It seems like every Empire react I’ll be making this year will be “Jamal’s a big jerk.” And he is still a jerk in the latest episode, “Fires of Heaven.” Like, I get that Lucious is a the king of jerks. But Lucious seemed like he never had a chance to be anything other than a jerk. His jerkiness seems to come from having to live tough in order to survive. But Jamal? As pampered by money and rejected by his father as he is? He’s going to try to act tough and not speak to Cookie, the only parent who gave a damn about him? Jamal’s made me resort to using curse words!
Jamal is currently on my “WTF is wrong with you!” list. his life is crumbling around him, yet he’s trying to act like Lucious has always been there for him and that Cookie was the one who abandoned him. There’s been some grumblings of the ratings falling incrementally this season, and maybe it’s because doggone Jamal forgot how his bread is buttered. I know I, as a fan, liked seeing Jamal being supported by Cookie and getting the parental love from her he never had from Lucious. Lucious hasn’t even proven himself as a parent who can even deal with a son who is homosexual, and yet Jamal’s thinking that Cookie abandoned them both by rightfully sending Lucious to jail? Get some knowledge about yourself, son. Your dad’s only using you, like how he’s always used you for good music just to slap someone else’s name on it. Just like how he’s used and is still using and screwing over everybody.
I do find it cute that the show is trying to make us sympathize with Lucious by showing us his backstory. Lucious is a villain in the same sense as Darth Vader; you don’t really care how he came to be evil, you just want him as evil so it can be even more delicious when he goes down. I don’t get why they’re trying to introduce Lucious’ past through the weak storyline of him ousting Andre. If he wants to oust Andre, he’d have many more reasons to do so, real or made-up, than to attack him for having bipolar disorder. Why choose now, Lucious, to attack Andre for having bipolar disorder? I know Lucious is the type of person who just has to always have a reason to hate someone, but I just think Lucious’ backstory could have been introduced in some different light than to have it juxtaposed against Andre’s hurt and pain at being rejected by his father. Whatever, I guess. But that could also be what’s affecting the ratings as well.
Another ratings worry is the treatment of bipolar disorder itself. Look, I’m no psychologist, but it seems like the disease is being treated in a much more salacious fashion than it actually is. I’m not saying that there aren’t any struggles in having the disorder, but not every moment of the day is someone spacing out and impulsively buying stuff. According to the Mayo Clinic and other sources, bipolar disorder is categorized by its manic highs (or increased irritability) and depressive lows. Psychosis is something that happens “less often” in bipolar patients. But if you go by Empire, Lucious’ mom was always psychotic. There should be a much more realistic treatment of the disease, I think.
What I did like from the episode were all the Cookie moments. I think that’s what everyone loves about Empire. Seeing Cookie drag the dinner to the ground, her irritability with Valentina, and her Debbie Allen Fame moment of making the girl group do dance drills were all amazing. Just as amazing as the Fame moment was when Cookie crashed Lucious’ party in a Mad Max getup.
I’m also very intrigued by the addition of rapper Bre-Z. I was hoping we’d see her and her character Freda again, and I’m very excited to hear more of her raps (which are dope) and more of what her character could do to Lucious. I know she’s gotta figure out he killed her father. I need her to plot against him, if she’d just take him up on his offer for a contract first. I also loved seeing Timbaland finally show his face on the show. I was thinking that in this universe, Timbaland (and now Ne-Yo) didn’t exist since he was writing the music. But apparently, the fourth wall can be broken on thiis show.
But all of the Cookie, Freda, and Timbaland moments couldn’t make up for the oddball parts I mentioned. I just want Jamal to wake up from this farce of a life and realize that he’s about to create a mental prison for himself. His only cellmate is going to be Lucious, and I don’t think he wants that kind of life.