TV Review: Empire (2×02) “Without a Country”

There’s nothing more demanding of an actor than that really awesome dramatic exit they’re forced to do over and over again. That dramatic exit also does nothing for an awaiting audience on the edge of their seats ready to rewind and gif that scene to their hearts content. The sound of the slamming door and the look in the eyes of a hostile filled mother delivering a sucker-punch insult? It’s all super boring, I promise.

Well, maybe not if you watch Empire.

If there’s one thing that Empire does well, it’s the infamous dramatic exit. Slamming the door in someone’s face numerous times? Check. Shutting the elevator door after a big reveal? Check.

After an incredible season premiere, storyline and ratings wise, “Without a Country” picks up right where we left off.

Essentially, Empire has roots tied into family and music deeper than what most television series can even comprehend. Drama within the Lyon’s den has been its sole entertainment provider, but according to this season, and especially episode two, we see a shake up with who’s under enemy fire, and who have become allies.

And it’s not who you’d ever think to put together.

With some interesting guest stars making their way into the episode, including rapper/actor Ludacris, and rising star Becky G, it was a music and drama filled episode.

Coming in from all sides, we see a weaker Lucious making music while imprisoned, and on the outside Jamal is stepping out on his music and contributing more to the business. Surprisingly, Terrence Howard gets his chance to shine musically this episode, and it’s done superbly well. I suppose the writers leave it to the audience’s imagination and the assumption of money equals high status to conclude just how Lucious was able to obtain recording equipment while locked up.  Despite this, the music in this episode hits a high note literally and metaphorically compared to the last episode.

While I can’t see much redemption on the horizon for Lucious, there’s no doubt how Mr. Lyon has made a billion dollar company and a name for himself in the music world.

The development of Jamal and Lucious continues to be baffling and borderline anger inducing. The audience seems to be left in the dark as to whether or not this type of relationship development will come back to stab Jamal in the back or not. Either way, it’s clear the newly formed dynamic will alter the way that we see Jamal and Lucious, separately and together.

In comparison, the developing dynamic between Cookie and Hakeem is endearing, but while it was lacking stability, this episode brings forth a newly found respect between this mother and son. I’m anxiously awaiting to see how the writers take this partnership to the brink of insanity as well. It’s bound to happen eventually.

While the new found respect does wonders for Hakeem’s likability, the writers trying to build a showcase for Hakeem’s character fail to meet expectations. Hakeem comes off as he usually does: spoiled. This supposed “high light” of Hakeem’s character does nothing for him.

On the other hand, some characters become more likable, while others become downright pesky. Not sure what the writers had in mind throwing these types of characters in, but I’m hoping I remember all of their names and their purpose. Sometimes, there’s just too many. I’d hate to see Empire start to throw in celebrities and lose focus of everyone’s main concern: the Lyon family.

The highlight of this episode rests solely in Andre Lyon, and his emotional confrontation with his past. When the writers give Trai Byers the chance to shine, he never disappoints.

Overall, a superbly done follow up to the season premiere.



Brooke Pawling Stennett is a college student pursuing a degree in Multimedia Journalism and Creative Non-Fiction in the old Windy City. She tends to lean toward the obsessive side of the tracks when it comes to books and music. She's an avid concert attendee (or at least she tries to!) and rambler. She'd like to travel the world and write about it, but in the only ways she knows how: sarcastically and full of internet jargon. Her opinions are her best ones, especially if they involve boy-bands and Netflix. . .even though she doesn't even have her own account. You can tweet her at @br_stennett and tell her how ridiculous (and totally great!) her opinions are.