Solid acting from Trai Byers and Jussie Smollett as Andre and Jamal Lyon, respectively.
The music has improved so much since last season.
Great writing; amazing one-liners from the characters
Guest stars include Birdman and French Montana
Brilliant introduction for newbie Sierra Aylina McClain as Nessa
The pacing was too quick at times.
Plot holes were left unclear, especially in the middle of the episode.
The flashback between Young Cookie and Lucious felt random and shorthanded.
From the very beginning, Empire’s season premiere storms in and leaves us hooked until the last second.
We’ve waited, hoped and prayed, and now it’s finally here, Empire’s season 3 premiere!! We pick up right where season 2 left off, with Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) left at the alter, but Lucious (Terrance Howard) and Anika (Grace Gealey) now married. Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) is officially done with Lucious, but how done is she, really?
The season premiere starts with a shocking death, but continues with a beautiful birth. Lucious’ brother and mother, Tariq (Morocco Omari) and Leah (Leslie Uggams), threaten to rock the Lyons’ perfect image, but Lucious has other ideas in mind to keep the family together. Meanwhile, Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is still in recovery after surgery, however, his stubbornness does more damage to his brand than good. It’s an intense, emotional roller-coaster of a season premiere, but we’ll get through it together!! Let’s discuss “Light in Darkness”!
Trading in one bad bitch for another. Mommy Tales
Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) in black, Anika in red. Was costume designer Paolo Nieddu trying to tell us something? Well they did, as Rhonda’s dead body came whirling through the air right onto Lucious’ black, beautiful car outside of the alter!! That made our hearts stop, as if they were about to explode in our chest as we watched the light leave Rhonda’s eyes. But to be honest, even though her death was explosive, it wasn’t that heartbreaking, considering how much of a wench she was to Anika last season. When Anika pushed Rhonda down the stairs, not only did she risk Rhonda’s health, but the baby’s. And the baby didn’t deserve that injustice just because both women hated each other. However, it is astonishing how when Rhonda lost her baby, she dies, but Anika is now pregnant and alive. Funny how it all goes around, right?
“My water just broke!” ~ Anika
The best part about this introduction was that it didn’t leave anything out from last season. It was a great idea to continue on with the storyline so we didn’t have to go through 10 minutes of explaining what we already know. Granted, there was still a “Previously…” moment right before, but it didn’t last too long. We already knew what had happened. It was shocking to have Rhonda drop right in front of the rest of the family, so they could realize what they had done and what they need to do next.
It’s a Girl!! Uh-oh…
Right as Rhonda swings off the balcony at the church, Andre (Trai Byers) scares Anika into labor!! It’s understandable that Andre was upset, hurt, and confused, but it wasn’t smart of him to take it all out on Anika, who was heavily pregnant and emotional as it is. Especially with Andre’s Bipolar Disorder, it definitely wasn’t a good idea to trigger Anika’s emotional state, enough for her water to break!!
Anika is rushed to the hospital, where Lucious shows up in the delivery room. But even he isn’t encouraging her in the birth of her and Hakeem’s child. He actually whispers a game plan in her ear to keep their precious family public image together, especially on how Rhonda died. This was so disgusting and shows us how manipulative and uncaring Lucious is. He truly only cares about the family business rather than the love that keeps it together. And the fact that he’s making Anika follow along while she’s giving immense, emotional, tiring, struggling, bring a baby into this world, makes us see how far Lucious’ devious ways are willing to go for power.
“Nobody pushed Rhonda, she overpowered you. That’s what’s going to happen if you go with this story.” – Lucious
Also, when the doctor announced the baby’s sex as a girl and not his precious boy, didn’t anyone else feel super-nervous whenever Lucious and Bella were in the same room? He kept talking to her, like he was going to smother her with a pillow just because she was a female and not a male “heir”.
It was a great idea for director Sanaa Hamri to have the cameras focus on both Terrance Howard and Grace Gealey’s shocked faces during the birth. It really showed the fear, shock and awe of both characters. And let’s give props to writers Lee Daniels and Danny Strong for having Lucious come up with an easy plan for Anika to listen to while giving birth and being in pain. The tension was palpable in the air on what was supposed to be a joyous moment for parents.
Lucious’ Brother and Mother Play No Games At All!!
We first met Tariq and Leah Walker last season, and it brought us into hysterics watching Lucious’ world turn upside down. But it wasn’t fun for us anymore once we’d seen how terrifying and controlling Leah was, especially with a knife in her hand. So it was really no surprise to us when Anika comes home with the baby, and Leah threatens her with a knife near the baby. Can someone please expose Leah for the crazy, psycho mama she is, and keep her away from the baby? It’s a good thing Leslie Uggams plays her so well, or else we’d vote her out in a minute.
