Memorable performances, shocking decisins elevate second season of ‘Empire’

by: NICOLE TRUGILLO/Editor-in-Chief

In the world of hip-hop, anything can happen.

“Empire” premiered their second season on Sept. 23 after leaving the first season off with cliffhangers and jaw-dropping performances by the cast.

The second season takes places three months after the arrest of Empire Entertainment head Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard). Cookie (Taraji Henson), Lucious’ ex-wife, arranges a Free Lucious concert in his support. But really, Cookie, her eldest son, Andre (Trai Byers), her youngest son, Hakeem (Bryshere Gray), and Lucious’ ex-fiance Anika (Grace Gealey) are getting ready to take over the company from Jamal (Jussie Smollett), the middle son.

Their hostile takeover is missing an investor, so they talk to Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei), who is the final key to their takeover. Meanwhile, Lucious is running Empire from inside the jailhouse, with the help of Jamal. Frank Gathers (Chris Rock) is in prison because of Cookie last season. Frank threatens Cookie, but Lucious bribes Frank’s bodyguards to get rid of Frank. The first episode ends with Jamal revealing to Cookie, Andre, Hakeem, and Anika that Mimi is working for Lucious and isn’t going to take their offer.

With nowhere to go, Cookie decides to start her own record label named Lyon Dynasty. But heads collide when Anika and Cookie argue over the leaks of Hakeem’s new album that he did himself. Hakeem then decides to create an all-girls group for Lyon Dynasty to prove he can be more than just an artist. Hakeem soon becomes attracted to the lead singer, Valentina (Becky G).

In prison, Lucious hires a new lawyer named Thirsty Rowlings (Andre Royo), and he helps him record a track in prison and also wins the hearing against prosecutor Roxanne Ford (Tyra Ferrell). Even though Lucious is free on bail, he still isn’t allowed to run Empire. Lucious later tries to reunite his family for dinner, but Cookie doesn’t forgive him for shooting her cousin and still tries to launch Lyon Dynasty.

Lucious then tries to manipulate Anika into working for him, but she runs to Cookie instead. Anika and Cookie then sabotage a party for Lucious at his club with a performance by Hakeem and Timbaland, which makes good publicity for Lyon Dynasty. Andre and Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) announce to the family that she is pregnant, hoping that Lucious will take him back.

While trying to produce his girl group, Hakeem is still involved with Valentina, and the girls keep fighting. Lucious tries to sign Frank’s daughter, Freda (Bre-Z), for Empire, but fails because she doesn’t trust him. Lucious ends up getting back at Lyon Dynasty by buying Apex Radio to control the music outlet and signs Valentina to Empire, all while having flashbacks of his bipolar mother, Leah Walker (Kelly Rowland).

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Roxanne is still trying to put away Lucious for the murder of Bunky, so the FBI raids Empire, Lucious’ house, and Dynasty. Lucious and Mimi think it’s a good idea for Hakeem and Jamal to produce a music video, but the brothers end up fighting. Andre wants to come back to Empire, but Lucious declines. Andre then promise his father that he will make the charges and everything go away.

Andre tells Rhonda that they need to dig up Vernon’s body, since he was the only witness to the confession of Lucious killing Bunky. Andre and Rhonda are in the process of digging up Vernon, but are soon caught by Lucious and Thirsty. Lucious is relieved and takes Andre back.

The charges against Lucious are dropped since Vernon’s body is discovered. He ends up returning to Empire and signs Freda to his old label, Gutter Life Records. Hakeem finds a new lead singer named Laura (Jamila Velaquez) after discovering her at a bar. Dynasty signer Tiana (Serayah McNeill) is robbed from a gang who tries to extort money from Dynasty. Jamal’s career is taking off as he is now working with Ne-Yo and plans a tour with him. Andre is getting ready to be baptized, but first has to confess all his wrong doings to his family.

While going for a run, Hakeem is abducted, but he escapes after the ransom drop and runs straight to Anika’s house. He is then traumatized, unable to perform. He soon develops feelings for Laura, while Anika develops feelings for him. Cookie tries to organize a concert with the help of Laz (Adam Rodriguez), who she develops feelings for. It’s soon revealed that he’s part of the same crew that abducted Hakeem.

Lucious and Mimi want to merge Empire with Jago’s (Patrick Mulvey) streaming business, Swiftstream. Jago increases the price, but Lucious goes through with the deal. Anika considers suicide, but she finds out she is pregnant with Hakeem’s baby. Hakeem tells Anika that he loves Laura, so she goes off the deep end and kidnaps her. Freda challenges Hakeem through a rap battle, and Hakeem wins while announcing he’s dropping his last name.

Cookie finds out that Laz is a member of the gang that abducted Hakeem, and Lucious takes care of it. Lucious brings in Skye Summers (Alicia Keys) for Jamal’s new album, and they end up getting close. He later explains to Skye that he is still gay, and she understands.

Later, the nominations for the American Sound Awards are announced. Jamal has many nominations, while Hakeem has none. Lucious announces his new streaming services, while Mimi introduces her wife Camilla (Naomi Campbell). Camilla tells Hakeem the reason for her disappearance and convinces him to reign Empire with her. Mimi calls a board vote to remove Lucious as CEO, and with Hakeem’s vote, he is no longer CEO. The last scene of the season shows Rhonda being pushed down the stairs by an unknown intruder.

“Empire” returns on March 30, and I am sure that their ratings will go up even more. The second season had higher ratings than the first, and that’s hard to accomplish with TV shows. If “Empire” continues to shock and “wow” the audience with their storylines and great musical performances, I guarantee the show will be on for years to come.

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