TV Show Review

TV Review: EMPIRE: Season 2, Episode 16: The Lyon Who Cried Wolf [Fox]

Jussie Smollett Bryshere Y. Gray Terrence Howard Empire The Lyon Who Cried Wolf

Fox‘s Empire The Lyon Who Cried Wolf TV Show ReviewEmpire: Season 2, Episode 16: The Lyon Who Cried Wolf has the emotional tug and the narrative weight to pull off one of the most compelling episodes and beautiful musical pieces of this season.

The episode starts off with Andre (Trai Byers) and Leah (Leslie Uggams) playing Bingo at her home in Philly. Cute, right? Maybe not so much, because it becomes apparent pretty quickly that she’s a little out of it and that she doesn’t know who he is. “I had the voice but they never gave me a chance. They didn’t want me to…” she says, and then pauses. “Your eyes. Are you kin to me?”

Meanwhile, the other two Lyon bros are in the studio collaborating on a song about how “I don’t see no competition”… aimed at Lucious (Terrence Howard) and the ASAs, perhaps? Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) certainly enjoys it, although she’s a little weirded out by Hakeem’s (Bryshere Y. Gray) suggestion that Tiana (Serayah) sing the female part over Laura (Jamila Velazquez). Hakeem’s very comforting response: “Laura gets it.”

Lucious, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), and Derek Major (Tobias Truvillion), who will produce the ASAs, are discussing the Lyon family anthem; Cookie thinks it should be an “evolution of the Lyons” sort of thing, but D Major says it should be based solely off of one of Jamal’s (Jussie Smollett) songs as he is the most nominated member of the family. Cookie loves it, and when she tries to assert her power as co-CEO, Lucious quickly tells her his definition of co-pilot: “I will call you if I need a bathroom break.” To which Cookie straight up tells Lucious that he’s fat and that he lives in the past, not the present.

The present has its own problems, though. Jamal doesn’t want to share the stage with a remix because he was set on performing a new solo. Thankfully, D Major gives him a reality check: he’s lucky to be on that stage at all. But Hakeem has the same beef, and Jamal won’t back off that easily.

Jamal storms into Derek’s recording session to demand the right to sing something new, and Derek gets intimidating. He makes everyone else leave and close the door. Just when we think Jamal is screwed, Derek makes everybody at home freak the heck out when, instead of going in for a punch, he goes in for a kiss. Cue the steamy love (or something else) scene, where our eyes just get bigger and bigger as these two are intercut with Hakeem and Tiana’s recording session, which is clearly giving Hakeem some unfaithful ideas. Tiana knows it, too; she teases Hakeem about his commitments, saying the Hakeem she knew would be at the club instead of worrying about his fiance and his baby.

Nevertheless, Hakeem keeps his word and shows up at family ASA rehearsal, which of course is doomed from the beginning between power disputes and artistic disagreements. Then Andre blows everybody’s mind by bringing in Leah and telling the rest of the family about how Lucious has been hiding her. “Can’t lie your way out of this one, pop,” he says. Lucious gets out of there, and fast. When D Major shows up to help out and finds out that he’s not needed, he scrams too, much to Jamal’s disappointment.

Cookie and Lucious talk out the Leah situation: “I didn’t lie about anything,” Lucious lies. Turns out Leah did put a gun to her head- it just didn’t have any bullets. Then she was shipped off to mental health care, and she was living on the streets when Lucious found her again. At that point he didn’t have the money to take care of her, so he decided the best thing was for her to “stay dead.”

The lying continues as Hakeem and Laura get into a fight about the Tiana song, and Hakeem totally lies when he says that the producers pushed for Tiana and he could do nothing to stop them. Laura backs down, saying that she trusts Hakeem but not Tiana. Honestly, should she really be trusting anyone?

Speaking of trust issues… Andre believes that Leah should stay with him and Rhonda, but Lucious seems to have convinced Cookie that Leah really is too dangerous to be around. They try to hustle her back to Philly, but Andre catches them and tells Leah that she needs to stay with him. Leah wants Lucious to come, and when he does he enlists in the help of the maid Juanita (Claudette Burchett) to watch Leah constantly; as we can see, Leah does her best not to take her medications.

That night, Derek Major shows up at Jamal’s place and tries to pick up from where they left off last time they were alone. Admirably, Jamal stops him: “I try damn hard to walk in my truth,” he says. D Major isn’t out and he won’t acknowledge Jamal as anything but a professional partner in public. Sadly, Jamal says that kind of relationship won’t work for him and tells Derek to go.

In other news, Candace (Vivica A. Fox) has had Carol’s (Tasha Smith) kids while Carol goes through rehab, and now the two of them meet. Carol asks Candace to hold on to her kids just a little bit longer, until she can come clean to Cookie about the fact that she helped Lucious murder some people while Cookie was in prison. Like the two intelligent women they are, Candace and Carol have this conversation in public and in broad daylight, and we see that somebody important overhears them.

At the same time, Anika (Grace Gealey) and Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) are hanging out at Baby HQ, where Rhonda and Andre have donated all of their baby things to Anika; this way when they try again, Rhonda says, they’ll have a fresh start. Then a big box almost falls on Rhonda and she gets pushed out of the way, which suddenly reminds her of another time she got pushed out of the way… Now she thinks that maybe her fall down the stairs wasn’t an accident after all.

The past gives us more questions as Lucious and Leah share a moment at the piano that’s so sweet, it almost makes us wonder whether Lucious could have been a better man if his mother had been in his life. Now, Leah asks Lucious whether he believes her that she’s no longer sick. Like the good son he is, he totally evades response.

It seems that Lucious may be changing, though, because he shows up to the next family rehearsal bringing Leah’s melody with him. He says that they all need to be honest, “unless you’re scared.” Cue, in my opinion, the best piece of music Empire has given us, followed by a truly heartfelt moment from Lucious: “I’m still your father. And you’re still my first love. And y’all are still our kids.”

Later, Carol runs into Tariq (Morocco Omari) at the same bar where he had overheard her and Candace confessing that morning. Tariq puts on a little pressure for Carol to have a drink, but Carol goes for a cranberry juice, at which point we get a glimpse of Tariq’s FBI badge hidden in his wallet. More on this to come, surely.

Finally, Lucious, Jamal, and Hakeem perform Chasing the Sky for D Major, who thinks it’s “fire, fire, and more fire.” Cookie’s plan has worked and the Lyon family will get its spot at the ASAs. Then the good news keeps coming, as Jamal decides he can handle D Major’s “deal,” and the two of them decide to give it a try.

Of course, the episode can’t end on that kind of happy note. Leah wakes Lucious up in the middle of the night to feed him the six cakes she has baked for him sans Juanita, who she has fired. Leah forces Lucious to eat his cake and laments that he leaves her alone all day- that everyone leaves her, including Lucious’s father, who was murdered. “I was fine until you were born,” she says. Maybe this is why Lucious didn’t want her around, we realize. Then we start to agree with him when Leah says she’s sorry she was too weak to kill him when she had the chance. We zoom out, the music swelling, Lucious, Leah, and that huge cake knife frozen in the dark.

This episode gave us gripping romantic intrigue, fascinating mother-son dynamics, and killer music. Well done, Empire. We can’t wait until next week.

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About the author

Leah Singerman

Leah writes about life lessons found in unconventional places. She especially likes to draw random connections, think about the things that we all share as humans, and find the important life lessons in seemingly fluffy romantic comedies. Leah’s other interests include Harry Potter, music, and the great outdoors.

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