Empire‘s second season kicked off Wednesday night with Lucious (Terrence Howard) still behind bars and his family making a dramatic effort to get him released.

Empire Recap Season 2 Recap

In an effort to free Lucious, the Lyon family has staged a Central Park rally rife with celebrity. Taking center stage, of course, is Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). She gives a speech to the crowd taking down America’s prison industrial complex, and then gets in a few jabs an Al Sharpton and Don Lemon. Though the rally appears to be about Lucious and America’s ongoing problem with racism, it’s actually a bid to get the attention of investor Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei).

With the money for Mimi’s company, Cookie believes she’ll be able to wage a hostile takeover at the next board meeting to get Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Lucious removed from power. Cookie uses the opportunity at the concert to woo Mimi, shamelessly flirting with the out lesbian in the hopes that that will help her chances of securing the money.

From jail, Lucious manages to catch a glimpse of the concert – and Cookie chatting away with Mimi. Already, Lucious has managed to become top dog in the prison, but his power is threatened by old drug boss Frank Gathers (Chris Rock).

With Lucious behind bars, Jamal has completely taken over his fathers’ duties. The once confident and seemingly capable heir apparent is having trouble keeping up with the day-to-day of managing Empire. Running in between marketing and A&R meetings, he’s also trying to make sure his record doesn’t keep sliding down the charts. Even approving Hakeem’s (Bryshere Y. Gray) album artwork is fraying Jamal’s nerves.

Cookie, meanwhile, continues to do what she can to win Mimi over, including throwing a party filled with attractive and scantily clad women. At the fete, Mimi ends up setting her sites on Anika (Grace Gealey). Cookie urges Anika to dance with Mimi and do what she has to in order to keep Mimi happy. But, all the efforts were for naught, as, unbeknownst to Cookie, Mimi had made a deal with Lucious to keep him as the head of Empire.

“Lucious Lyon is Empire,” she tells Cookie at the board meeting. And appearing via video message from jail, Lucious says, “Game over, b–ches.

Cookie and Andre (Trai Byers), heads hung low, leave the meeting defeated. Things only get worse after Gathers, who’d sent Cookie roses as a warning, has a severed head in a box delivered to her doorstep. Gathers knows that Cookie snitched, and wants her head for it. With nowhere else to turn, Cookie seeks help from Lucious. Lucious, who still loves Cookie, wastes no time in confronting Gathers. Before long, Lucious’ prison crew is beating Gathers up.

With the Gathers drama taken care of, Cookie tells her family that everything is going to be alright. Jamal, however, is less than impressed with her attempt at taking Empire out from under Lucious. Cookie gives him two slaps across the face for his dissent.

Read more about: