"Empire" recap: "False Imposition"

Maybe “False Imposition” is the first episode of Empire that I felt was just a little off. There are a lot of things in things to juggle in this show—this is a soap opera, a drama, and a musical all at the same time. But it seemed like it was a little difficult to handle the relationship dynamics between Cookie and Lucious and Anika and Lucious. To get to the point of it, Cookie and Lucious seemed to get along too well.

However, this could also be a set up to the very clear storyline of Cookie quickly becoming a real threat to Anika’s world (despite Lucious revealing his diagnosis to her in this episode and proposing to her in next week’s promo).

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Anika might have the man Lucious is now, but she’ll never be able to get rid of the feelings Lucious has for Cookie, the woman who knew him when he was nothing. Anika also doesn’t know the life Lucious came from; not everyone knows how to survive a drive-by like it’s nothing and Anika’s debutante skills weren’t able to secure the Titan deal like Cookie and Lucious could.

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Titan, a rapper that is at the top of  the charts in the show’s universe, is currently serving jail time for shooting a gang member that burned his childhood community center, from the rival label. Anika couldn’t get through to his cousin/manager, but Cookie knew how to talk to Titan’s mother, a member of the Nation of Islam, which led to Lucious being able to reach Titan in jail (and give him some valuable advice on how to protect his own empire, something Lucious had to learn the hard way since his former manager is now threatening him to not make Empire Records public or he’ll expose the drug money that started the company).

I’m extremely interested in the inclusion of the Nation of Islam in the show. The Nation is a group that a lot of people, particularly black people, have a complicated relationship with. On the one hand, they’re for the uplifting and betterment of black people. On the other hand, there’s the idea of the “white devil” created in a lab.

That relationship is mirrored in Cookie and Lucious. Cookie is down with the Nation since its members helped her keep her sanity in prison (this relationship also helps her secure the deal to steal Titan). Lucious, on the other hand, considers them racists and had his father killed by a member. I don’t know how the Nation is taking the representation of their group in the show, but the show certainly does give a look at how complicated it is when it comes to individuals’ ideas about them.

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Cookie did well securing that deal , but I didn’t know Cookie was going to be given her office so soon. Was that part of the deal she had with Lucious? I know she wanted her company back, but I didn’t think Lucious would actually include her in meetings and give her an office. That part of the story was a weird jump to me.

But I do love seeing Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in scenes together. You can tell that they do share a friendship in real life and that they bounce off each other really well. I know Wesley Snipes was up for the role of Lucious, which would have been cool (and a big career move for Snipes), but I can see why Taraji wanted to work with Terrence. They do well together in scenes.

I’m also loving Naomi Campbell. Camilla’s scene with Hakeem is some of the most interesting scenes in the show, simply because it’s so disturbing. Why has Hakeem latched onto this woman as his mother and his lover, when his real mother is trying to connect with him?  Hakeem is so juvenile and punkish sometimes, but oddly enough, that’s also what makes him oddly likable. I also love his relationship with Jamal. I’m sad that their brotherly friendship will be ending soon.

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I’m also interested in how opportunistic Tianna is. She’s only in a relationship with Hakeem to get ahead in the business. She could care less about Camilla (despite what it looked like scenes before). Didn’t they have a promo clip of Tianna with another woman? I thought that was coming up in this episode. Did I imagine something?

Speaking of complicated relationships, Andre knows that Lucious killed Bunky. When they’re casually interrogated by the detective, we learn more about why Andre is so valuable to Lucious; Andre learned at a young age how to cover and lie for his father. But it would seem that Andre also suffers from wanting too much of his father’s approval.

Finally, Jamal better get his act together and make some doggone songs. He’s supposed to be showing his father that he can make it on his own, but he’s putting more energy into refusing Lucious’ checks than he is in creating something new. Jamal and Hakeem have one thing in common; they both have trouble creating their own lives and creating something great for themselves without someone stepping on their necks about it.

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Maybe if you stop wearing gray all the time, Jamal, you’ll be in better spirits. Don’t keep Michael in that grungy place forever while you mope and sulk, or he’ll leave you for better.

What did you think of the episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

Photo credit: Chuck Hodes