“Empire” returned last night (Nov. 15) on FOX and finds the Lyon family banding together to support Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) during his heated custody battle. We see a softer side of Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and her youngest son and Lucious (Terrence Howard) deserves an Oscar for his keen acting job on the stand. Overall, it’s a poignant episode, due to the delicate subject matter. Baby Bella’s future is at stake and Angelo (Taye Diggs) and his mother are sadly using her as a pawn to further their own destructive agenda.
Angelo Takes a Hard Swing
Angelo was so charming while he and Cookie dated. He believed in the common good and he believed in Cookie. However, he’s definitely a boyfriend scorned and it shows in his scathing opening statement as he describes the entire Lyon family as criminals and thugs. He also paints Hakeem as a self-serving party boy, while he basically places a golden halo over pedigreed Anika’s (Grace Byers) head.
He goes over the top, though, when he pretty much verbally batters Tiana (Serayah) on the stand. The judge is not happy and reprimands him. The damage is already done, though. Tiana breaks down and the worst part of all is when Hakeem blows up at her outside of the courtroom. He doesn’t see she did her best and blames her for stopping him from running away with Bella.
A Different Side of Mother and Son
We can’t help but wince when Cookie takes the stand. Will she keep it together? Or, will she trash talk her way into getting Hakeem in trouble? Of course, Angelo goes for the low blow and immediately brings up her prison time. She surprises us by becoming emotional and admitting her biggest mistake – having to raise her three boys from prison, while Hakeem was just a baby. She commends him for the caring father he is, as he didn’t have a good example from her. The judge seems moved by her speech. But, we get the sense this won’t be enough.
Likewise, when Hakeem takes the stand, his hot-headed temper is put in check. He talks about how much he loves his daughter and how she’s everything to him. We’ve rarely seen these softer sides of Cookie or Hakeem. Given the family history, we’re compelled to feel sorry for both of them.
Lucious Plays the Memory Card
We still can’t decide if we’re happy the “old Lucious” is back. Nice Lucious was just so nice. He demands to get on the stand and when Angelo questions him, he pretends like he’s still suffering from amnesia and Angelo is fit to be tied. This whole act wins Hakeem some points.
Hakeem decides to represent himself after a recess and we also know this can’t be a good idea. He puts Anika on the stand and really shakes her by asking all kinds of really personal questions about Bella she can’t possibly know because she was away from her so long while she was in jail. He asks things like, “What’s her favorite color? What does she call her grandpa? What time does she go to sleep?"
Anika is sad as she admits she doesn’t know the answers. Here’s our question: Why isn’t he talking about how she pushed his pregnant sister-in-law off a roof to her death?
Mama Dubois Deals a Devastating Blow
Ice Queen Diana (Phylicia Rashad) is suddenly called as a last-minute rebuttal witness. The Lyons are shocked (and so are we!) when Angelo cues up a video of Hakeem playing with Bella at her house and telling her that all of his family is dangerous. He even says he wishes Cookie as still in jail and that Lucious is a monster. Ouch. That’s all it takes. Anika is awarded full custody and it’s a really heartbreaking scene when she comes to take her away from her daddy. Especially when he stops her to say, "Yellow. Her favorite color is yellow." Sniff, sniff.
Another question: How come Angelo questioning his own mother or his past relationship with Cookie is not a conflict of interest? Would the judge not find some bias in any of this?
Mama Dubois gloats about her victory at a fancy dinner as she welcomes Anika to her fold. She’s not going to stop until all the Lyons are destroyed. We have a feeling Jamal is next because Warren sings a beautiful song and they just seem too happy. Meanwhile, we know Lucious is really back when he tells his family he’s going to make it right and he’s out for blood. We get a feeling whoever deals the first blow will do the most damage and right now, no one is safe.
“Empire” airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on FOX.