I was going to tell you about how this week's episode of Empire focuses on honesty and giving voice to your inner conflict. For Hakeem, that means admitting to his mother that he feels she loves Jamal the most, and that moment of vulnerability allows Cookie and her youngest son to start to develop a relationship. In Jamal's case, it means altering the lyrics in one of Lucious's old songs to come out during a public performance. And Andre lays bare his insecurity to Lucious - he's tired of being the family outcast because his talents aren't musical. The results of all these moments of honest are mixed, but there's a certain truth to that.
I was also going to discuss Empire's notion of family. If Lucious has one consistent element, it's that he wants his business to be a family enterprise. The legacy he craves isn't just about money or acclaim; he wants to be the patriarch of a dynasty. The problem is that Lucious keeps pushing family away at every turn. Andre's not trustworthy because he has a white wife. Jamal refuses to bow to Lucious's homophobia. Vernon - who, you might remember, arranged for Lucious's whole murder problem to go away - has doubtful loyalties according to Lucious. Anika's hurt because Lucious slept with Cookie; Cookie's pissed that Lucious claimed he'd end things with Anika and then broke that promise. (Hakeem's fine, I guess, because they've only got an hour.) The central conflict for Lucious isn't facing ALS, or shepherding Empire through the public offering, or even choosing a son to be his successor. It's the tension between his family-first mentality and his inability to accept and actually love the members of that family.
But we're not going to talk about those things, because everything in this episode is overshadowed by M. Emmet Walsh, forever known to me as The Man Who Hates Cans.
M. Emmet Walsh plays an old man in a wheelchair with a young wife who happens to be a member of Empire's board. Andre and Rhonda have dinner with these two because they need the wife's vote so Andre can be named temporary CEO in the event that Lucious is incapacitated. Rhonda's job is to be all sexy and cozy with M. Emmet Walsh to grease the wheels. During dinner, M. Emmet Walsh brings up The Theory of Everything, and that leads to three very unusual paths.
- Rhonda doesn't know who Stephen Hawking is.
- Rhonda and Andre are concerned to learn that not all ALS is fatal, in case you were worried they had an ounce of kindness between them.
- Stephen Hawking can still sustain an erection, and so, by his own implication, can M. Emmet Walsh, and oh man we're talking about M. Emmet Walsh's dick albeit in a fictional framework shit just got so real
CRUMBLING EMPIRE IMMINENT WARNING
3. Rhonda. Made a drunken ass of herself because she had to flirt with an old man in a wheelchair, which is not a great look. Given that Lucious apparently hates her and Andre's not spiraling upward, she's running out of footholds fast.
2. Andre. Having had to watch both of his brothers work with his mother and father on a Lyon family song and subsequently failed to position himself as interim CEO, Andre is .ast seen in an Empire recording booth holding a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. (The gun isn't loaded.) Playing during this is "The Great Pretender" by The Platters. Nobody ever said the show should be called Subtlepire.
1. Lucious. Hakeem's the only one left even slightly on his side, and that may change soon now that Cookie and Hakeem are developing a relationship. Anika's on the warpath to Judd Nelson, maybe to tell him that Lucious's clean bill of health letter is a fraud. How did a guy so bad at maintaining relationships AND making smart long-term decisions even build this business?
COOKIE'S WEAPON OF CHOICE
None, really. Maybe she's just fully acclimated to life outside of prison, because Cookie lets Naomi Campbell mess with her youngest son AND the track she's trying to assemble and all she gets is a stern talking to. It's a White Party, Cookie. This is the perfect time to throw marinara sauce.
A SCENE THAT I IMAGINE WAS CUT FROM THIS WEEK'S EPISODE
M. EMMET WALSH: Jeez, they were awful.
M. EMMET WALSH'S TV WIFE: I know. I can't believe she puked at the dinner table.
M. EMMET WALSH: And what's wrong with talking about Stephen Hawking's sexual ability? I think it's inspiring.
M. EMMET WALSH'S TV WIFE: You're right. I just wish you wouldn't bring it up all the time. Everyone knows you're just using it to talk about yourself.
M. EMMET WALSH: I don't talk about it all the time!
M. EMMET WALSH'S TV WIFE: Yes, you do. You did it at Target the other day. And at the pool supply store. And on the phone with the bank. Which was especially weird given that you were talking to an automated menu.
M. EMMET WALSH: AUTOMATED MENUS CAN GET HARD, TOO!