Snark Tank; Recap

Empire Season 2 Episode 3: Killing Me Softly, Recap of Fires of Heaven

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Episode 203 is called “The Fires of Heaven.” And right from the top, in case we did not already know, we are told who God is in the context of the show. Prosecutor Roxanne Ford calls Lucious “an arrogant, manipulative, sociopath who believes he’s above the law.” And Lucious compares himself to God more than once, as he stands ready to bring fire down from heaven in judgment of his family. In other words, Tony Soprano and Walter White say hello.

Making America Great Again

Team Lucious claims Ford is running for Attorney General and wants to make her bones by taking down a rap mogul. Really, does putting away a media mogul capable of drawing 100,000 people to a protest concert in his honor help you get elected Attorney General of the State of New York? Asking for a friend.

The Judge put a few restrictions on Lucious’ bail. He cannot go to work, as in “do not enter the Empire building.” And he can’t be around guns. If those conditions are violated, bail is revoked and he goes back to county jail.

Once Lucious is apprised of these restrictions, Jamal is there to remind him that he doesn’t need to enter the building in order to get his point across. “You can’t stop a king from speaking to his subjects!” Oh Jamal, you are probably in for a very hard landing later on this season.

Lucious speaks to the people gathered in front of his building about how no one can ever keep him down because he’s the boss, blah blah blah. How very Donald Trump of you, Lucious!

It’s All About the Sway

Meanwhile Cookie is getting a taste of what it’s like to start an actual record company. She has to roust her son and biggest star out of bed on the morning after he slept with one Miss Valentina Galinda. Who reminds Hakeem on the way out the door that she is this close to 50,000 Instagram followers if she can just give him a shout out!

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Do you think Tyga did this to Kylie Jenner the first time they slept together? Because I do.

Cookie compares Hakeem to Jamal because he just doesn’t have it together in that on-time-for-appointments way. Later one we’ll see Lucious compare Jamal to Hakeem because he doesn’t have that burning fire in the belly. That’s why the show switched up the sibling/parent dynamic this season, to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each kid.

Sadly, that also means Andre is once again left out in the cold, even though he is the one with arguably the greatest business acumen for presiding over music as a business.

Hakeem and Cookie head over to Apex Radio, where Hakeem struts his stuff for Sway. Lucious calls in to Sway’s show. When Sway points out that Lyon Dynasty only has artists who are in exile from Empire, Hakeem is effectively baited (it doesn’t take much) to open his big mouth about Mirage et Trois. Sway goads him into saying they can be ready to appear live on the radio later the same week and now Team Dynasty has some work to do.

The Last Supper

It’s dinner at Chez Empire and Lucious has called the entire family in for a little gathering around the dinner table. Since he already announced he was dying and then took it all back, Cookie knows all too well there’s not much left for Lucious to do except demand unconditional surrender from Team Dynasty. But Jamal sniffs that maybe dad just wants to see his family after the deprivations of a few months in jail. Jamal! Are you even serious?? I can’t decide if Jamal is that naive and sees what he wants to see – OR whether he just enjoys being the center of attention and lording it over Hakeem.

Lucious lays on some BS about missing his family soooo much, which Andre interprets as a chance to sucks up because he’s sad and desperate to provide for his baby-on-the-way. Lucious drops the pretense in order to threaten his sons and ex to give up everything they are doing. And if they don’t, he will straight up destroy them. He says without him, they’ll starve.

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Cookie is like “oh no, i’m always gonna eat” and she pulls the tapestry full of food clean off the table.

Lucious is a badass manipulator and executive, but he and the sons need to stop underestimating Cookie. If she learned anything from serving about 6,000 more days in prison than Lucious did, it was how to survive; how to eat.

Ya Burnt

Lucious asks to meet Anika at Laviticus. He wants her help. He tells her to get all the recordings from the former Empire artists who are working for Dynasty. He thinks she’ll betray Lyon Dynasty easily, but he’s not really offering her much in return. He reminds her that being all alone with Cookie after his sons all inevitably defect back to Empire will be a living hell. Anika gets the best burn of the episode when she says back, “ just like every second I spend with you.”

