‘Empire’ Season 3, Episode 15 Recap: In ‘Civil Hands Unclean,’ Tension Abounds
This week’s episode of “Empire” was once again rife with tension and retaliation.
Empire, Season 3 Episode 15 Recap: ‘Civil Hands Unclean’
One of the main disagreements — that ultimately seemed to have been resolved rather amicably — was that between Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Jamal (Jussie Smollet) regarding their collaboration on a song to promote when Empire moves to Las Vegas. Lucious is determined to ensure a new song from his Inferno album becomes the headliner for the company’s expansion, while Jamal and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) hope to get a track off Jamal’s album, When Cookie Met Lucious, to be the main tune for Vegas.
Both the Lyon patriarch and his middle son are desperately attempting to finish recording their respective albums before Empire moves to Sin City, and they seem to get close to reaching that goal. Although Jamal is initially wary of collaborating with his father, especially after he realizes how much he dislikes Lucious’s main track, he becomes frustrated and even appears on the verge of giving up, saying he might just sing backup vocals for his father. However, Cookie dissuades him from even considering this.
Angelo Dubois (Taye Diggs) begins his plot to exact revenge on Lucious for attempting to destroy his mayoral campaign at several turns. Angelo and a few of his colleagues barge in on Empire’s main club Laviticus and set off a smoke alarm, which leads the fire department to come and shut the club down for “violating a fire code.” Lucious immediately realizes what Angelo’s intentions are, and sets out to “clap-back” at the New York councilman and Democratic mayoral candidate to ignite an all-out war.
Cookie attempts to appease Angelo by apologizing profusely to him and suggests she releases a statement saying everything Angelo said on the hot mic that went public in last week’s episode (about all of the corrupt things he did to help Cookie and the Lyons) was untrue, that it “was simply in the heat of the moment.” Nevertheless, two of his bodyguards come to stop her. Furthermore, his mother (Phylicia Rashad) threatens Cookie by saying that if she or her family ever attempt to come near Angelo again, the Lyons will all “burn to the ground,” and orders Angelo’s security detail to get rid of her if they ever see her again.
Enraged by Mrs. Dubois’ declaration of all-out war on the Lyons, Cookie storms over to Empire in her typical sassy and no-nonsense-tolerance way to explain this to Lucious, Jamal and Andre. While Lucious agrees with Cookie’s take-no-prisoners plan to hurt the Dubois in case they actually try to attack the Lyons, Jamal implores his parents to take a more civilized approach, suggesting he himself go speak to Angelo to attempt to sway his mind. Jamal even quotes Michelle Obama’s famous “when they go low, we go high” quote, for which Cookie derides him. Andre (Trai Byers) agrees, and Jamal goes to a local school to meet with Angelo.
At the school, Jamal apologizes for his family’s behavior toward Angelo and, like Cookie, says he knows Angelo is a good man. Jamal then offers him a check for a whopping $5 million as a donation to Angelo’s WOKE program for advancing economically disadvantaged children’s education. Jamal explains that the check would help cover college tuition for all the kids in the program, Angelo initially expresses doubt. He believes it is simply a bribe or other trap of some sort that Lucious has planned to take all the credit for the success the money would bring to WOKE, but Jamal assures him it’s not, saying the donation would be made anonymously. Angelo ultimately accepts the check, though we can’t blame him for having reservations about taking such a large donation, especially from a family as shady as the Lyons.
The title of the episode comes from a line of the prologue to Romeo and Juliet: “Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” The phrase refers to how ordinary people — like the two families in the Shakespearean play, the Montagues and Capulets — often fight about all sorts of issues, both petty and severe, and ultimately cause others great pain and suffering. Here, the two quarreling factions seem to be the Lyons and the Dubois, although it could also allude to yet another enemy Lucious has made within his own family but is still blissfully unaware of: his own son, Andre.
Andre continues to round up Shine (Xzibit) and a few other men to prepare to declare an all-out war against his father for “betraying” Andre on so many occasions. Cookie finds out about Andre’s scheme and attempts to dissuade her eldest son from messing with Lucious, though she seems eerily cozy with Shine’s thugs, who she appears to know from her drug-pushing days with Lucious in Philadelphia. Cookie acts more motherly with them than she does with Andre, oddly enough, and even offers them home-cooked meals, which seems a bit much for several guys who are likely convicted felons, right?
Nessa surprisingly does not appear in this episode, thought it may simply be because Andre’s subplot to take down Lucious isn’t given as much attention as it was in previous episodes. One can only guess that she wouldn’t approve of Andre’s plan, but we don’t know for sure.
Giuliana (Nia Long) grows ever-closer to Lucious, whom she is now dating, which drives both Cookie and Anika (Grace Gealy-Byers) crazy, especially the former, as Cookie is still convinced she Giuliana is still “the devil” for having lied to and stolen from Lucious all those years ago. Giuliana continues to help Lucious with the Vegas expansion, and even Snoop Dogg makes a special appearance as himself.
Snoop initially says he likes the Vegas deal, but then backs out after he learns Jamal might not be performing as the main act as well as for financial reasons that an “investment banker” friend of his gave him as advice for not participating in the venture. Snoop also reveals that his banker acquaintance has the last name Dubois, which make us wonder how this person is related to Angelo, although this is never revealed. Lucious and Thirsty (Andre Royo), however, seemed determined to find out exactly who this is.
Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), meanwhile, uses a live-stream video as a way to beg Lucious to let him put his name on his baby daugher Bella’s birth certificate. In the video, Hakeem parades around his apartment shirtless and goes off on a philosophical/hippy monologue about how he is prepared to protect Bella at all costs, citing a video of Lions protecting their cubs in the wild as his inspiration. The youngest Lyon son even writes a new song called “Elevated” about his determination to be a loving, responsible parent.
During a family dinner at his house, Lucious ultimately accepts to put Hakeem’s name on Bella’s birth certificate and gives his youngest son his Empire XStream channel back to live-stream his music. Lucious also decides to “free” Anika by offering her a gargantuan $25 million settlement to divorce him, which draws an immediate and loud “Oh thank God!” from Lucious’s mother Leah (Leslie Uggams), unsurprisingly.
Before Anika has time to properly respond to this offer, police storm the house along with a woman (unclear whether she’s a social worker or from child protective services, one of the two) who claims she has received reports of “child endangerment” at the residence and has the cops remove Bella from the property, leaving Anika sobbing uncontrollably at seeing her daughter taken away from her. Although Lucious initially becomes angry and orders the police and the woman to leave his house after entering without his permission or a warrant, Cookie tells him to just comply. The Lyon patriarch then threatens to have the woman fired and asks her if she is working for Angelo and his mother, as Lucious is still paranoid that the prospective mayor is planning retribution against his family. The woman denies this and walks out of the house with the police and Bella, while Hakeem also looks utterly distraught.
Will the feud between the Lyons and the Dubois grow more violent? Will Andre and Shine finally follow through with their scheme to bring down Lucious? Will Bella ultimately be taken care of and stay safe? Will Giuliana do something dastardly to affect Empire’s expansion to Vegas?
Find out next Wednesday at 9 pm EST on FOX! Only three more episodes left this season!