Fox‘s Empire Past Is Prologue TV Review. Empire, Season 2, Episode 18: Past Is Prologue is aptly named, as every driving force in this episode comes from ghosts or flames of the past that just can’t stay past.
We start off with Jamal’s (Jussie Smollett) slightly overwhelming homecoming from the hospital, which includes a gorgeous musical performance by Veronica (Veronika Bozeman). Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) wants this to be a duet between her and Jamal at his wedding, but Jamal is skeptical.
“Aren’t y’all tired? It’s the same damn cycle all the time. Just death and incarceration. We could change that cycle, and I ain’t singing again until we do,” he says. He believes that Freda is a victim, and so is everybody else in the family. Leah (Kelly Rowland) chimes in at this moment, saying that they’re all paying for the crimes of Lucious’s father. Lucious (Terrence Howard) has a quick flashback to hiding and watching his father (Jeremy Isaiah Earl) fight somebody. Looks like Lucious may not be telling the whole truth about his father’s being a cop, and Leah is a breath away from blabbing about that, just as, we learn, she was a breath away from blabbing to reporters last week before Thirsty (Andre Royo) caught her.
There’s no time to waste wondering about Lucious’s past right now, though. Anika (Grace Gealey) has been approached by the feds, and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) says it’s because of Tariq. This conversation is interrupted by Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), who walks in and immediately starts choking Anika. It seems that she has put two and two together about her fall, but when she looks to Andre (Trai Byers) to support her accusation he doesn’t deliver. Apologizing to everyone else, he shoos her from the room. Apparently even though he was having visions of her being pushed, he has chalked those up to mis-calibrated medication and now he doesn’t believe her. Rhonda brings up the time she stuck up for Andre with Vernon and comments on Andre’s “killer instinct”… emphasis on the killer. Andre says it was self defense.
Speaking of “defense”… Lucious reveals to Cookie that, while working for Tommy Devoni and Rosey Perkins, he killed somebody. Shine Johnson was involved too, and that’s who the feds were questioning Anika about. Cookie doesn’t receive the news well; she thinks that the “past needs to stay buried.”
Nevertheless, Cookie pays Shine (Xzibit) a visit, trying to convince him that he and Lucious should have each other’s backs, but Shine is bitter because he thinks he should have profited from Lucious’s records. Now he wants something different: a record deal for his nephew (whose music does nothing for Cookie), to be recorded by Hakeem, and an invitation to Hakeem and Laura’s wedding.
Lucious goes to visit Freda (Bre-z) in jail. He tells her that she broke his heart, that she shouldn’t have listened to Carol’s accusations that Lucious killed Freda’s father. This isn’t why he’s there, though; he wants to help Jamal. Because Freda is Freda, she just spits out a heartfelt rap about how much Jamal means to her. Lucious records the song and later visits Jamal to give it to him. “I ended the cycle today,” he says. “She ain’t mad no more.” It looks like Jamal’s music boycott won’t last very long after all; as soon as he hears Freda’s words, he begins to work on a song of his own.
Meanwhile, Hakeem has his own ideas about ending the cycle. When Laura’s dad (Dale Rivera) expresses concern about Shine Johnson’s presence at the wedding, given his reputation for danger, Hakeem says that he’s marrying Laura to get out of his parents’ past and to start his own family, which is his way of breaking the cycle. Does anybody else think that he’s more in love with Laura’s family than he is with her?
That’s not our greatest problem, though, because Anika is really freaking out about the feds coming after her. Lucious, Cookie, and Hakeem find her teetering on the edge of a balcony at Empire, saying, “I’d rather kill myself than be forced to snitch on Lucious.” Cookie, like the boss that she is, talks Anika down, forcing her to remember that she’s carrying a child who makes her one of the Lyon family now.
We catch up with Jamal and Derek (Tobias Truvillion) at a rehearsal for one of Jamal’s new songs. Jamal is so energized by the music that he gets out of his wheelchair, even starting to dance a little bit until the pain is too much. It looks like that old Jamal spirit is back, though, and it also looks like Derek is really feeling it.
Love is in the air, it seems. Lucious and Cookie have a drink and a thought-provoking talk about their relationship. The force is strong with Lucious, as he tells Cookie he’s nothing without her, and that there’s a reason he never remarried. Cookie dodges his words, though, responding that maybe they can talk about it later. Nobody can deny their chemistry- or all of the awful things Lucious has done to the family that Cookie works so hard to protect.
Finally, it’s time for the wedding. Lucious’s old friend Rosey (Cedric Young) makes an appearance, wreaking havoc in the calmest way possible: he flirts with Cookie, questions Hakeem’s readiness to be married, and brings up Jamal’s musical departure from Empire in front of Lucious. His smile is sweet, but Rosey is definitely someone to watch out for. Shine is there too, rolling in with loud music, lots of champagne, and a gaggle of women, immediately showing that he doesn’t belong and he doesn’t care.
After that things happen pretty quickly. A waitress/undercover fed gets to Anika, hands her a court summons, and runs out as violence erupts everywhere, particularly around Shine. Of course all of this happens just as Laura (Jamila Velazquez) enters with her parents, who see this as the last straw where Hakeem’s crazy life is concerned. “This isn’t gonna be my life,” Laura tells Hakeem when he implores her to stay. That’s the end of that.
Lucious is more concerned about Anika. Apparently if he marries her, she won’t have to testify- and the two of them already happen to have a marriage license. There also happens to be an empty wedding they could conveniently adopt. Cookie is pissed, although she can’t admit that feelings are the reason she doesn’t want this to happen. Hakeem is pissed because this was supposed to be his wedding and Anika is carrying his baby. Jamal is pissed because this is the opposite of ending the cycle. Andre, though, knows that “the cycle will end when it’s ready to end.” Obviously that’s not right now.
Cookie can’t handle this situation, and in a very un-Cookie move, she runs away. Lucious and Anika go through the ceremony, after which Lucious utters to Jamal a syllable filled with so much hate and pain: “Sing.” Jamal goes on stage, but when he looks out at the faces of his brothers in so much hurt, he can’t do it.
Lucious and his clan leave the ceremony and- shocking!- run into none other than Tariq. Leah casually reveals that Tariq is Lucious’s half-brother; they had the same father, the one who Lucious has been seeing in flashbacks. Another flashback shows us that Lucious watched his father get shot and die the moment after finding out that Tariq was his son.
The episode ends with Anika on the balcony again, this time staring contemplatively- until Rhonda runs out of nowhere and starts beating her up (twice in one episode, Rhonda? Really?). The two of them struggle over the balcony’s edge, and Andre comes out just in time to see one of them- we don’t see which- fall.
That ends another season of excitement, and there are so many questions left to be answered. Who fell? What will happen between Lucious and Cookie? How will Hakeem and Jamal recover from their respective shots taken? That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s going to be a long wait for season 3.