Thursday, November 5, 2015

Empire 2x06 "A High Hope for a Low Heaven" (Post-Traumatic Stress) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

"A High Hope for a Low Heaven"
Original Airdate: November 4, 2015

A lot of TV shows can fall into the trap of forgetting past misdeeds as a way to move on from them, but not Empire. (Okay, sometimes Empire.) Something I’ve really appreciated about the show this season though is that it isn’t ignoring the consequences of its crazy past. Andre has had to face the demons he literally buried when he dug up Vernon’s body, and Hakeem is dealing with the effects of his kidnapping and having a monster like Lucious for a father. Here are seven things I learned from this week’s Empire.


Yes, Hakeem lost it a little after his kidnapping — who wouldn’t? But as he learned from his parents, who went after his kidnappers in a suit and stilettos, the Lyons keep their heads cool and get stuff done.

When Cookie realized that Hakeem was really in trouble and it wasn’t one of Lucious’ plans, she and Lucious team up to get him back. They don’t even bother to change into more practical kidnapper-catching footwear, which comes in handy when Cookie almost chokes a guy with her five-inch heels. Even amid the panic of worrying about their son, Cookie and Lucious put together a plan and find Hakeem.

Later, Hakeem and Cookie show up to a meeting with his kidnappers to broker a deal. Hakeem isn’t exactly ready for this and is still in the middle of some post-traumatic stress, which leads him to pull a gun on his kidnappers and think hard about pulling the trigger. But Cookie maintained her great reasoning skills and love for her son, and got him to put the gun down — only for her to pick it back up and take over the threatening. Cookie went from concerned mother to fearsome mother in no time at all, and I have to think that Hakeem was taking notes on how to bounce back.

Later on at his performance, Hakeem still showed effects of struggling with his kidnapping, but Laura helped get him to focus, and he was able to put on a great show. Hakeem may not be as collected as Lucious and Cookie, but he is following in their footsteps when it comes to handling crises and accomplishing his goals.


... Just kidding. Lucious is the worst. The best parenting he has done in weeks was making sure Jamal stayed home while they went after his brother’s kidnappers. Later, Lucious offered a track to Hakeem only to turn around and give it to his new protégé, who he is also trying to manipulate. (Watch out, Frida, or you’ll end up just as messed up as his actual family.) And that’s actually one of the least skeevy things Lucious did in this episode.

The most skeevy thing was using his son’s kidnapping as a way to manipulate Hakeem into rejoining Empire. And didn’t he look disappointed when Hakeem pulled it together on stage, rather than glad his son could get it together for this big opportunity?


Hakeem has had enough of Lucious, and he’s not falling for his tricks anymore. Hakeem doesn’t accept Lucious’ track because he knows that with Lucious, there are always strings attached. Having Hakeem not forgive Lucious makes sense because Hakeem is young, good at holding grudges, and is absolutely right about his father. Nothing good can come from Lucious without something worse coming just around the corner. Every word Lucious says to Hakeem is brutal, and I hope that Hakeem doesn’t let him get into his head, just as he hasn’t let him back into his heart.


Becky is getting it on with J Poppa, Gutter Life’s newest artist and Andre’s new place to pin all his hopes and dreams. Becky is adorably smitten, and J Poppa seems like a pretty stand up guy. She deserves nothing less, and if Andre breaks them up or diminishes Becky’s happiness in anyway, I will end him.

It’s great that Becky is getting more of her own story, and I hope that continues. Why not give her her own episode, or even her own show while we are at it?


Cookie and her new security guard getting together wasn’t exactly a shocker, but it was still satisfying to see Cookie showing up at his apartment and asking for sexy times on her terms.

But based on the tattoo on his back, he is definitely involved with the people who snatched Hakeem, and he’s likely just playing Cookie as part of his plan to extort her. Is there anyone in the world who would be good enough for Cookie? Probably not, but I hope she finds someone better than this guy.


Cheers to Empire for showing people of all ages, body types, and sexual orientations in relationships and hooking up. I ship pretty much everyone all the time (except Michael and Jamal; I’m so glad that’s over), so I’d like to keep seeing more hooking up, please — for everyone except Anika. Anika, girl, what are you doing. I know that your life is falling apart and you’ve lost your man and your job and you’re feeling adrift right now, but the answer is not in Hakeem’s pants. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure if the son of your ex-fiancé shows up on your doorstep with a bloody eye and he tries to kiss you, it’s a giant flashing sign for help, not an actual invitation into his bed. Get it together, leave the teenagers alone, and maybe consider talking to a professional.

I love having Anika around, but her storyline this season has been tenuous at best. Empire needs to figure out a way to get her more connected because keeping her around just to show up when the story needs a random boost is not a strong or smart move.


Andre and Jamal coming together to take care of Hakeem was the strongest part of the episode. The brotherly love between them is so touching and allows them to cut through their parents’ drama and show the real heart of Empire. All of the intense drama in the world would not matter if the relationships on Empire were not at the center. And the more the writers highlight the real love in those relationships, the more the show works. It reminded me of the great elevator scene last season when Jamal and Hakeem helped Andre during a breakdown. Any time the Lyon brothers can band together to overcome their horrible father and fabulous (but still pretty dramatic) mother, it is a victory for them. I cared way more about the boys hugging than I do this new kidnapping gang and extortion plan.

What did you guys think, what was your favorite part –– besides Cookie’s outfit with the yellow skirt and shirt with all the cats?

Cookie Crumbs:
  • Andre wants to only sign people at Gutter Life who are quality of character? That’s pretty rich coming from a murderer. He does not seem like he is in the right headspace to be in charge of this new label. I hope he doesn’t tank J Poppa’s career before it even gets off the ground. 
  • “You put me in charge.” “No, I put you in place.”
  • I’m a little surprised at how much I’m warming up to Hakeem after he was basically the worst last season. It’s been nice to see more of his heart and emotional life, even if he is still sometimes a brat. 
  • Jamal, are you sure that you want Lucious producing you when he only sees you as a “gay artist”? 
  • The contrast of the close, dark shot of Jamal’s kidnappers before cutting to Lucious and Cookie standing in the bright light outside was great. Lucious and Cookie may be standing in the sun at this moment, but that doesn’t mean they always act in ways that should be seen in the light of day.
  • Isn’t it kind of messed up that Cookie sees her son with duct tape on his mouth and she thinks it’s Lucious?


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