Sunday, May 15, 2016

Empire 2x17 Review: “Rise by Sin” (Take a Shot) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

“Rise by Sin”
Original Airdate: May 11, 2016

Let’s ignore for a minute that the ASAs make no sense — has Lucious really never been before? Why did Laura wear a short dress to a clearly very formal event? Why would Jamal tell Freda career-changing news right before an award ceremony is supposed to start? — this was a good episode of Empire. The Lyons finally got to the event they have worked so long and hard for, only to not even make it inside before disaster struck in a terrifically soapy way.


They say it takes an army, and for Lucious that might actually be true. For him to get to the ASAs, he enlists the help of General Thirsty and his squadron, who barricade Lucious’ enemies in a fortress. In this case, Luicous’ enemies are his mother and oldest son, who was trying to sneak his grandmother into the ASAs, and the fortress was a safe room in Lucious’ house. Andre should have known he wouldn’t have gotten away with sneaking anything out of Lucious’ own home, but he tries anyway because his grandmother is a symbol of the family love he didn’t have growing up and he is desperate for it now.

The rest of the family, though, makes it to the awards. Lucious and Cookie have a heart to heart where Lucious says he couldn’t imagine going to the ASAs with anyone but the woman who helped him build his empire. He then gives her a truly gorgeous bracelet, and Cookie excitedly freaks out an appropriate amount.

Jamal goes to the ASAs, too, but not with D-Major. Since he’s not out yet, D-Major denies Jamal anytime anyone else is around. Unfortunately, Lucious walks in the room when Jamal and D-Major are standing suspiciously close to each other, and D-Major loses it. He tells Jamal to get off him, and he tells Lucious to talk to his son. Well, talk to him he does, and Lucious and Jamal have a truly terrible fight for the ages.

I am honestly sort of glad that Lucious has committed to his vile self. Telling Jamal he would celebrate when he dies from AIDS and choking him as he holds up his arm to hit him will hopefully be enough that Jamal doesn’t forgive and forget his father as easily as he has forgiven his transgressions in the past. (I say that, but apparently all of the Lyons have forgotten about Lucious killing dear ol’ Bunky.) Lucious is a good evil character, and I like him best (hate him best?) when he is being terrible. I don’t want him to be redeemed, and I don’t believe him as a character when he does anything good or selfless.

His sons try to be different from him, but they may have more of Lucious in them than they like to think. Hakeem is straight up terrible to Laura. Why does he think her career won’t take off? It’s been like five minutes since she opened for Tiana and because she didn’t immediately become an international superstar he’s ready to tell her she’s dunzo? And he does know that he doesn’t have to obey what the paparazzi ask him to do, right? He did not have to send Laura away so he could have his picture taken alone.

I miss the sweet, good-hearted Laura from before, who was a good contrast to the Lyons. Now whenever she’s on screen it’s for too little time and she comes across as a lot less nuanced. With so little focus on her emotional state, she becomes much more of caricature reacting to Hakeem than a full character on her own.


Since this is the event that the back half of the season has been building toward, of course it goes awry before it even gets started. Once the Lyons assemble on the red carpet, everything begins to fall apart.

Lucious and Cookie are trying to give good sound bites to the press, but it’s hard when their sons keep making going off script. And that’s before Cookie’s off-the-wagon sister shows up drunk.

Jamal uses his time in the press to tell them his album is being shelved and that tonight will be the last night he’s on stage with his family. He then, for some inexplicable reason, decides to tell Freda that they should talk about her leaving Empire without giving her any explanation. Then, with the help of a truth bomb from drunk Aunt Carol, Freda puts it together that Lucious is the one who killed her father. Freda doesn’t hesitate before grabbing a security guard’s gun and heading for Lucious. But Jamal steps out in front, trying to stop her, and gets shot instead.

Taraji sold the heck out this scene and did a stupendous job reacting to Jamal’s injury. From the initial horror on the red carpet to a dazed stupor in the hospital, her acting grounded this episode in emotion. If you had any doubt she deserved her Golden Globe, this scene should put that to rest. Jamal’s fate is left hanging, but I have no doubt he’ll survive. For me, the suspense of whether he lives or not isn’t the point of this plot — what matters is the family’s reactions and how they deal with the consequences.

I like Freda a lot, and I like her and Jamal’s friendship a lot, so I’m sad that there likely won’t be any more scenes of them making music together — at least not any time soon. Empire had a gunshot wound this week and there’s a wedding next week, so surely we’re due for an evil twin or an amnesia plotline. My bet is amnesia for Jamal.

Cookie crumbs:
  • Thanks for being flexible and checking out this review even though it’s a little late. I’ll be on time for the finale this week and what is sure to be the wedding event of the season. 
  • Freda looks so great in her suit. 
  • Does literally every single meeting at Empire get interrupted so a Lyon can have a fight in the boardroom? 
  • Cookie really knows how to work the red carpet. 
  • Oh, also the Feds are after the Lyons again, through Carol and with the help of a snitching Anika. 
  • Rhonda could stand to learn a few things from her in-laws if she wants to trick a murderer into confessing. 
  • Omg WHAT were Cookie’s flip-down sunglasses?


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