Friday, November 20, 2015

Empire 2x08 "My Bad Parts" (The Joy of Cola — Sorta) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

"My Bad Parts"
Original Airdate: November 18, 2015

There was a lot going on this week on Empire. Somehow a crazy, desperate pregnant ex-fiancée, a war between Cookie and and Lucious, and a rap battle all fit into the extended Pepsi commercial that was this episode. Let’s take a look at what happened, in order of worst to best.


Anika. Girl. Where are your people? Do you have no one in your life who would talk sense into you about routinely hooking up with the son of your sociopathic ex-fiancé? I wanted Anika to be more involved with the story, but this is not the best way to go about it. I do not see a world where Anika actually considers telling Hakeem about this baby. Even if she wanted to keep it — which I doubt, but is possible — I can’t imagine why she would want to keep Hakeem in her life. I also don’t believe for one second she would forget she was pregnant and almost take a drink when she was in his apartment.

Anika used to be a sharp, crafty, powerful woman who was as manipulative and goal-oriented as Lucious and Cookie. Now she is just a crazy ex who is maybe kidnapping Hakeem’s new girlfriend. “Crazy” by itself is not an actual character trait or storyline.

It wasn’t just Anika who seemed unlike herself. It looked to me like all of the women on Empire were suffering from some out-of-character issues. Rhonda was telling Anika how pregnancy had the added bonus of softening up Lucious, but why would Rhonda want Lucious dropping by their house unannounced? In every other episode this season, Rhonda has been sick of the Lyon shenanigans and ready to escape from that family as soon as possible, so it doesn’t make sense that she would be thrilled Lucious is dropping by to chat.

Also, Cookie seemed pretty one-note this episode. Last season, when Cookie was with Malcolm, she was so thoughtful about their relationship and how it proceeded, but that has flown out the window with this new guy. He is in her business meetings and fighting with her son, and I can’t believe she would put up with him for one more second after he pushed Hakeem. And I know she’s mad at Lucious, but it’s not very fun to watch them do nothing but yell and fight. They are better when they work together, even under protest. Thankfully, Jamal is setting up a situation where they work together to produce his album, so hopefully this problem will be resolved soon.


What’s going on with Mimi? Do you know? Never mind, I don’t think it actually matters. For reasons unknown, Mimi’s personal life is causing issues in Lucious’ plan to acquire a streaming service in a plotline that is largely uninteresting.


When they cut to the Pepsi commercial pitch in Empire’s boardroom, it was so convincing that I thought the show had gone to break. Instead, the show is introducing a plotline where Jamal competes to pitch a song that that is featured in Pepsi commercials. It was fun and interesting to watch Jamal put together a song and combine Lucious and Cookie’s music with a bunch of live musicians, and I like the song that he ended up with. But it definitely still felt like a giant Pepsi commercial, which is what it is.


The rap battle was quite a production and used some of the music video elements Empire has had fun with this season. But even with all that production and build up, it wasn’t as good as Jamal’s battle with Black Rambo last season, which was much less produced and much more character-focused. Both battles, though, allowed their performers to shine and do what they do best. I can see that Freda is good, and I wasn’t convinced that Hakeem could outshine her in this format. But he took Jamal’s advice and did some songs that played up to the crowd and was able to pull off a win.

Hakeem winning was really the only possible outcome to move the plot in the right direction. Now that Hakeem has won, Cookie gets to keep Hakeem at Dynasty and still help produce Jamal’s record at Empire. This brings the family closer together, which is what needed to happen all along. Still, it was still fun to watch Freda and Hakeem perform, and it was satisfying to see Hakeem say he’s dropping the Lyon name in order to distance himself further from his father. It’s a relief that Hakeem is aware of how terrible his father is and that he won’t let it go.


Any time the brothers can cut through the issues with their family and have quality time together, the show shines. Jamal and Hakeem have a special relationship, and it was great to see their emotional connection — something Empire lacks when it focuses too much on crazy plot developments.

Cookie Crumbs:
  • Hakeem, why are you checking your phone when you are kissing your girl? Put that away.
  • Hakeem is right a lot of the time, but the rest of the time he is just the worst.
  • Once again, everyone should listen to Becky. Lucious has definitely gone too far in this rap battle and should ease up on his sons. Pushing Hakeem farther and farther just isn’t working. Try a different tactic.
  • Cookie’s best line: “I missed my spa mani pedi to come and deal with this?”


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