Well, the Empire fall finale left us with several unanswered questions regarding the many different subplots, but suspense is usually a good thing, right? It keeps the viewer on his/her toes, and helps to ensure that interest is maintained.

‘Empire’ Fall Finale Recap

The episode began with Angelo Dubois (Taye Diggs) holding a rally as part of his mayoral campaign at a local beach, with (obviously) both his mother Diana (Phylicia Rashad) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) by his side. After some of the citizens begin heckling Angelo, questioning whether he would be a good mayor for all New Yorkers, Cookie takes charge in her usual fearless, take-no-nonsense way and grabs the microphone. She begins describing Angelo’s humble beginnings despite attending Columbia for college, and says her boyfriend would certainly be able to appeal to all demographics as mayor.

Cookie then announces that Empire is preparing to partner with Angelo and the city council to launch a big outdoor music festival/fundraiser for his campaign called The People’s Ball, where many of the label’s artists, including Tiana (Serayah McNeill), Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) and Jamal (Jussie Smollett), will perform. The kids from Angelo’s ‘WOKE’ group– the group meant to inspire disadvantaged kids to get a better education– also perform at the festival.

Meanwhile, we see Tariq Cousins (Morocco Omari) still determined to catch his half-brother Lucious (Terence Howard) for his past crimes. A local judge goes to visit Tariq at the FBI after Tariq says he has discovered with near-certainty that Lucious was paid off to kill Freda Gatz’s father, Frank Gathers while the two were in prison. The judge tells Tariq that if he can prove his theory, the judge can issue a warrant for a freeze of Empire’s assets and for an arrest warrant for Lucious. The judge also tells Tariq that he hopes this case isn’t about personal vengeance, and Tariq assures him it isn’t, although we all know it clearly is partly about personal revenge against Lucious. Tariq manages to freeze all of Empire’s assets, and Lucious quickly enlists his lawyer Thirsty (Andre Royo) for help to fix this.

Jamal continues to take his medication to deal with his PTSD, and both his parents express concern for his preparedness to perform at the People’s Ball due to this. Cookie then goes to Jamal’s apartment and forces him to give her all the pills he has left, and throws them down the sink drain.

Tensions continue at Lucious’s house between his mother Leah (Leslie Uggams) and his wife Anika (Grace Byers), and after Leah interrupts him and Anika one morning by vacuuming while they’re having sex, Anika loses it and angrily tells Luciuos that he has to make a choice between her (and her/Hakeem’s daughter Bella),  and his mother, since the two women clearly cannot live under the same roof without wanting to kill each other.

Diana approaches Lucious one day at an amusement park to ask him for a favor. She reveals that a journalist is planning to leak a very dangerous and scandalous story about Angelo that could potentially ruin his bid for mayor. Diana does not give any details about what the story concerns, but asks Lucious to speak to the reporter in order to dissuade him from publishing his damaging story about Angelo. Lucious asks ‘what’s in it for him,’ and Diana says whatever he wants. Lucious says he would like Diana to end Cookie and Angelo’s relationship in return, and Diana agrees to this deal.

Lucious invites the reporter to Empire’s club Laviticus and convinces him to not write his piece on Angelo by threatening him in a very subtle, snake-charming, devious and devilish way– you know, basically the way Lucious generally gets people to do what he wants. Lucious uses the lyrics of a song by an Empire rapper who is performing at Laviticus that night to explain to the reporter that ‘rap is a reflection of reality,’ and that if you try to hurt someone, they will always fight back.

Lucious successfully manages to dissaude the journalist to back off and tells this to Diana. However, Diana tells him she is unwilling to uphold the end of their bargain. The reason? She shows Lucious that the latest polls have Angelo a few points ahead of his opponent in the mayoral race and that research shows it’s because of Cookie and her ability to ‘appeal to the masses,’ something political experts begin to call ‘The Cookie effect.’ Naturally, given this new information, Diana has no wish to separate her and Angelo, and Lucious is unsurprisingly upset by Diana’s unwillingness to uphold her end of the deal. Diana offers Lucious other things in return: an ambassadorship, an invitation to a state dinner, but Lucious rejects all of these and walks away.

Meanwhile, Andre (Trai Byers) continues to have visions of his dead wife Rhonda (Kaitlyn Doubleday), while Nessa (Sierra McClain) attempts to comfort him after he tells her he has bipolar disorder. Andre says Rhonda used to help him manage his mood swings, but Nessa says she doesn’t want to do that for him because she wants Andre to learn to do that for himself. Nessa tells Andre that she is prepared to stay in a relationship with him, however.

Lucious walks into the FBI one day with Thirsty and says he is prepared for Tariq to arrest him, although he quickly tries to appeal to Tariq’s emotions, saying that ‘families don’t do this to each other,’ and reveals in front of the whole Bureau that he and Tariq are half-brothers. He then hands Tariq the badge that their father had as a cop working in Philadelphia in the hope that this token will somehow magically make Tariq change his mind (maybe? who knows, that was just weird.)

Shine (Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner) is seen talking to Tariq at several different places and it is revealed that it was Shine who set up Lucious and the Lyons for Empire’s asset freeze by providing secret information to Tariq.

At the People’s Ball, Jamal performs in front of a big audience for the first time in months after Cookie finds him at his apartment, overmedicated, vomiting, and crying just hours before the festival in the biggest Jamal nervous breakdown so far on the show.

After initially getting stage fright, Jamal sings a new song at the Ball and the fans go wild at seeing the middle Lyon son return, singing and dancing with so much passion onstage. Following his spirited performance, however, it becomes clear that Jamal was simply high off his medication– thus his huge energy– and the whole Lyon family (plus the Dubois) holds a brief and impromptu intervention for Jamal backstage, where they all tell him, starting with Cookie, that he needs to go to rehab. What??! Jamal and Cookie both cry, and Angelo comforts Cookie.

After the festival, at the nearby amusement park, Lucious and the aforementioned reporter ambush Cookie, Angelo and Diana and the reporter asks Angelo for a quick, exclusive on-camera interview. Cookie begins defending Angelo after she realizes that the journalist is attempting to ask him about his DUI charge from 28 years ago when he was 17. Cookie says several other presidents and politicians, including George W. Bush, have gotten DUIs or been caught smoking marijuana, but the reporter quickly retorts by landing a bombshell about Angelo. The reporter says: ‘As far as I’m concerned, none of those stories have involved those presidents drunk-driving into a lake and then saving themselves but leaving a young girl to drown. WHAT??!!

Cookie looks at Angelo in shock, and Angelo quickly begins saying that allegation is not true, but does not provide his version of the events.

Finally, Andre approaches Shine and says he knows that Shine set up Lucious for the Empire asset freeze and that he colluded with Tariq to bring the Lyon patriarch down. We then initially think Andre is going to threaten Shine for doing this, but instead, after saying he and Nessa will soon control Empire and force Shine and the people he works with to answer to him and Nessa, he drops a surprise plan: he says he wants to kill Lucious, and smiles, and the episode ends there.

So there you have it, folks! As you can see, cliff-hangers abounded in this episode: Will Lucious be arrested, or killed, or dethroned as head of Empire? Will Jamal actually got to rehab, and if so for how long?

Empire will return with brand new episodes on FOX next March.

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