Well, last night on Empire, what an episode packed with internal familial tension and aggressiveness – once again, most of it provoked by the patriarch, Lucious Lyon.

Lucious (Terrence Howard) desperately continues to find new ways of attracting more subscribers to Empire XStream. Thus far, Empire has struggled to sign new artists or produce new music from its current artists. Therefore, Lucious becomes so frustrated with the lack of new revenue that he tells Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) to help him get at least five new songs launched on the streaming service by the end of the week in order for him to meet his goal of 10 million subscribers. When Cookie tells him that is practically impossible, and even refuses to let Lucious pick songs from Jamal’s (Jussie Smollett) Black & White album– which was shelved indefinitely– Lucious tells her to provide an incentive for artists to release songs: a fancy car to be given as a prize for any artist who does so.

Meanwhile, Andre (Trai Byers) leaves the police precinct, dogged by reporters who desperately want to learn more about the circumstances surrounding his confrontation with police the week before that got him arrested. Andre leaves the precinct with his lawyer, Max Perkins, a longtime family friend. One reporter asks Andre if he is a ‘gangster’ now, and Andre simply responds that he is not, but rather simply another example of the oppression black men in America face today.

In that moment, Andre briefly has yet another hallucination and sees Rhonda standing in the back of the swarm of reporters. Rhonda’s ghost says if she weren’t dead, she would be able to help him deal with this mess. Max tells the press that Andre won’t be commenting or releasing a statement just yet, and they walk away.

Jamal attends a local support group for people with PTSD, hoping to finally rid himself of his trauma in order to begin recording music and eventually perform again.

Andre meets his parents at Empire, and he admits part of the incident with the police was his fault for talking back to the two cops who tackled him to the ground. Cookie and Lyon refuse to hear any of that, and said the only reason he got attacked is because he is black. Lyon offers to let his shady lawyer Thirsty (Andre Royo) take care of the two cops, but Andre angrily refuses and says he wants to settle this issue in a clean way, with his own lawyer. Cookie also warns that because there is no video evidence of the incident, it will be Andre’s word against the police’s. Andre remains adamant.

Outside a concert for Empire singer Tiana (Serayah), Tariq (Morocco Omari) and a colleague of his spy on the crowd, particularly Tiana’s new boyfriend, a rapper named Gram (Romeo Miller) who could help Tariq get valuable information on Lucious. At the concert, Gram performs with Tiana and bashes Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), Tiana’s ex-boyfriend. Hakeem becomes angry and begins seeking new ways to get back at Gram and Tiana with a new single thanks to help from Shine (Xzibit) and his crew.

However, Shine remains as hot-tempered and violent as always, and when he tries to pressure his sister Nessa (Sierra McClain) to sing on the track with Hakeem, he goes too far. Shine grabs Nessa by the neck and nearly chokes her out, which causes Nessa to leave and Hakeem to, again, question whether he should be making music with this thug.

Hakeem mentions Shine’s behavior to Lucious, though the head of the Lyon family simply tells his son he shouldn’t be complaining and should be prepared to do whatever is necessary to get that rap song released.

Cookie tries to hep Jamal start recording music again by contacting her old friend Kitty (Mariah Carey) to convince her to do a duet with Jamal. The middle Lyon son hesitates, however, when Kitty states she wants to eventually perform the song. After a brief pep talk from his sassy cheerleader mother, however, Jamal makes Kitty a proposition, which is later revealed when he tells it to Lucious: that he and Kitty live-stream their duet recording session as exclusive content for Empire XStream in order to bring in more subscriptions. Thus, Jamal explains, his Black & White album still won’t need to be released.

Lucous also tries to sign Zeah — from city councilman Angelo Dubois’s (Taye Diggs) WOKE group— to Empire as a potential artist, as he recognizes the young boy’s talent.

