“Empire” react: Standard Episode, But Why Low Ratings?

The latest Empire episode, “Poor Yorick,” had classic Empire shenanigans, and I do mean “shenanigans.” Hakeem and Jerk Jamal fighting on the set of the awesome Black Panther-in-the-future music video. Lucious and Cookie being lovers at war. Cookie selling out Lucious again after facing the possibility of going to jail again. Andre and Rhonda digging up poor Vernon, only to have Lucious and Thirsty help them out with the process. Vernon’s decrepit body showing up in the Booby Prosecutor’s car. Also: Cookie invoking Sandra Bland as she was being carted away to an interrogation room.

If it’s all standard stuff for Empire, then why have the ratings begun to slip? Since the Season 2 premiere, the ratings have been slipping slowly. Of course, for Empire, a ratings slip is like a billionaire becoming $1000 short. There’s not much to complain about. Or is there? Because even with a billionaire, losing a $1000 a week begins to add up. 

I couldn’t tell you what exactly is making the show lose its juggernaut status (while still being a juggernaut). But it seems like we’ve all just gotten used to Empire. We still tune into see what Cookie’s going to do, but we already know she’s going to do something off-the-wall in Cookie fashion. We know Lucious is the Devil Incarnate. We know Jamal and Andre will always have daddy issues. (Surprisingly, Hakeem’s come out of Season 2 as the most level-headed and normal of the Lyons, who has the right axes to grind with the right people.)

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Perhaps there’s just a bit of Empire fatigue going on. What else is there to shock us? We get it now. It’s not a bad thing, but there’s only so much room Empire can go with the shock value before the “shock” becomes straight cartoonish (in a bad way).

I will say that one thing that could bring Empire back is if they focused minutely less on shock value and a little more on actual feeling. Cookie’s moment of fear, recalling her time in jail and missing even more time with her sons, was a genuine moment from the episode. It was the only genuine moment from the episode. Probably second was when Hakeem and Jamal got in the fight on the music video set, with Hakeem walking off in a huff. I’m #TeamHakeem on that, because Jamal’s been way too big for his britches this season, now that he thinks he’s Lucious Jr. But anyways, if they could get back to the more nuanced things from last season (yes, there were nuanced things last season), that would bring more heart back to the show.

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Speaking of Jamal being too big for his britches, it seems like his new bravado is sexually appealing to folks, including the weird artist who was painting him (and whatever else he was doing). Will Jamal actually get with him? Will Michael finally leave Jamal for good and go date a nice chef or food truck guy? Michael deserves better, yet he’s still with Jamal for no reason.

Anyways, what did you think of the episode? Give your opinions in the comments section below!

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Pictured L-R: Bryshere Gray as Hakeem Lyon and Jussie Smollett as Jamal Lyon in the “Poor Yorick” episode of EMPIRE airing Wednesday, Oct. 14 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Chuck Hodes/FOX.