The past few months of TV have been way too nice (apologies are happening on Insecure and friendships are rekindling on Power), but don’t fret! Television’s baddest, most ridiculous, conniving family is back and ready to raise some hell!
Well…at least that’s what I thought. As it turns out, surprisingly, the Lyons have softened up too.
Throughout the past three seasons of Empire, the Lyon family has stolen from one another, schemed, accused and even murdered people, all in the name of the family business—their music enterprise, aptly named, Empire. The lengths that each of the Lyon family members go to protect the company (sometimes for the family as a whole, but honestly, most of the time, for their own individual benefits) often goes way beyond the borders of absurd, and last season was no exception. Just when audiences were teased with a perfect happy ending, and the characters’ precise individual wishes finally seemed to be granted, their irrational actions caught up with them and, literally, blew up in their faces, leaving the patriarch, Lucious Lyon, in a coma, to miraculously wake up with zero memory of his entire life.
Season Four kicks off with Cookie and Andre Lyon in the midst of a serious interview (a la Barbara Walters), diving into the importance of Empire. It’s the company’s 20th anniversary and a huge TV special is being put together to celebrate its history, complete with a live performance from Jamal and Hakeem Lyon, who are hard at work rehearsing. It’s set to be a grand spectacle, but, unfortunately, with a sad undertone: according to Cookie, Lucious Lyon apparently is still not doing well. We soon discover that he’s not that bad off, though. In the following scene, we see him looking like his usual, slimey self, walking and talking, arm-in-arm with Cookie, but (oh no!) he’s confused about who he is and why all these people care so much about him. After we witness daddy Lyon running away, terrified by enthusiastic fans and paparazzi, we go back in time 24 hours earlier.
Throughout the previous day, we experience a lot: the family’s sketchy lawyer, Thurston “Thirsty” Rawlings, wants to blame the bombing that almost killed Lucious on the dirty Vegas businesswoman from last season, Giuliana (who, according to Shine, is apparently dead now), Hakeem has been set up by a scorned and very vengeful Diana Dubois, it’s revealed that Luscious not only lost his memory in the car explosion, but also his left leg (geez) and the nurse that is supposed to be helping him regain his memory (Claudia, played by Demi Moore) seems to actually be trying to make him her boo, something that Cookie peeps and aims to shut down ASAP.
Despite all of this mess, Cookie, Andre, Jamal and Hakeem tirelessly work to help Lucious remember who he is. The 20th anniversary of Empire is happening in less than a day and he needs to be “on” for the public. Their efforts repeatedly fail, but during their pursuits, we viewers finally get to see a lot more of the Lyon estate, and it is nice AF—especially that fire kitchen!
It’s important to mention that the new Lucious is not here for the Lyons. He often calls them out on their mess, says that they don’t like themselves and even tries to jump in a lake in hopes of getting away from them. They save him from the suicide mission (he can’t swim, Cookie explains) and the whole clan hugs him after the rescue. His face is one of confusion and disgust. He really can’t believe these wacky people are his family!
Outside of the Lyons trying to remind the new, kind Lucious of his horribly disgusting past self, Shine is stalking the bomber that assisted with the flop hit on Lucious, Diana Dubois scolds her sexy nephew, Warren, because he hasn’t adequately seduced Jamal Lyon (#ForTheD) and Thirsty is continuing to take meetings with Becky and officials about the bombing.
We make it through the berserk day and finally arrive back to the night of Empire’s 20th birthday bash! After the scare from the ecstatic fans and photogs, Lucious is taken into a private room by Cookie to calm down. Claudia storms in to assist, wearing Anika’s dress (“…it was in the closet”), which is hilarious, but also very telling about the role the boundary crossing nurse may play in future episodes. She tells Lucious that she can help him build the confidence to go out on stage and speak to the anxiously awaiting crowd. But Cookie surprises and actually says the opposite, telling Mr. Lyon, the love of her life, that he doesn’t have to orate at all, and suggests that they simply go home.
Jamal and Hakeem hypes the crowd and does a huge introduction for their father, who doesn’t immediately appear, but comes out to speak a wonderful spill on his family, the company and his new condition, that he is courageously facing head-on.
Jamal and Hakeem perform once again as Cookie and Lucious’ love seems to magically rekindle, and Claudia looks on jealously (homegirl is nuts—and trouble).
A scene later, the purpose of Shine stalking the bomber guy reveals itself: the homie was snitching. While on the phone with Andre, Shine shoots the hapless guy in the head. It’s a very explicit scene they I can’t believe made the cut, carrying a very violent, premium cable-ish feel. But who cares about a murder. That’s business as usual for the Lyon family!
The anniversary party is a success and everything is wonderful, right? Nah. Never in the world of Empire.
Cookie thanks Lucious for a great night, and he reveals that he faked everything, from the eloquent speech to the affection demonstrated towards her. He confesses that he simply did everything he practiced with her the previous night. Cookie is livid. She thought she had the game sewed up and it turns out that he still doesn’t know her!
Will Lucious return to his old, evil self and remember his love for Cookie? Or will Claudia get in his draws and claim the new Lucious as hers? Speaking of getting in draws, Jamal better beware of Warren, although I’m feeling he may become an ally. Tory Ash, the fallen pop star played by Rumer Willis, is back and it seems she relapsed on the alcohol (saw that coming, to be honest). And it felt really good to see Cookie’s face in the Empire logo during the opening credits, but shouldn’t Andre’s face be there? I thought Lucious gave him the company in last season’s finale. Is he not in charge yet?
If I missed anything, or if you have any other random observations, leave them in the comments below! This is going to be another wild season and I can’t believe that I expected anything less. See you next week!