TV reviews

Empire 4×01 – ‘Noble Memory’ – Review

It’s fair to say that Empire has been on a journey and ‘Noble Memory’ kicked off the new season with an emotionally charged episode.

“I really thought that we had won in Vegas…” – words uttered by the awesome Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon, acting as a brilliant summary for the episode.  For all the drama, for all the trials and tribulations between Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (or Cucious as the show has dubbed it), we have rooted for their relationship.  The season three finale gave us the briefest glimpse of that dream.  Lucious finally looked like he was going to change from his controlling, dominating and evil ways just to be with the woman he really loves.  It also presented the chance for Andre to run the company with his father’s blessing.

But in true Empire style, no one really gets a happy ending and there are consequences to actions.

‘Noble Memory’ takes place five months later after the car bomb that nearly killed Lucious Lyon.  He survives only to wake up from his coma with amnesia.  But the incident also left a permanent reminder.

Now it would be easy to say that this is Empire hitting the reset button just to rewrite its own legacy but this added new dynamic takes Empire into an interesting new direction.

Lucious Lyon is no longer the dominating patriarch of the family. He is confused and scared, feeling the vulnerable weight of his new reality.  This is a Lucious Lyon coming to terms with his demons with his family tiptoeing on the eggshells of his past just to keep him safe from harm.

Because Empire has a tendency to play fast and loose with its storylines, each incident becomes blurred or easily forgettable as time goes by.  But this particular scenario is different.  It allows Terrence Howard to play Lucious with a fresh new impetus, both mentally and physically. He embraces the softer side of Lucious’ personality which we don’t see often and could change how we ultimately feel about his character.  Because of his condition, there is no going back, no matter if the stories eventually become far-fetched.

With the show continuing to highlight diversity and representation, season four could lay the foundations for an emotional pay-off in the finale.

‘Noble Memory’ is heavily skewed towards Cookie and Lucious.  We see the struggle of Cookie wanting to relive those last moments versus a man who has no idea the deep scale of their relationship.  There’s an internal heartbreak between the two characters which is Empire at its best when it takes the time to really delve into the characters.  There were moments of reconciliation with Lucious trying to correct a wrong but Empire is subtly heading towards an important choice.  Does Lucious want to remember his past or simply start a new life with new memories?  With the introduction of Claudia (Demi Moore) as Lucious’ doctor/therapist, it adds a psychological and emotional complication to the mix.  But Cookie is not one to give up without a fight.  In her own words, she’s unforgettable!

The other characters are sadly given very little to do with their exposition dialogue serving as future plot points for the remainder of the season.  Andre (Trai Byers) and Shine (Xzibit) managed to escape that and it will be interesting to see how the awkward dynamic proceeds over the next couple of episodes.  Andre is already showing signs of guilt knowing he was responsible for his father’s condition whilst Shine grows tired of Andre’s stalling in taking control of Empire.

‘Noble Memory’ is a solid start for the show.  What holds this episode together is the testing dynamic between Cookie and Lucious and a brilliant performance by Terrence Howard.

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