Lies, murder, kidnapping, imprisonment, sex and warring families…I bet you thought I summed up Game of Thrones right? No. Welcome to the world of Empire, a Hip-Hop/R&B music drama set within a fictional music company. Like a crossover between Game of Thrones and Dallas, the story revolves around the Lyon family as they battle for control of the “throne” to run Empire entertainment.
Ahead of the announcement of taking the company public, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), CEO of Empire is diagnosed with ALS and given three years to live. Keeping the condition secret, he announces to his three sons, Jamal (Jussie Smollett), Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) and Andre (Trai Byers) that one of them will be his successor.
However, Empire season one was never a straightforward affair. Lucious is the patriarch of the family and he never minces his words. He’s powerfully dominant and will do anything to get what he wants which becomes detrimental to his sons. Hakeem is the youngest and a talented rapper but he’s spoilt, impulsive and naive. Jamal is an incredible R&B artist but he’s homosexual which Lucious despises. Andre, CFO of Empire suffers from bipolar disorder. While his condition is medically treated, Andre’s ambition to run Empire is helped by his wife Rhonda as they scheme to turn the family against each other. But what the Lyon family didn’t expect is Lucious’ ex-wife returning to the picture. Loretha ‘Cookie’ Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) is released from prison after 17 years. As she reconnects with her family and puts up with Lucious’ new fiancé, Anika Calhoun (Grace Byers), she demands half of Empire. Queue the mayhem, broken relationships, epic fights, conspiracies and Cookie’s classic clapbacks. The season ends with Lucious being misdiagnosed as a Mysasthenia Gravis sufferer (a treatable medical disease) and Jamal named as successor. Andre, Cookie, Anika and Hakeem plan a hostile takeover and Lucious is arrested by the police for murder.
Season two saw Lucious released from prison, vowing to take back control of Empire whilst pushing the company into the online streaming realm. Jamal struggles with the leadership of Empire and his music career and the Lyon family continue to break apart with Cookie and Hakeem forming their own record label, Lyon Dynasty. Competing for the attention and superiority, both sides start recruiting the best music talent. Empire hires Freda, a young female rapper with family connections with the Lyon family while Hakeem forms an all girl group called Mirage à Trois for Lyon Dynasty. Lucious’ past comes back to haunt him with the revelation that his mother suffered from bipolar disorder which begins to influence his comeback music.
Rhonda announces she’s pregnant with Andre’s baby but loses the child after she’s mysteriously pushed down the stairs at their new home. Coincidentally Anika becomes pregnant with Hakeem’s child after a one night stand. To complicate matters, Hakeem falls in love with Laura, his lead singer of his girl group and they plan to marry. Empire’s ownership once again trades hands from Hakeem and his manipulative lover Camilla (Naomi Campbell) to co-CEO relationship between Cookie and Lucious. At the ASA Awards, Jamal is accidentally shot by Frieda in a revenge attack against Lucious. The wedding of Hakeem and Laura is disrupted and called off, paving the way for Lucious to marry Anika to stop her from testifying against the family in an active criminal investigation led by Lucious’ half-brother and FBI agent Tyriq. Rhonda angrily confronts Anika about her miscarriage which leads to Rhonda losing her life, falling to her death after a rooftop altercation.
As the drama continues, season three began examining the underpinning of Lucious and Cookie’s relationship. Through a series of flashbacks, the season asked if the love was still there despite all the emotional pitfalls with Empire expanding its operation into Las Vegas. Cookie falls in love with Councilman Angelo Dubois (Taye Diggs), an up and coming mayoral candidate with a powerful matriarch mother by his side. Anika gives birth to baby Bella which Lucious raises until Hakeem is mature enough to handle the responsibility.
When Angelo’s relationship with Cookie turns serious, he proposes to her but she is unable to accept his offer, leading to a chain reaction which affects the welfare of Bella.
After the devastating loss of his wife, Andre begins plotting the murder of his father. He teams up with Shine who wants his own slice of Empire’s control. The plot leads to a detonated car bomb which Andre tries to stop because Lucious made him Empire’s successor.
Lucious paid a heavy price – he reconciles with Cookie and saves her life from the attack. The incident leaves him in a coma only to wake up with amnesia.
Well, all bets are off for season four. Let the battle for Empire’s throne continue.