‘Empire’ Season 3, Episode 16 Recap: In ‘Absent Child,’ Rift Between Lyons And Dubois Deepens
On Empire‘s Season 3, Episode 16 Wednesday night, we returned to the Lyon family’s troubles exactly where we left off: with them paying a visit to Angelo Dubois (Taye Diggs) and his mother (Phylicia Rashad) in order to investigate whether or not they were involved in Hakeem and Anika’s daughter Bella being taken away.
‘Empire’ Season 3, Episode 16 Recap: ‘Absent Child’
Following a long shouting match between the two families, during which Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) nearly threatens to go full crazy mama Lyon and tear Mrs. Dubois to shreds, Lucious (Terrence Howard) warns Angelo’s mother that when Lyons hit back at anyone “they hit hard.” Thus, Lucious and his family vow to do anything it takes to retrieve Bella. At the meeting, Andre (Trai Byers) subtly notifies Lucious that one of the men present at the encounter is the investment banker friend Snoop Dogg mentioned last episode who happens to be a Dubois.
Meanwhile, Andre continues his pursuit of Empire’s deal to launch a show and open a casino in Las Vegas, and after a meeting between him and Cookie and Lucious’ former business rival Marcone, Cookie offers Marcone a piece of the show the whole Lyon family is planning on producing based on Jamal’s (Jussie Smollett) “When Cookie Met Lucious” album, rather than Lucious’s “Inferno” project that includes Jamal’s rehab friend Torey Ash. However, Andre becomes upset with Cookie for including Lucious in the deal without discussing this with him beforehand — something that is unsurprising given that we know Andre is still bent on killing his father (or at least destroying him in some way).
Cookie angrily explains to Andre that they need Lucious to be part of the deal otherwise he will retaliate against all the Lyons like he always does. The Lyon matriarch then furiously tells her eldest son to make sure he’s taking his bipolar medication, after Andre lashes out at Shine (Alvin ‘Xzibit’ Joiner) for hesitating to stick with the Vegas venture. Even Nessa (Sierra McClain) suffers the wrath of Cookie after the latter full-on bitch-slaps the former! Cookie does this after Nessa calls her out for not letting Andre know about including Lucious in the Vegas negotiations and for not letting him make his own decisions. “Never come between me and my son, bitch” Cookie warns Nessa.
Lucious makes a surprising turn in this episode by agreeing to include Jamal on his “Inferno” album, and even brings in a hip new young emcee to rap on the track they collaborated on in the last episode, “The Father and the Sun.” That young rapper, who walks into the studio to record his verse on crutches after allegedly being shot multiple times, is none other than Fetty Wap! Jamal seems unconvinced at first, and criticizes his father for patronizing him about how he “disappeared” and entered rehab after getting shot. Jamal reminds Lucious that he, unlike Jamal himself or Fetty or many other Empire artists, producers or agents, has never been shot so he has no authority to judge anyone on this.
Nevertheless, the father-son collaboration between Lucious and Jamal appears to go smoothly in the end, partly thanks to Lucious’ confession that he is simply tired of fighting his middle son on everything, and partly due to Lucious’s mother Leah Walker (Leslie Uggams), who reminds him that despite all the evil Lucious has brought into the world, he also managed to bring a “light” into by having Jamal. Following an unexpectedly tender moment between Leah and Lucious where she shows him an old photo of his late father, Joe Walker, Lucious tells Jamal he thinks he should include that picture of his grandfather as a visual aid for his songs from “When Cookie met Lucious.”
Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), meanwhile, is utterly distraught by the loss of his daughter, and just like last time, takes to Empire Xstream to vent his frustration in a tirade about how worried he is about Bella. In his rant, Hakeem angrily states how convinced he is that her removal by Child Protective Services was carried out by the Dubois, and then goes on a long rap about how he will always fight to defend his family’s honor and help bring Bella home to become the best father he can be.
