroom Attire:


Really, Roxanne Ford? C’mon.

  • Thanks for the recap, Susan!!

    I’m still not a big fan of Empire! But, if Bubbles (Thirsty) will have a recurring role as Lame Lucious’s lawyer – sign me up for the next few episodes!!

    I’m actually even more interested in a “Better Call Thirsty” spin-off!!! Oooh, what if Thirsty is actually a cleaned up Bubbles who went to law school. Pima could work with him in his law practice (wasn’t she still in law school in the last few seasons)!

    Attention: This idea was shared with the intention of being compensated if used to produce an actual show. Anyone reading this is on notice that you at least need to hook a sista up w/ a credit and per-episode royalty, if you use my idea. Yes, I know my so-called notice has about as much chance of working as the the random Facebook posts trying to protect privacy with the Rome Statute and UCC! 😀

    • M H

      I would watch the living hell out of “Better Call Thirsty.”

  • Pingback: Empire: Making the Band – the agony booth()