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But if any of what he says is true, why would Cookie keep Anika around after her sons were gone, and why would Anika stay? And what makes him so sure that Cookie hasn’t already given Boo Boo Kitty the axe? Come on Lucious, you’re overplaying your hand.

At the Dynasty studio, Hakeem is trying on his producer hat by putting together a track for Mirage. Cookie is telling Hakeem his hook for the girl group is off. And they don’t have time to screw up. Meanwhile Valentina is not focused, she’s on the phone, she seems to be just an attention-lacking millennial with a set of pipes. But everything is not as it seems.

Now it’s time for Lucious to torture Andre with a father-son lunch chat. Andre is so eager to please that he gives Lucious a pro tip – just buy all 200 stations controlled by Apex Radio! Lucious thinks this is a teaching moment. And what he has to say is that Andre is brilliant but anyone with a halfway decent MBA would tell him to buy Apex. The only way Andre can get back in is by giving Empire something that no one else can. When Andre wants to know what that could possibly be, father says “maybe you should….pray on it.”

What does Lucious hate more? Mental illness or religion?

Me, Myself and I

Jamal is showing just how much Andre would be helpful when he calls Lucious in a panic because Freda Gathers is there to see if he’s really serious about signing her. She said that Lucious told her he would see her if she showed up. But he’s not allowed to be in the building and Jamal is freaking.

“Keep her in the building!” is pretty much Lucious’ only instruction to Jamal. He has no idea what to say, though, because Jamal is an artist not an agent or producer. Becky tries and fails to keep Freda around by talking about how she’s from a similar background and Lucious saved her from the ghetto. I hope we get Becky’s backstory soon.

Freda is like, “He’s not coming to sign me, he’s a liar” – and she waltzes out. Gee, maybe Freda reminds Lucious a little bit of a young Cookie. She’s rough around the edges but bold and brimming with talent.

Jamal is having a minor breakdown NOT because he failed, but because “My dad says Freda’s his everything musically…..where does that leave me!”

ME

We watch Lucious showing off video of Freda to his lawyer and Jamal and bemoaning his inability ever find this girl again. That’s not creeper behavior or anything. Lucious plays Jamal against Hakeem again – “Keem would’ve signed her.” But Jamal is too busy bellyaching to notice the reappearance of this gambit. “Oh but I’m an artist, oh whine whine whine…..ME!”

Thirsty knows where this video was made because he knows the streets. He gives Jamal a job to do while he runs around looking for Freda. Just get Hakeem back in the fold. Jamal is like “but what about what I need?” Lucious says it’s obvious Jamal wants attention, “you’ll get it if you do what I say.”

Empire’s Over, Dynasty’s Taking Over

Anika throws her pride out the door and goest to visit Cookie. I sort of admire Anika’s ability to sublimate her ego to keep playing ball with these people. And her grudge against Lucious is one to watch out for. Before Cookie can get full-flight into her “go away Boo Boo Kitty” mode, Anika deflates the tension by saying “I get you’re the baddest bitch ever. However, Lucious thinks I work here. He propositioned me. He’s throwing a big party in honor of himself. He wants all the music from Lyon Dynasty.”

Cookie listens to Anika’s pitch about Lucious throwing himself a party, and finally calls her by her given name. Respect earned. Maybe like Don Draper and Pete Campbell, one never knows where loyalty will be forged.

Lucious idea of a big party is a big performance by Pit Bull. Oh hey everybody it’s a season 2 cameo! Surprise! Finally they’ve pushed the cameos too far. And here we thought Lucious had unimpeachable taste. This scene goes on about 4 minutes too long.

A hot girl DJ comes in and pushes them off the stage and then here comes Cookie! OH SNAP. Cookie is wearing what Cleopatra would’ve worn if she had just dumped Ceasar for Marc Antony (wait, make that Mark Anthony). Remember last season when Jamal got to sing right in Lucious’ face and came out as gay? This is as close as Hakeem can get to that moment. Hakeem is on fire and makes Pit Bull look lame by comparison.

Jamal rolls his eyes eight times in 10 seconds.