Angelo angrily confronts Cookie for Empire’s attempt to sign Zeah as an artist, and Cookie seems confused as to what he is referring to at first, but then quickly realizes Lucious did this. She explains to Angelo that Lucious always plays ‘dirty,’ that way, going behind her back. Angelo says Zeah is a brilliant kid who can change the world, and should thus not throw away his full scholarship at MIT to become ‘some rapper.’

Angelo takes Cookie to one of the WOKE classrooms to show her what an impact Zeah has had on other kids his age, namely showing young black girls computer programming skills. Cookie begins to see what good intentions Angelo and this group have.

At Anre’s trial– which both Hakeem and Jamal attend– the judge states he has been charged with several charges that he and Max both know are false, including criminal trespassing, felony battery and a assault against a police officer.

Max begins to see how difficult the case is given the lack of witness or video evidence, and tells Andre that cutting a deal with the judge that involves him pleading guilty in order to have some charges dropped may just be the only way to win. Andre still refuses this option, however.

Lucious then rolls up and tells his three sons to get into his van. He takes them to the project were they grew up and delivers an agonizingly patronizing speech to teach them a lesson. They need to stop being so soft and get tough in order to survive on ‘the streets,’ he says, because otherwise, they may be ‘one moment away from becoming a hashtag’ just like other unarmed black men like Trayon Martin or Philando Castile– men who have been shot by police simply because of the color of their skin. Lucious admits part of the fault for his sons growing soft lies with him for having coddled them with a lavish lifestyle after Empire became so successful.

When Lucious mentions how no number of white friends, lawyers or wives will ever take away from the fact that they’re black, Andre looses his cool and tells Lucious that he’d rather end up in jail or dead then like him– Ouch. Clearly, Lucious needs to find another way to get through to his sons. Jamal follows Andre, but Hakeem decides to use his father’s claim to prove him wrong and give him an explosive song.

Lucious gets into an argument with Anika (Grace Gealey) after she brings a UPS man into their house to have sex with her. Anika reminds him that he is the one who needs this marriage, and not her. She ‘saved his ass’ twice, she says, and therefore is allowed to do what she wants instead of being held like a prisoner.

Jamal visits Freda Gatz in jail, but after getting a series of flashbacks of her shooting him at the ASA awards in that brief encounter, Jamal panics and says everything he has had to deal with recently is her fault, and walks away, scared and angry. Freda is carried away by the prison guards, confused and hurt by Jamal’s unwillingness to want anything to do wit her.

Jamal records his duet with Kitty, and though it begins shaky at first because of all the pain medication he’s been taking, it ends very well.

Cookie interrupts Lucious’s attempt to sign Zeah, walking into his office and ripping up the contract Lucious made for the young boy. She tells Zeah she knows he has thousands of better life and career options ahead of him given his brilliance, and says that the offer to sign with Empire will remain on the table in four years when he graduates from college. A furious Lucious, however, says Empire may not be willing to wait that long to sign him.

Lucious breaks his agreement with Jamal and Cookie and instead of releasing the Jamal/Kitty duet for XStream, he releases half of Jamal’s Black & White album and calls it The Black Album. Jamal walks away from Empire headquarters, rightfully infuriated.

This album, Lucious explains to Cookie, only contains the tracks that he helped produce and not the ones she helped with, and that this was both a business move to bring in loads of new subscriptions, but also a personal move to show Cookie that he maintains the power at the end of the day. Cookie reminds him that they co-own an co-run the company, and that she has Empire’s board of directors on her side, which gives her an advantage of sorts.

Tariq follows Andre one night as the latter walks home alone, and threatens to not help drop any of the charges filed against him for the police confrontation unless Andre informs on his father for all the crimes he has committed. Andre refuses to rat out Lucious, and walks away, despite Tariq warning him that he could serve a long prison sentence for ‘assaulting a cop’ if he doesn’t cooperate with him.

Thus, Lucious has once again pitted his own wife and sons against him by stripping them of their sense of self-worth, dignity, and any power they have. Lucious proved for the millionth time this episode that his family are just pawns that he controls, whom he simply sees as mechanisms to help him attain his ultimate business goals.

Empire airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST on FOX.



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