Empire s1 ep 1

images-17Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), founder of Empire Entertainment, has been diagnosed with what we will subsequently discover to be ALS, and has a few years left to live, presumably depending on contracts and show renewals. Although he’s taking Empire public he still wants control of it to pass to one of his three sons, insofar as you can do that with listed companies, not that anyone seems troubled by it.

So the sons – “we King Lear now?” – line up, looking for paternal approval. Studious business school grad Andre, already CFO at Empire, is the obvious successor, but he’s not musical, and Lucious thinks there’s an argument for having a celebrity in charge. Which, if he follows through on that, means either talented singer Jamal or blingy rapper Hakeem, who on the evidence of this episode you wouldn’t trust to run an errand, never mind a company. But Jamal’s gay, and Lucious really doesn’t like that; there is, in fact, a harrowing flashback to an incident in Jamal’s childhood when Lucious threw him in a bin, apparently something which happened to the show’s creator/writer/director/exec producer Lee Daniels.

The episode achieves lift-off, though, when Lucious’s ex-wife Cookie walks out of prison and all the way to the Emmys, if Taraji P. Henson can keep up this level of performance. Cookie’s been inside for 17 years for drug-dealing; it was her (drug) money which originally funded Empire; and she wants what’s hers. Specifically, half of Empire. She doesn’t get that, but she does get to manage Jamal. And she’s worked out that Andre, as suggested by “that white girl”, his wife Rhonda, is trying to drive Jamal and Hakeem apart so that he can pick up the pieces and take charge of Empire. (Andre’s wife is the only significant Caucasian presence on the show so far, in fact. Otherwise every character is African-American, which is refreshing and welcome.)

Adding to Lucious’s problems is his assistant (?) Bunkie, someone else who’s known Lucious from his early days, but who hasn’t really kept pace; he’s in debt to bookies and demanding money or he’ll reveal details of Lucious’s dubious past. If anything about this episode didn’t work, it’s Lucious’s reaction to that.

That aside, though, I thought this was great fun, and I enjoyed it enormously. And the original music’s good, as you’d expect with Timbaland in charge: the raps could do with tightening up, but there’s a nice mid-paced soul song by Jamal, ‘Good Enough’, about his relationship with Lucious; and ‘Live In The Moment’, by Jamal and Hakeem, which with a better hook would have comfortably fitted onto a Michael Jackson album during his imperial period.

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3 thoughts on “Empire s1 ep 1

  1. CPS April 29, 2015 / 6:37 pm

    My biggest complaint is that the music on the show got progressively bad with each episode.

    Also Taraji is great at first then her Cookie character starts to become a stereotypical caricature of a certain type of black woman. Actually the show itself becomes a cliched mess.

  2. CJ Cregg May 4, 2015 / 10:00 pm

    I wanted to like this but I got a bit bored watching tbh. It was like a big hip-hop-themed pantomime with everything all turned up to 11, if you know what I mean. “Good Enough” was, er, good enough but the rest of the music didn’t grab me at all and I didn’t care about any of the characters. Especially the idiot blingy son in the leather t-shirt/shorts combo.

    Taraji definitely walked away with the ep, but I don’t think even she’s enough to get me watching on a regular basis.

    • CPS May 5, 2015 / 11:10 pm

      Yeah, I only watched it to support Taraji since I’m not a fan of current hip hop music (only old school works for me) and I dislike Terrence Howard. Then I started to get bored with all the cliches and the bad acting from the supporting cast.

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