‘Empire’ recap: Who’s the man?

19 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Empire’ Season 2, Episode 8 recap: Freda and Hakeem’s rap battle; Cookie delivers a slap heard ’round the world.

This week’s “Empire” brought us the joy of product integration, a Freda vs. L-R: Guest star Bre-Z and Bryshere Gray in the “My Bad Parts” episode of EMPIRE airing Wednesday, Nov. 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (c)2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. (Chuck Hodes/FOX) CLEVELAND, Ohio — In tonight’s episode of ‘Empire,’ entitled ‘ My Bad Parts,’ Lucious becomes even hungrier for power, Jamal makes major strides in his career, and Hakeem and Bre-Z battle it out on the mic.

“From here on out, I go by Hakeem,” he announces, right after smashing the lights out on part of a “Hakeem Lyon” sign during his freestyle with nemesis Freda Gatz.Lucious Lyon’s (Terrence Howard) ex Anika (Grace Gealey), better known as Boo Boo Kitty, dropped a baby of a bombshell that she is pregnant with Hakeem’s (Bryshere Gray) child. (For those who are confused how this pregnancy is possible, two episodes ago, Hakeem found comfort in meeting up with Anika after he was kidnapped, and although only locking lips was seen on-screen, showrunner Ilene Chaiken told Variety, “That was more than a kiss.”) Anika was less than thrilled when Hakeem — who doesn’t know she’s apparently carrying his child — confided in her that he’s falling in love with another woman, Laura (Jamila Velazquez).

You’re reading because you just watched the latest over-the-top episode and you thought, “What the hell was that?!?” as a billion GIFs exploded in your brain. By the end of the episode, Anika’s jealousy and pain got to her so she took Laura by disguising herself as a driver who picked up Hakeem’s new lady in the car. So every week, instead of a traditional recap, we’ll give you the latest edition of Empire: How Crazy/Awesome Was It?, in which we rate this week’s episode in terms of relative genius/insanity. Before Laura was snatched up, her relationship with Hakeem was really growing. “Hakeem appears to genuinely care for Laura in the most authentic way he’s ever cared for anyone. Andre and Mimi brokering the deal to merge Empire Entertainment and Slipstream, the fictional music streaming service that will bring the Empire roster into the present day.

Laura is a relationship with someone who can be a real life partner for her,” Chaiken says. “He cares for her, and I would venture that he loves her.” Over on the professional side of Hakeem’s life, the youngest Lyon son engaged in an intense rap battle with his dad’s new client Freda (Bre-Z), sparking up a fire in him to declare that he’s dropped the “Lyon” from his name — a significant sign that Hakeem is seriously distancing himself from his famous family. Jamal is also trying to prove himself, campaigning to be the next face of Pepsi, and the only way he’ll get it is by writing the perfect song for the soft drink company. Crazy enough to treat their own family members as something you can buy and sell, just like…a particular soft drink that I’m suddenly craving right now Look, it’s not surprising that Empire took product placement to a whole new level this week. Being the chivalrous gentleman that he has proved himself to be over the course of the series, Hakeem offers Laura the equivalent of a promise ring in the form of a Value City bracelet (C’mon son, what’s 24 karats to you?). She’s mad at her cub for challenging Freda to a rap battle. “She’s an animal!” Laz throws in his thoughts, which causes Hakeem to call him a “punk ass promoter.” When the fists fly, Cookie comes to her son’s defense.

We already know that Lincoln Motor Co. is an official sponsor of Empire, which might explain why every other episode features someone slowly rolling down the window of a fancy black car to have a conversation with someone who’s walking down the street. (Can’t these people just text each other? He’s adamant, in fact. “Have Jago liquidate his assets,” he barks at Mimi and Andre. “Better yet, why don’t we liquidate his brain stem?” In the end, Lucious ends up moving forward with the deal, but we imagine with a snake oil salesman like Thirsty on his side that they’ve found some sort of contractual loophole. It would save a lot of gas.) So why did it suddenly feel a little heavy-handed for Empire to devote most of the hour to Jamal writing a song for Pepsi, while Pepsi’s Twitter account quoted Cookie’s best lines and Pepsi’s new sweetheart Tori Kelly performed what looked like a scene from Empire during the commercial breaks?

What the episode does establish is something we’ve known about Cookie and Lucious all along: They’re business partners, not parents, just like Hakeem says. Anika runs into Andre’s wife Rhonda (Kaitlyn Doubleday) at the gym and when the topic of pregnancy comes up, she tells her that Lucious “likes” pregnancy and has treated her like gold since finding out she and Dre were expecting. Cookie’s sound proves to be more ’97 Usher while Lucious is more Dance Dance Revolution (or 2010 Usher), but Jamal still manages to marry the two. They’re even prepared to barter Jamal and Hakeem’s talents for the sake of their labels. (More on that later.) Love and money are all tangled up in this family. Meanwhile, Andre, Mimi Whiteman and Lucious are trying to seal the deal on Swift Stream, even though Jago Locke (Patrick Mulvey) is being a greedy pain.

