The first episode of Empire, Season 3 picked up right where the Season 2 finale left off: at the debacle that ensued at the youngest Lyon son, Hakeem’s (Bryshere Y. Gray) wedding to the lead singer of Empire Entertainment’s ‘Mirage a Trois’ girl group: Laura Calleros (Jamila Velazquez). 

‘Empire,’ Season 3 Premiere Recap

Andre’s wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) finds Anika alone on the balcony of the building where both her and Hakeem’s wedding was held, and attacks her, convinced Anika is the one who pushed her down the stairs when she was pregnant with Andre’s child, who died as a result of Rhonda’s fall. Andre walks up to the balcony to see both women fighting and eventually pushing each other off the balcony, thought it is unsure if they both fall or only one.

As Hakeem angrily leaves the building, Lucious walks out with his middle son Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and his mother, Leah Walker (Leslie Uggams). Lucious realizes that undercover Federal agents are probably posted nearly everywhere near the building to get to him, so he orders Jamal to take his grandmother Leah home so she can be safe. As he does so and asks where Andre is, Rhonda’s body falls on top of a car right in front of them all, killing her. The scene pans to the balcony, where Anika remains, howling in shock at her unintentional murder of Rhonda. Andre peers over the balcony, crying Rhonda’s name, and then viciously grabs Anika by the neck, yelling ‘What did you do??! You killed my wife!!” and pins her to a column. Anika, sobbing, desperately tries to explain that she was simply attempting to defend herself, when her water breaks. Andre carries her to the hospital.

Feeling lonely, a drunk Hakeem visits his ex-girlfriend, Tiana (Serayah). As the rest of the Lyons rush to the hospital, and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) attempts to console her now-widowed, shell-shocked son, Andre angrily says he is done with believing in God. Policeman walk into the hospital, and, knowing Anika went to the balcony immediately after she married him, Lucious connects the dots and realizes Anika killed Rhonda and the police are there to question her. Lucious walks into the room where Anika is about to give birth, telling the nurses he is her wife. While the nurses are telling her to push, Lucious threatens Anika by saying he will kill her (or have her killed) unless she lies and tells the police that Rhonda committed suicide by jumping off the balcony and Anika simply tried to stop her. Anika gives birth to a baby girl, and Lucious realizes she lied to him, since she had told him she knew it was a boy, who could thus become the potential heir to Empire.

At his mansion, Lucious announces to some of his friends/artists that he is relaunching his music streaming service, Swifstream, under a new name: Empire XStream, and that he wants to make an offer for exclusive rights to their music. Lucious explains that the new streaming service will allow artists to be paid directly by subscribers, not through any intermediaries.

Lucious then tells Jamal at the Empire conference room that he wants him to perform at an event meant to promote Empire XStream, all while again chastising Hakeem for being an irresponsible drunk and missing his son’s birth.

During one of Hakeem’s recording sessions, Shyne Johnson walks in, interrupting him and trying to change his music style. After Shyne bullies the sound engineer, Lucious walks in, ordering Shyne and his cronies to get out of the building. Shyne tries to force Lucious to sign Nessa, (Sierra McClain) a young new artist, and threatens to call Tariq (Morocco Omari), an FBI agent who is also Luciou’s half-brother, if he doesn’t sign her. Tariq has been doggedly pursuing Lucious, desperately trying to bring him under arrest since the end of Season 2.

While hanging out with her sisters Candace (Vivica A. Fox) and Carol (Tasha Smith), Cookie realizes Tariq has approached them to get information about Lucious’s crimes. Tariq shows up at the door and tells Cookie he knows Lucious married Anika just to keep her from testifying, and that the marriage is thus fake and could easily subpoena her. Cookie’s sisters try to persuade her that Tariq is only after Lucious and not her, and that it’s only right that Lucious pay for everything he’s done and everyone he’s hurt.

Cookie and Lucious return to the hospital to get to her before Tariq does, but the nurses tell her she has been discharged and sent to the Lyon’s old home. There, Lucious’s mother Leah explicitly tells Anita she hates her and distrusts her.

At Empire, Shyne again tries to get Lucious to let Nessa perform as a backup singer for Jamal at the XStream event. Lucious agrees, but then tells one of his bodyguards he plans to fool Shyne, and that Nessa’s mic won’t even be plugged.

Tariq comes to dinner at the Lyon’s house after Lucious invites him over as a way of “welcoming his half-brother back to the family.” However, the FBI agent calls Lucious out in front of his entire family for manipulating them and taking advantage of them, and several members of his family for playing along and covering up his wrongdoings. Leah says Tariq and Andre are the only two relatives who went to visit her at her nursing home in Philadelphia. After Lucious offers Tariq to house him and give him a much more lavish lifestyle, Tariq sees through him and calls him out for simply bribing him, a Fed. Jamal and Andre both lose their temper at Tariq, but Tariq is sent out of the house.

At the Empire XStream event, Jamal begins his performance of a special song he wrote in which he describe all of the horrible police shootings of unarmed black people that have sparked the ‘Black Lives Mater’ movement, thus purposely ambushing Lucious, who tries to change the song after being surprised. However, as the loud sounds, bright lights, and camera shutters surround him, Jamal nearly collapses onstage, as he begins to experience flashbacks of the ASA awards night, when he was himself accidentally shot by his friend and collaborator, rapper Freda Gatz (Bre-Z), who was attempting to avenge the death of her father, Frank Gathers, by killing Lucious, since Lucious killed Frank in prison. Hakeem helps Jamal off the stage, as one of his backup singers takes over and begins the song.

Lucious angrily confronts Jamal at the end of the event, complaining that Shyne now has leverage on him because Nessa took over for him as the main performer at the event and will become the “new face” of Empire XStream. Jamal becomes just as infuriated, telling Lucious he is the one who created all this mess in the first place. Lucious calls Jamal out for being ungrateful.

Back at his apartment, Andre is shown sobbing uncontrollably, verbally berating himself for not believing Rhonda when she claimed Anika nearly killed her by pushing her down the stairs. He begins having hallucinations, seeing and hearing Rhonda telling him it’s his fault she’s dead, and that he’s nothing without her because she is the only one who has ever truly taken care of him and helped him battle his bipolar disorder. Jamal walks in on Andre, utterly concerned and fearful for his grieving brother after realizing how much his wife’s death has destroyed him.

In the very last scene, Lucious is shown cradling Anika’s baby daughter in his arms and talking to her, while Tariq watches from a camera in his van. Tariq planted another camera in the newborn’s stuffed teddy bear, which is shown to be sitting across the room.

Empire airs at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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