What fascinated us, however, was how Tariq questioned the inner workings of the Lyon household. One point was in the studio with Hakeem and Nessa (Sierra Aylina McClain). Lucious had a business dinner with Birdman (of all people!?) and they made a deal with Lucious to have Nessa sing on a #BlackLivesMatter track. Tariq even lays down the law by taking a keyboard and smashing it over one of Lucious’ cronies’ hands, almost breaking it!! That scene was so intense and almost terrifying, because it showed us how Tariq was able to break someone apart, literally!!
“You want a To-Go plate?” – Cookie
Tariq also shook the Lyon’s cage at the dinner table!! It made us chuckle and side-eye at the family as Tariq spoke about the tense love “triangle” between Lucious, Anika and Cookie. With Lucious and Anika now in a new relationship, Cookie kept trying to pull away and take herself out. But with Cookie’s family ties to her sons and Empire as a business, it was hard for her to completely say goodbye to Lucious’ games.
What Tariq shouldn’t have done, however, was call Cookie “second-rate trash”. Yes, she did need to be called out on her mess, but calling her a derogatory and sexist phrase only got her sons Jamal and Andre riled up. It’s like Jamal said, “If he can’t take down his own family, what makes you think you and your little badge can?” This family is a high-strung business, but at the end of the day, it’s very strong and powerful.
But Tariq is an interesting character. He knows how to crack the Lyons’ perfect, little family mirror.
#BlackLivesMatter tribute from Jamal and newcomer Nessa
With Jamal still recovering from his gun shot wound from Freda last season, his mindset was still warped and confused. Even though he kept insisting that he would be able to do the showcase with Nessa, it made us nervous for his health. It made us want to wrap an arm around him and tell him that everything is going to be okay.
It gets worse when Jamal prepares to perform with Nessa, only to get dizzy and pass out!! Our baby was struggling to stay alive, and the energy made us really sob and cry for Jamal’s life. It was a very good thing that Hakeem came on stage and dragged him off before he collapsed.
“You eat because of my dirty work and then bitch about it!” – Lucious
That was Nessa’s chance to take the stage and finish the showcase, illustrating some awesome vocal ability amongst a slideshow of names who have suffered at the end of cops’ gun violence. It’s a real touching moment for the showcase, but it’s funny when it bristles Lucious all over. He even tries to get the soundboard guy to take down the show, but when he can’t like a big baby, he throws a temper tantrum backstage. Right when Jamal is getting his breath back together!! UGHH we can’t stand Lucious, right guys? He’s such an impossible character on the show, but he’s head patriarch so we have to listen to him…or do we?
It made sense to have McClain, a new artist, sing solo on the show, even though it was supposed to be a duo between her and Smollett. Her vocals were both crisp and dramatic enough to hold us as an audience. And Smollett’s impressive, vivid performance in that scene. It really captivated the startling effect of someone who has gone through a traumatic event and still had mental issues to deal with it.
FINAL VERDICT: Shocking ending, intense middle and haunting ending makes season 3 premiere of the Empire and emotional and sober realization that it’s could be every Lyon for himself.
The season 3 premiere was fantastic!! Director (Sanaa Hamri) and Writers (Lee Daniels and Danny Strong) should be applauded for the way they directed the intense scene of Anika’s labor in the delivery room. We could really feel the tension and stress of her giving birth, while keeping Lucious’ dirty words in her ear. Grace Gealey performed very well in that scene, along with Terrance Howard. They knew how to keep their characters’ emotions together without embellishing them. Also, some of the one-liners from Cookie and Hakeem were extraordinary and reminded us why we root for them in the first place. And adding special guests, rapper Birdman and singer/actress/goddess Vivica A. Fox, was a clever way for us fans to be even more interested to see the show.
However, even though this episode was a good start, Lucious’ devious actions with both Cookie and Anika, as well as the dirty business with Birdman, made us hate him even more. But everyone can change, so we’re hoping that he can turn things around for his family business later on in the season.
QUESTION COMMENTS AND CONCERNS
- Where is Rhonda’s family? Have they not been notified about her tragic death?
- How long can Cookie really stay away from Lucious, when they have to keep the family together?
- Will Tariq find enough evidence on Lucious? How do you feel about his dinner table comments?
- Hakeem you ain’t no “grown ass man”. You’re still drinking from a sippy cup.
- Lucious is a sick bastard. Women run the world, don’t you know that?!
- All hail Queen Diva Vivica A. Fox!! She can stay as long as she wants to!
- How much do we have to pay Birdman to say “respeck”?
- The teddy-bear camera was a good idea to keep in the baby’s room, but what about baby monitors?
- So does that make Bella, Lucious’ stepdaughter and granddaughter? GROSS.
- “Follow me, I wanna show you something.” “What?” “The door.” So good to have you back, Cookie!!
How did you like Empire’s season premiere? Leave your questions, comments, concerns and predictions in the comments below.
Get ready for more family power drama on Empire’s second episode on FOX, next Wednesday, September 28 at 9/8c.
EMPIRE Review [3×01]: “Light in Darkness”