But Cookie has the last word (always). “Don’t be a snitch b—h.” Jamal books studio time (on his own dime) to record his Pepsi song and invites both his parents. Cut to Jamal leading a full orchestra, melding Cookie’s melody with Lucious’s beat, and speaking those four little words you never thought you’d hear on Empire: “Your flutes are beautiful!” Once his creation is finished, he sings “Ready to Go” for all the execs with extra flair, flipping his silk trenchcoat, and hopping around stage in an adorably spazzy little dance. When the rap battle finally happened, Hakeem got off to a shaky start, but found his groove when the DJ — none other than Funkmaster Flex — played a beat that hit the airwaves when Hakeem was an infant. Mimi, Andre and Lucious meet to discuss the streaming music merger, and Lucious is on a serious power trip, not wanting to hear anything anyone has to say. Cute in a sexy kind of cute.” Jamal scores the deal with Pepsi, which is also a boon for the show, considering that Pepsi’s own Alicia Keys will make a cameo soon.

Sometimes, she might be impetuous and emotional and borderline, but she is also carefully considering her moves and figuring out what she wants and how she’s going to get it. I’d complain about the blatant synergy of advertising and plot, but I can’t talk with all of this sweet, deliciously carbonated beverage in my mouth. Thankfully, she doesn’t wound herself and instead uses the knife to open up the box (because apparently, she just couldn’t do it with press-ons?). It’s a fair concern – the last thing you want, as Cookie notes, is for their marquee artist to be bragging on social media about his skills, only to be shut down.

I think that Cookie is doing her best as a mother to make clear that she has love to go around for all of her children and I will say Hakeem and Cookie shouldn’t be a deemed relationship — there don’t have to be dire consequences to that. Anika later shows up to Hakeem’s lair and pours herself some Henny — which she self-consciously hands to Hakeem when she remembers there’s a human growing inside of her.

The way Lucious has struck out on Hakeem probably goes way beyond that — Lucious is a gangster in the traditional sense and in regard to his family and the things to he does to get them where he wants them to be. She then tries to seduce the lovestruck, barely-legal boy, only to receive the ultimate curve: “Can we, like, talk, no touching?” followed by “Look, here’s the thing. As the savvy head of a start-up label, she should know that any conflict between her son and an established label’s talent could only make for good press. If Laz had no previous idea how much Cookie cares for and protects her Lyon cubAt Jamal’s apartment, Cookie is making a sandwich and trying to figure out whether Jamal will jump ship with Empire and come over to Lyon Dynasty.

While Cookie and Laz are strategizing for the summer jam, Hakeem busts in, railing to Cookie about the battle (he does this again later in the episode when Cookie is Skyping with Jamal). She doesn’t take too kindly to being left behind, and jars viewers in the very last scene, when Laura is picked up by a car service and the driver is …

Cookie seizes that moment to chide Hakeem, insisting that the proposition was ill-conceived because Lyon Dynasty stands to lose all credibility if Freda wins. But for some reason, his spirit is moved to step to Hakeem, who immediately reminds him of his place: “You a punk-(bleep) promoter, so go hand out some flyers.” Except when Laz attempts to leave — presumably, to hand out flyers — Hakeem stands in his way.

Andre is mostly wrapped up in contract negotiations between Empire and the label’s preferred streaming service, which leaves Rhonda to bond over “soul-cleansing” smoothies with Anika. There is no way the man that called his opponent “sweeter than a honey bun” should have won over the woman who gave us the classic “Tell Cookie get the milk ‘cause her baby keep on crying.” We really have a conspiracy theory that Hakeem paid the crowd off because there is also no way that they could have known the words to his Flava in Ya Ear “freestyle” and there is no reason that his hypeman antics should have overshadowed Freda’s fire. Cookie and Candace, who can’t stand one another, they both know their baby sister is in danger and she has substance abuse issues and has gone to this place before. It’s that relationship in a family in which one sibling constantly needs to be rescued and you just keep going because you love her and you can’t let her go down. Hakeem has too much on his mind to give in to her advances, and he tells her he thinks he’s in love, which totally throws Anika for a loop, and forces her to abandon her plan to tell him she’s pregnant.

All we know is that the episode ends with Crazy Anika in a blond wig, driving innocent Laura off somewhere that’s bound to be dangerous, and Cookie’s sister Candace (Vivica A. He delivers a killer last verse, topping it off by smashing a sign that reads “Hakeem Lyon.” Well, he actually only smashes the “Lyon” part, announcing his new title. Most GIF-worthy moment: Anika holding a pregnancy test in one hand and a hunting knife in the other. (Don’t worry, that knife is just there to cut the gender-reveal cake at her baby shower…right?)

And then on the flip-side of it, he said, “I want to tell a real story of family and poverty and how someone like Cookie who grew up in poverty and now lives in extreme wealth deals with her family and that gap.” This episode, to me, is the beginning of the trajectory toward our midseason break. In the final scene for this week’s episode, she hijacks the car Hakeem has arranged to take Laura home and we can only imagine that she intends to crash it.

Jago, owner of Swiftstream, and his lawyers, along with Lucious, Andre and Thirsty, have been waiting patiently for Mimi to arrive to sign the papers for the merger. With Season 2 expanded to 18 episodes, the storylines have become heavier on drama, and lighter on sizzle, but as the Fall finale draws near (followed by at least a month off the air), ‘Empire’ must bring the power in order to keep its fan base content over the holidays.

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