The hot DJ steals something from the computer and they out. I want an entire series featuring this woman as CSI: DJ. And it should be a procedural on CBS. (Hey, it’s not weirder than the premise for Josh Holloway’s last show.)

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Now everybody wants Cookie. Sway is on the phone talking her up, but she knows it is all meaningless if she can’t get the Dynasty artists to make a big splash. But Mirage a Trois are arguing about solos when Dre comes to see mom. He’s not there to join the company but he does want to tell her that he and Rhonda are having a baby. Which is why he knows (he just knows!) he needs that company. Cookie is so excited and she’s also willing to help Andre get his dream even if it means that hurts her in the process. Cookie says tell Lucious about the baby and he will get back into Empire. “Pull the heartstrings.”

Pulling on the Heartstrings

So he follows her advice. Lucious is like that’s nice and all but AREN’T YOU WORRIED THE BABY WILL BE CRAY! Flashback to mom. I can’t wait for this story to unspool. Lucious has quite a lecture for Andre, he thinks its heartbreaking that Andre would use his baby to get what he wants. Andre gets tossed out of the house.

Empire producer/creator/writer Danny Strong tweeted that he totally agreed with Lucious there. Really? I guess I don’t see anything Andre tried to pull as being even half as terrible as what Lucious does to his sons every single day. Moreover, is it really so bad to want to be a part of your family’s business, especially when you’ve been under-appreciated and dismissed because of your mental health?

Lucious finds Freda on the street. It’s a freestyle war! Her big fat male opponent calls out her dead dad and says some ish about “that’s how these females get, weak.” To prove she’s not weak, Freda whips out a gun and tries to get a shot off. Lucious pulls it down to the ground and tries to save her. Everyone starts shooting. Thirsty is there to say get out of here fast unless you like prison.

Freda runs off and ignores Lucious’ offer of help. Prosecutor Ford comes to see Lucious at the scene. She and Lucious jaw about Vernon Turner. She taunts him about their star witness, claiming that Lucious won’t be able to find him. Warning, usually when a TV prosecutor says a witness is safe, that person is about to get offed.

They front and stunt some more and Lucious’ come on is so bold it is basically, “My penis, let me show you it.”

Back at Empire, Jamal is jealousy personified. He’s crying about needing a producer. Not just any producer, but a great one. Becky calls him out, telling Jamal he has rejected all of the best producers in the business.

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At Dynasty, Cookie is trying to choreograph the Mirage girls. She’s yelling at them about injecting more attitude! Porsha is also there just being Porsha. Finally Cookie makes them hit the floor for some pushups. Dang, these are some Joe Jackson tactics right here. I bet Michael Jackson and his brothers did pushups until their arms broke.

Hakeem is impressed, “where’d you learned this from?” Without missing a beat, Cookie answers: “Prison.”

Andre is about to defect to Dynasty when Lucious pulls up and orders him to the car for a sit down. Lucious wants to know why Andre was going to see mommy. Jamal says he needs someone, he needs a producer, he needs mom.

its me

Lucious calls him a baby in the nicest way possible and tells him he needs absolutely no one, certainly not a woman, and certainly not Cookie. “You need a god. ME.” So Lucious will produce Jamal’s record.

This show does an excellent job of writing Lucious. Yes, I really hate him right now and that’s what they want. But they’ve also shown just how skillful he is at manipulating others, and this especially comes through in how he is shaping Jamal. He’s going right after all of Jamal’s weak spots and it’s working.

The culmination of the episode is at Apex (ha!). Valentina is late for the radio appearance with Mirage, but that’s only because she’s there with Lucious. That’s right – he purchased Apex just like Andre suggested – and he signed Valentina as a solo artist, which is what she wanted all along.

Hakeem, you just got played.

Upon Further Review…

  • Viewers, did you think that Cookie manipulated Andre by telling him to pull the heartstrings, knowing that Lucious would react by throwing Andre out? Or was she being a good mother?
  • The cameo list continues to multiply. This episode featured Timbaland and Pit Bull. Too much?
  • Are you digging the Freda storyline as much as I am? Let me know in the comments.

Alex is a lawyer and opinionated.

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