Fights, sex, family drama — just another Wednesday at Empire Entertainment!
The teaser for the epic two-hour Empire finale promised all of the above, but there was no way a mere promo could contain everything that happened in the March 18 episode: murder, pregnancy, multiple betrayals and prison — and most of that was before the epic final ten minutes.
Season 1 saw the villainous Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) screw over his sons multiple times, fall in and out of love with girlfriend Anika AND ex-wife Cookie and, oh, you know, murder some people as he took his legendary record label public (before investors learned of his ALS diagnosis). There was a blow job bib, a fake-ass Lena Horne, great music (featuring Snoop Dogg, Patti LaBelle, and … Rita Ora?), and our new lord and savior, Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson).
“Die But Once”/”Who I Am,” the double episode season ender, packed in plenty of melodrama, Timbaland-produced songs, Cookie one-liners, and power grabs. In the end, someone new was appointed head of the company, someone was dead, someone was in jail, and lots of people who probably shouldn’t have had sex ended up having sex.
Who emerged from the first season of Empire victorious? Who made it out alive? Find out who came out on top with the Empire Power Ranking:
1. Jamal (Jussie Smollett)
By the end of the finale, Jamal did actually rule the empire as Lucious’s successor, and he was enjoying his fame — both by finally sleeping with that hot documentary filmmaker guy and seeing how his coming out at the white party was changing the lives of youths.
His path to the throne wasn’t easy, though. As the episodes began, he helped Lucious shake his writers block by returning to the dilapidated childhood home where Lucious put Jamal into the trash for wearing a pair of Cookie’s heels — an image the Empire writers really wanted us to remember. The pair collaborated on a thrilling song together, discovering how much they did actually have in common. Jamal would discover this even further later in the episode when the previously non-violent singer held Judd Nelson over a balcony to try to get Hakeem out of his new contract.
Turns out, Lucious saw some of himself in Jamal too, because he ended up giving him everything. “I’m not him,” Jamal tried to assure his concerned brothers. After the announcement, some of the Empire artists had problems with Lucious naming Jamal the vice chairperson because he’s gay. Black Rambo stormed in during the IPO announcement saying he’d leave Empire because a “man” wasn’t running it, but Jamal classily engaged in a rap/sing-off with Black Rambo instead of calling a hit out on him (or something like his parents would do).
Aside from the furs and the animal print and the fierce attitude that automatically catapult a strong woman like Cookie to the top of any list, Cookie came out ahead of many of her kin mainly because she got to avoid dealing with that messy takeover situation and finally got down with hot-ass Malcolm (Derek Luke).
Cookie and the security chief had to travel all the way to a chilly cabin in the woods to actually get busy, but luckily Cookie has an amazing fur for every situation to keep her warm. Our girl had never been with anyone other than Lucious, so we saw her in a super-vulnerable position — but then Malcolm told her she was in charge and she instantly took off his shirt. God bless her. Sadly, their bearskin carpet-generated heat didn’t last for long: Lucious jealously banned Cookie from working (what’s new?) and Malcolm took a job in D.C.
Cookie also showed how truly powerful she could be when she “accidentally” almost smothered Lucious with a pillow while he was sleeping, and overheard Lucious, in a drug-fueled slumber, unconsciously admit that he murdered her cousin Bunkie and didn’t have ALS. Surprise!
Knowing that Lucious would blackball her, Cookie teamed up with her arch-enemies Fake-Ass Lena Horne (Grace Gealey), Hakeem, and Andre to attempt to plan a “hostile takeover” — which never even had to happen because Lucious was conveniently arrested for Bunkie’s murder.
3. Hakeem (Bryshere “Yazz” Gray)
Well, Hakeem was certainly right when he said the ladies loved him — Camilla and then, in the finale, his almost-stepmom Anika?! Hakeem didn’t have that much to do in the finale — he rapped some (insulting dad with a fire freestyle verse), argued with everyone at least once about his upcoming album, and was the leader in the failed (was it failed?) “hostile takeover.” He wielded his power, though, when he did what he knew would piss Lucious off the most — sleeping with Boo Boo Kitty — which was so weird because he slept with his almost-mom but it didn’t really seem to bother anyone else? Except Lucious, and that’s all that really matters.
4. Andre (Trai Byers)
Things, as always, did not go well for the poor, non-musically talented Lyon brother. Despite being blessed with shoulders that can’t be contained by clothing, Andre really did get the short end of the stick the majority of the time. The finale wasn’t an exception.
Even though Andre’s bipolar disorder was under control, he was miserable at Empire, looking to Michelle (Jennifer Hudson) for guidance and trying to discover if faith could bring him any happiness. It seemed to work for about 45 minutes — basically until Lucious decided that Dre had had enough of Michelle’s healing gospel songs and stepped in to destroy everything by offering Michelle a record contract to record a gospel album.
To make matters worse, wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) decided to leave Dre since he’d been emotionally cheating with Michelle, but the bad news didn’t stop there. Vernon, Lucious’ “thug” (as Dre called him), showed up and engaged the eldest brother in an all-out brawl. After walking in on their fight, Rhonda, in self-defense, hit Vernon with a candlestick (or some blunt object) and accidentally killed him. They decided to not report it. Oh, and she’s pregnant. Hopefully Annalise Keating is in need of some future clients!
Lucious Lyon (government name: Dwight Walker) really proved that the garbage emoji was made in his likeness. In the last two hours of the season, he managed to both screw over, apologize, then re-screw over everyone in his immediate family and beyond.
The first big Lucious-related revelation was that he’s not dying. He was misdiagnosed with ALS, but does have MG (myasthenia gravis), which has similar symptoms but isn’t fatal. That didn’t change his behavior toward his family, though.
As always, he was awful to his kids: Punched Hakeem, ruined Dre’s newfound faith, and used Jamal. Pitting his sons against one another seems to be his number one hobby — it doesn’t get more Shakespearean than that. But after Lucious’ new diagnosis, he gave each son a very intense gift: a jet for Hakeem, a foundation for Dre, and the empire to Jamal — which, again, pitted them all against one another. At least they got their presents before he was arrested for Bunkie’s murder.
Don’t think this means Lucious will finally get what’s coming to him. Unfortunately, because star witness Vernon was nowhere to be found (because he was buried somewhere, oops), a locked-up Lucious menacingly warned everyone at the end of the episode that he’d be back “It’s game time, bitches,” he sneered from behind bars.
In the end, Lucious got his IPO and Empire went public, but at what cost? Did any of the Lyon family really come out ahead?