After a wildly popular and ground-breaking first season, FOX’s hit show Empire, is back and taking names. The first season saw us through various interlocking story lines while simultaneously becoming more entertaining as it progressed. It’s no wonder a staggering 23.1 million people tuned in to see how it ended.
Set three months after the first season leaves off, we find ourselves face to face with our favorite characters dealing with what has become the norm: money, music, murder, and family, all wrapped up into one fashionable bow.
The consequences of the previous season has immediate effect on the Lyon family individually and as a whole. The writers don’t waste any time before continuing to weave the intricate plot lines together, and even tying up a few by the end of the first episode.
From the word go, Empire has addressed a number of social issues through its music and gripping story lines. That’s not to say that the show doesn’t have its moments of disbelief that a particular line even made it to the final cut, but more often than not, Empire speaks to the modern demographic on a number of social issues that are plaguing the world today.
Using the now acquired platform to touch on more sensitive issues, we see Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) begin to use her newly acquired “power” to speak about present issues, but also using it to get something out of it herself. Cookie never stops being Cookie, of course. The show has it’s own presence in a multitude of diverse communities, including the LGBT+ community and has tackled and brought to light the struggle of mental illnesses. Empire has continued to showcase the magnitude of homophobia, racism, and family struggles in the world today.
It’s not just a soap opera, guys.
Last season all the characters had their own personal plot lines that allowed for character growth, and opportunities to shine individually. One person that I hope to see get another shining moment is Trai Byers, who plays eldest brother, Andre Lyon. His journey through the first season was captivating to many, and the writers did a fantastic job of fleshing out that particular heavy plot line over the course of the first season. His set up for the second season hasn’t gotten any lighter, though. Still the dynamic duo, Andre and his wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) are still as scheming and money hungry as ever. The audience just likes them a little more.
Surprisingly enough, the character growth in Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is very visible during this episode. At the end of the last season, Jamal is the top dog and ready to keep himself there, and this episode pushes that description forcefully. As the second season begins, there’s even more of a spotlight on Jamal, which I think will have a lasting effect throughout the season.
With the array of guest stars set to accompany the cast, it’s safe to say that although business is an integral part of the series, music still plays its part.
I will point out that this episode was disappointingly lacking music, compared to last seasons various performances. Over the course of the episode, the dialogue overpowers what really ties the family together. Although the episode as a whole is great, and the ending scene can break anyone’s heart, the lack of music keeps the episode from transcending “really really good” into “excellent.”
Unfortunately for Hakeem’s (Bryshere Y. Gray) character, there isn’t much to work with. His character has become the comedic relief, and causes any sympathy for his character to dissipate. There’s no clear direction yet for where they’ll take his character, but for now they have him in a very numbing spot that leaves much to be desired. I’d like to see Gray open up and have intense dialogue like his on-screen brothers. Maybe when
/if Naomi Campbell comes back, we can see Hakeem more as a human being, rather than a plot device.
Another stand out character I’m excited to see where the writers take is Anika (Grace Gealy). “Boo Boo Kitty” has entered the second season with the cold exterior and walls that we saw develop over last season. Lucious (Terrence Howard) continued to tear her confidence down and use her love as a controlling device, and Gealy portrayed her character brilliantly. Anika slowly became one of my favorite characters on the show as her strong demeanor broke and then iced over. It’s clear through this episode that there is redemption on the horizon.
Overall, the first episode met my high expectations, and more than likely will meet the fans’ ones as well. The show has done a brilliant job of keeping the show on another level with their super famous guest stars, but reoccurring stars like Porcha (Ta’Rhonda Jones) and Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) keep the show lively and not bogged down by the constant drama. Jones and Sidibe also seem to have a greater presence in the second season so far.
I’ve never watched an episode of Empire that disappointed me, and from the direction this episode went in, I don’t see that record breaking any time soon.
What did everyone think of the premiere? Also, who’s ready to hear more music from the Lyon’s?