A lawyer for the Dubois asks them if they want to issue libel sanctions against Hakeem, but Mrs. Dubois says they shouldn’t bother. After Angelo asks his mother, still unsure of the truth, whether she had anything to do with Bella’s forced removal from the Lyons’ home, Mrs. Dubois denies this but reiterates her hatred for the Lyons’ “degrading lyrics and thuggish behavior,” adding they are a “disgrace to the human race.” Shortly afterward, a mob of angry protestors approach Angelo and his mother yelling “Free Bella” and carrying signs reading the same message, in a scene quite reminiscent of a Black Lives Matter protest, to be honest.
There were two absolutely crazy scenes this episode, however, that cannot go unmentioned and that will surely spur an even greater war between the Lyons and Dubois, and even among the Lyons themselves. First, Andre goes to visit Anika (Grace Gealy-Byers) and violently pins her to the couch and nearly chokes her. He vows to make Anika pay for killing his and Rhonda’s baby, saying he refuses to do anything to help save Bella in retaliation. This was perhaps the most grueling scene in the episode, as it involved a lot of screaming, crying and violent behavior. Andre is clearly off his meds and has gone full bipolar after becoming frustrated with the fallout of the Vegas deal, otherwise he wouldn’t have reopened this old wound of the ghost of Rhonda urging him to kill Anika to “make her pay” for murdering their unborn child. A sobbing Anika tells Andre she deserves to suffer, but Andre doesn’t kill her, and instead leaves her lying shaken on her couch.
Andre also ruins his relationship with Nessa after she realizes he never cared about her, and was simply pursuing the Vegas deal for himself. After Nessa accuses Andre of this and calls him “crazy,” he does not deny it. Perhaps the oldest Lyon son truly is completely mentally ill and not merely bipolar, who knows? Or maybe Andre just doesn’t care about certain things anymore.
Cookie then pulls one of her biggest revenge moves of all time with some help from Shine and his Philadelphia drugs-and-weapons thug friends. She and Shine and his gang kidnap Angelo, tie him to a chair, and beat him half to death in order to get him to confess he and his mother were behind Bella’s abduction. However, Angelo begs for mercy and, utterly terrified, assures Cookie he and his mother had nothing to do with this. Cookie remains unconvinced, and Shine and his men continue to attack Angelo after he refuses to disclose his mother’s location when Cookie asks him for it, saying this could all end if they simply talk to her.
A bruised and bloodied Angelo is finally set free and returns home, where his mother patches him up and where he vows to go to the police to get them to throw all the Lyons in jail. His mother tells him not to worry, and Mrs. Dubois then reveals that she has abducted Bella in revenge for the Lyons having Angelo mercilessly beaten.
Cookie tells Lucious that she has planned for Jamal to perform of his “When Cookie Met Lucious album” in Las Vegas and to open a casino there as part of Empire’s new deal, but Lucious refuses this and says it’s too late because he and Jamal already have a whole “Inferno” show planned in Sin City that will include their “Father and Sun” track. Giuliana (Nia Long), whom Cookie is still convinced is simply attempting to steal all of the Lyons’ Empire assets right from under their noses just like she did years prior, is again left betrayed by Lucious. “I did 17 years [in jail] for you,” she reminds Lucious, heartbroken. “Thanks, but I’ll take it from here,” Giuliana replies while lovingly embracing Lucious with a devilish smile that makes you want to hate her so much it’s insane.
Clearly, this bloodbath between the Lyons and Dubois has reached near-Godfather or The Sopranos levels, proving that any family can turn into a violent gang of thugs when tested.
Will the Lyons ever get Bella back? Or will the Dubois throw them in jail first? Will Andre take down Lucious once and for all, or will Cookie beat him to it by attempting to exact revenge on him and Giuliana? Will Jamal get to perform in Las Vegas alongside his father?
Watch “Empire” on FOX next Wednesday at 9 pm EST to find out!