‘Empire’ Season 1 sets the stage for interesting second season


Photo Courtesy of www.myfoxchicago.com

Uzma Rentia, Staff Reporter

Since its debut in early January, ‘Empire’ has been received with widespread approval, enthusiasm, and a constantly increasing fan base. This, coupled with impressive ratings that refuse to dip and a stellar cast, meant that expectations were high for the show’s two-part season finale, which aired March 18. In the end, ‘Empire’ delivered a spectacular end to an equally memorable first season that left fans desperately waiting for the show’s second season, set to air in the fall

If fans were overwhelmed by the number of surprises in the last episode, “Sins of the Father,” they should brace themselves for the finale, which was packed with shocks, plot twists, changes in allegiance, unforgettable acting, and a host of other developments.

Although Lucious’ (Terrence Howard) arrest at the very end of the finale no doubt stole the show, there was still a countless number of scenes that caught the audience by surprise. The most shocking, arguably, is the almost incomprehensible shift in middle child Jamal’s (Jussie Smollett) fortune. In the span of about a half hour he goes from being an embarrassment to his father due to his sexuality, to gaining possession of the family empire that he and his brothers have been vying for for the entirety of the season. Although it was a welcome change to see Lucious shed his homophobia, the change felt rather rushed and not well thought out. Jamal also had a surprising change in character. The finale saw him transform from a morally-upright singer to a man willing to kill and turn his back on his mother in order to gain his father’s approval. On a different note, the rift that Lucious’ decision to name Jamal his successor, as well as the subsequent shift in character it brought in the latter, has created within his family has set the stage wonderfully for season two.

The accidental death of Vernon (Malik Yoba) was also a completely unanticipated move that left definitely left fans stunned. Although Vernon’s character is gone, his death will play a key role in deciding the fate of many of show’s main characters. It will also add an element of interest in the second seasons.

Of course, one cannot mention ‘Empire’ without thinking of Cookie. Taraji P. Henson’s acting as well as her character is sure to delight even those who did not resonate with the show’s plotline. Henson and Cookie, though both are interchangeable, have single-handedly carried the show through during its rare low point. Cookie did not disappoint in the finale; with her flamboyant way of dressing and famous one-liners but ultimately caring heart and desire to bring her family back together, Cookie delivered many of the finale’s, and show’s, most emotional, heartbreaking, and hilarious scenes.

As much as I love this show, I cannot help but agree with some of others’ criticism of it. The plot at times can be rushed, such as the new relationship between Jamal and Lucious. The show also seems to have taken the cheap way out by making Lucious’ ALS, the catalyst of the entire show, misdiagnosed. I also hope that as the show moves into season two, it takes a step away from making its characters caricatures of black stereotypes- from Wharton educated Andre (Trai Byers) who trades his heritage in exchange for acceptance to the successful Lucious who built his empire through double-crossing and back-alley murders and drug dealing.

All in all, despite some of its short comings, ‘Empire’s’ season finale has paved the way to a must-see second season.