Ploumis Reviews Empire (2015, created by: Lee Daniels and Danny Strong). I can’t think of a better tag line for this show than “No Apologies” (I do what I want and say what I want with no apologies) – the theme song. A true gangster story feathered with elements of Shakespearean rivalry and modern controversy. It’s juicy stuff – real talk. Not in a predictable soap opera kind of way, but in an “OMG” sort of way. It’s time for a new kind of story on prime time. A story “with no apologies” when it comes to addressing issues like the media’s outspokenness against our sitting president, how safe an African American ISN’T growing up today, industry greed, bigotry, interracial relationships and success. Considering how current all of the above mentioned themes are, it’s shocking that there aren’t more TV dramas that exploit these themes in their own story lines. I welcome this necessary change with open arms. Let’s talk about what needs to be talked about. Let’s show the world what they need to see. And hey, if we can tell a great story along with it, well then…Empire might really have a chance.
Cookie is back to business
The show kicks off with Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) fresh out of prison and ready to reclaim the life she gave up for her family – and more specifically reclaim her half of the company. Cookie’s ex-husband, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), is the head of Empire records – a position he acquired with Cookie’s help. Not only was Cookie Lucious’ producer in the early days of his career, but Cookie’s drug money started Empire Records. When the couple was busted for selling drugs, she took the hit. Cookie spent seventeen years in prison away from her husband and three sons. Now that she’s back the family wants nothing to do with her! Well, hell hath no fury . . . and Cookie is set on getting hers.
Brother against brother
But that’s not all, folks. Lucious has just been diagnosed with ALS, and has been given three years to live. What’s more, all this happens right before Empire records is about to go public. In order to make sure his company and legacy survive, Lucious must groom one of his three sons to take over (mind you, his sons don’t know he’s sick). This creates intense sibling rivalry between all the brothers.
The oldest Andre Lyon (Trai Byers) isn’t a musician, but a board member. This makes him the least likely heir, so his plan is to keep setting the other two brothers against each other until they destroy one another. The middle son, Jamal, is arguably the most talented and driven of all the brothers and the one with the biggest heart. However, he refuses to take any help/money from his father with his (Jamal’s) album. Jamal is a homosexual, and after being told by his father that he is not allowed to “come out,” he starts working with Cookie on his music. The youngest son Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) is Lucious’ favorite and first choice to succeed him. Hakeem is a spoiled “I’m too hot for everything” rapper who takes whatever he wants – but always has to run back to dad when he’s in over his head.
Riveting story line and soundtrack
Just as Nashville and Glee introduced new musical stars and great voices, so does Empire present talent from the worlds of rap and hip-hop. The intense story line, combined with the show’s electrifying music, caused Empire to be picked up for a second season after only two episodes.
And yeah…that’s a big deal.
Please check out this show. As I said earlier, as far as diversity and genuine representation on television are concerned– Empire is important for us all right now!