Empire - Light In Darkness

Starring: Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Bryshere Y. Gray, Jussie Smollett, Trai Byers, Grace Byers, Gabourey Sidibe, Ta'Rhonda Jones, Serayah McNeill, Morocco Omari, Xzibit, Bre-Z, Kaitlin Doubleday
Writer: Lee Daniels, Danny Strong
Rating: ***

Air Date: October 4, 2016. (E4) 

The glamorous Lyon family are back, and the drama is more powerful than before.

Following directly on from season two'2 dramatic ending, we are finally shown who fell to their untimely demise; it was Andre's twisted wife Rhonda. This looks as though it is going to set Andre (T. Byers) off on a powerful and emotional journey. Andre suffers from Bi-Polar, and this sudden shock to his system looks likely to really take control of his mental illness. Byers has always been one of my favourites in the show, with his performances always being far more entertaining, yet hideously underused, compared to his brothers. I really hope that this means that Andre will get a meaty storyline for Byers to fully embrace. 

Trai Byers
The rest of the Lyons are dealing with there own problems, with Lucious (Howard) and Anika (G. Byers) having to fake a marriage and pretend that Hakeem's (Gray) baby is Lucious'. All so they can prevent Anika from testifying against Lucious in court. Lucious' half-brother, Tariq, is out for blood and is determined to have Lucious payfor his crimes, but as always the family gathers around him in order to protect one of their own. This for me has now become extremely tiresome. I no longer buy that Hakeem, Jamal (Smollet) and Cookie (Henson) would actually stand by and support Lucious after all he has done to them. He never shows signs of changing, he only really loves himself, and he is pure evil; so for them to keep crawling back to him is really starting to bug me.

Of course the stand out is once again Taraji P. Henson as Cookie. I look to her to deliver some of the most entertaining and sassiest lines in television history, and as always she does not disappoint. However, for the first time that I can remember, Cookie shows a much softer side; with Henson giving Cookie a subtleness and calm that she rarely shows. It means that Cookie is no longer a one trick pony, and she is now a well rounded and magnificent character to enjoy week in, week out. I really hope that Henson is able to explore this more, without using her signature slay.

Taraji P. Henson
There isn't much music in this episode with the only songs coming from Jamal and Hakeem. When Empire started Jamal was one of my favourite characters, he was an amazing role model and icon for the LGBTQ+ community, and he was the grounded family member. However plot decision in season 2 have now tainted the character, and I now find that he always tries to be proving something, but not for the right reasons. Hakeem has never been interesting to me; as the youngest he was always bratty and spoilt, but that has gotten out of control in later episodes. He is extremely one dimensional, and frankly it is so boring to hear his whining every week.

It isn't the strongest start to the new series, but it is still full of the same drama, luxury and smart wit that we have grown to love. There are so many characters that are severely underused like Gabourey Sidibe, Serayah McNeill and Ta'Rhonda Jones' Becky, Tiana and Porsha; and my hope is they actually get a storyline this season, because if you have them...why don't you use them? I also have my fingers crossed that Trai Byers gets more of a chance to pull out more of his winning performances and Taraji P. Henson gets to explore the softer side of Cookie. 

I am still a fan of this extremely dysfunctional family dynamic, I just now (in it's third season) want to see something new and fresh. Something that guest stars like Mariah Carey and Taye Diggs may be able to do; or maybe even a visit from a deceased character...let's wait and see. 

Empire: Season 3 - Promo