Friday, December 4, 2015

Empire 2x10 "Et Tu, Brute" (Betrayals) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

"Et Tu, Brute"
Original Airdate: December 2, 2015

So, I missed last week’s review because of Thanksgiving, but I’m back just in time for the midseason finale. Before I dive into this week, here’s what I missed last week when I was eating all the mashed potatoes:

  • Cookie discovered a new sister I hadn’t heard of (was she on this show before?) and wore a fantastic muppet coat to a crack house to find her other sister Carol. 
  • Carol has a dark secret of betrayal she’s keeping from Cookie, but we don’t know what it is.
  • Cookie finally found out her new man is a part of the kidnapping ring that took Hakeem, and he disappeared way too quickly after spending so many episodes on their relationship.
  • And most importantly, Alicia Keys' hair color was a perfect shade of purple. Oh, and she and Jamal kissed.
This week was the midseason finale, so this is the last review before the show picks up again in at the end of March. Twists are fun and a large part of why I love Empire, but the most powerful moments of this episode were the quiet ones.


One of the strongest storylines in a season full of plot twists is Hakeem’s anger at his father. No matter how many ups and downs there are, Hakeem could always be counted on to distrust Lucious. So it came as no surprise that Hakeem would vote against Lucious in a board meeting that set out to remove him as CEO. But the way Empire used flashbacks, dramatic music, and pregnant pauses made it seem like it should be the most dramatic moment in the episode — or season.

Lucious’ pain at losing Empire after sacrificing so much of his life and his soul was much more effective at portraying the gravity of the situation. And even that had an excessive gun — Lucious doesn’t need a gun to be scary, and no one’s life was actually in danger. That moment landed harder than Hakeem’s vote, but it would have landed even better if Empire turned it down a notch and let the characters carry the story alone without drama for the sake of drama.

Speaking of, the camera choices for Rhonda’s fall down the stairs were very in your face. Literally — they were zoomed in on her face as she was falling. It seemed like the shocking camera angles, like the flashbacks and music during the board vote, were a way to indicate that this is a Big Important Moment when the show hadn’t built up enough emotion for those scenes to hit hard enough all on their own. It looks like they are setting up Rhonda and Andre to lose the baby (I hate losing-the-baby storylines). This should be devastating, but it doesn’t have the emotional power it should because it seems like the only person invested in the pregnancy was Rhonda, and only for the attention she got from Lucious. Andre and Rhonda have hardly been allowed to have any time to talk about becoming parents, and the show hasn’t delved much into the interesting contrast between the Lyon’s broken family and starting a new family with a new baby.

It sure looks like Anika pushed Rhonda, and she has been coming over more often (maybe to case their house?), but what does Anika get from this — being the only one in town who is pregnant with a Lyon baby? Right now her motives are unclear, and she is being painted only as a crazy ex.


Jamal and Skye have a great connection. Their chemistry is obvious, and they make great music together, metaphorically and literally. Their kiss was sweet, and it seems like Jamal could really be into Skye. The show attempted to show Jamal grappling with the idea of being attracted to a woman after he built so much of his public image on being gay, but then their relationship was over as quickly as it started.

Someone else who made a quick entrance is Camilla, who is back after disappearing on Hakeem last season after Lucious offered her money to get out of their lives forever. As Cookie noted, she didn’t take the money, but she still left Hakeem high and dry. Apparently to move on to Mimi, who she is now married to. I assume that after their whirlwind romance, their honeymoon was full of revenge plotting and margaritas.

Mimi turned on Lucious and set him up to be removed as CEO. Since Mimi started her career at Empire by turning on Cookie, this shouldn’t be a surprise to Lucious, but of course it is because he considers himself invincible. Mimi and Camilla’s plan involved manipulating almost every member of the Lyon family, but easily the person most under Camilla’s thumb is Hakeem. Hakeem has been so interesting to watch this season as he came into his own and worked hard to make something from nothing with his mom at Lyon Dynasty. But with Camilla’s influence, he’s ready to throw it all away to punish his father and have another shot at Empire.

All of these twists could set up a killer back half of the season, if Empire doesn’t implode in on itself first. With Hakeem back at Empire, it brings back the tension of all the Lyons fighting for the same thing that was so powerful in season one. But first it needs to keep up the twists while allowing character moments to breathe.

Cookie Crumbs:
  • I love that Cookie lives by her own dress code, no matter the occasion. She wore a slinky oil-black dress to a prison and giant pink fur coat to a crack house. 
  • Once again, the Pepsi commercial was so effective at being a commercial that I thought it was a real commercial and not part of the show. I am glad this Pepsi storyline is over, and I hope we don’t have as obvious of product placement in the future — all it did was bring the momentum of the episode to a halt.
  • That’s all I have folks, what did you think? See you in a few months.


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