TV reviews

Empire 4×03 – ‘Evil Manners’ – Review

When you start giving your enemies codenames based on characters from The Wizard of Oz, you know you’re in trouble!  Like a plot line out of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, in ‘Evil Manners’, the DuBois family begin to shape their Machiavellian game plan against the Lyon family.

It is nice to see some family competition on Empire.  The Lyon family have dominated the proceedings with their own sense of power but the DuBois family (on the war path towards revenge thanks to Cookie/Angelo’s break-up) represent a higher tier of influence and class supremacy.  Their connections (be it financially or people within their circle) spread far and wide.

To break it down simply, it is the streets vs. the rich.

If you delve into it enough, The Lyon family have always aspired to be in the higher echelons of power.  They want to be the greatest.  Even Jamal (Jussie Smollett) calls Lucious “the king” when it came to music.  To quote Drake, they “started from the bottom and now we’re here.”  But with the smart introduction of the DuBois family, the Lyon family are facing a true test of their togetherness.

Diana DuBois (Phylicia Rashad) aka “fake Clair Huxtable” as Cookie once dubbed her, uses the opportunity to really dig in her claws.  She is essentially the female Lucious and operates with a same callousness just to prove her point.  Given Lucious’ condition, Diana (certainly in this episode) is calmly filling that evil void.

The most impressive thing about her plan is how she targets each member of the Lyon family.  She makes them vulnerable and easily corruptible without them knowing it.  She has the emotional blackmail and leverage over Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) and the welfare of his daughter Bella.  She has Warren (Terrell Carter) acting as a double agent by dating Jamal and obtaining his secrets.  It is still early days but wouldn’t surprise me if Andre’s flirtatious cat and mouse relationship with NYPD Detective Pamela Rose (Teyonah Parris) ends up being part of the DuBois game.

With the Lyon family so distracted, Diana is slowly, quietly and strategically dictating the play by striking at the heart, the brain and courage of the Lyon family.  Because they can’t see the bigger picture, if the Lyon family are not too careful, they could end up losing absolutely everything.  By the end of the season, the DuBois family could be running Empire!  How crazy is that?

One of those key battles involves Cookie (another brilliant performance by Taraji P. Henson) which coincides with the daily operations of Empire.  Cookie doesn’t look out of place running the company and that is because of the journey Cookie had to reach it after seventeen years incarcerated.  Despite being under pressure to deliver Empire’s 20/20 project, Empire develops a parallel juxtaposition between her past and present as well as a female solidarity amongst her peers.

She may not have the business acumen that Andre or Lucious (pre-accident) has and it doesn’t matter if its prison or the business world, Cookie’s heart is always in the right place.  That’s what makes her special, always rising above the clichéd stereotypes that are often attributed to black women on screen.  She knows music and taps into that personal strength to get around those challenging obstacles.

With all the attention focused on the DuBois family, Lucious takes a dramatic back seat to explore his musical side.  He engages with Jamal on the creativity behind his music which prompts Jamal to sneak Lucious into Empire HQ.  It’s a little strange to see Lucious not only explore his softer side by using the opportunity to reconcile with his past with his sons but to have no recollection on how the music process works.  He is a clean slate for knowledge, adding to the complication of his condition.

Lucious has been called so many things over the years but if there is one thing he has always fallen back on, it’s his music.  However Empire did give a brief hope that his creative talent may return, bleeding the screen with a faint haze at one of his songs he wrote with Jamal.  If that’s the direction then the style of music will be the key.  With Jamal, Lucious felt the beauty and soul of the song.  With Shine, he automatically questioned whether his music was always dark.  To get Lucious back, he may need to do the hardest thing and that is to embrace both sides.

‘Evil Manners’ showcased the duality between families and in this warring battle, there can only be one winner.

Empire airs on 5star in the UK. Let us know what you think of the season.

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