'Empire' season 4, episode 7 recap: The Lyon brothers engage in love and war
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“Empire” returned last night (Nov. 30) on FOX and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) tackles a new challenge as Empire employees go on strike. Meanwhile, Andre (Trai Byers) and Jamal (Jussie Smollett) take steps forward in love until one of them faces a harsh truth that shatters everything he was hoping for.

Cookie Battles Unexpected Unrest

Eddie Barker pushes Empire personnel too hard in trying to meet the 20 For 20 campaign deadlines. So, they organize a labor strike and Tory Ash (Rumer Willis) revs up the crowd with a song. Cookie is thrown off guard by their sudden unrest. But, true-to-form, she turns the whole situation into an opportunity to remind everyone they are family and families look out for each other, especially in trying, difficult times.

Throughout this story sequence, Lucious (Terrence Howard) pledges his support but Cookie remembers how he abandoned her when she needed him most. He divorced her while she was in prison. She also remembered forming an unlikely family with her fellow prison inmates. The flashbacks were grim, but moving and gave us great additional insight into Cookie’s “hard” outward demeanor.

It was a little shocking to see her righthand lady, Porsha, turn against Cookie, along with everyone else. In the end, however, Cookie settled the strike by reminding key employees how Empire has supported them “like family” over the years. Cookie’s atta-girl to Porsha was especially fun. We’re glad to see Mama Lyon’s dynamic, hard-working sidekick get some extra screen time and a little more depth. It was a neatly-tied up temporary crisis.

Lingering Doubts

Lucious deals with unsettling violent flashbacks throughout this episode. He’s clearly conflicted as his memory has for the most part returned, but, his emotional state is still mixed up. The “good” Lucious is fighting for control and frankly, we’re glad. We would like to see Lucious evolve and become nicer. However, it seems like Cookie is having a tough time handling Lucious’ new disposition. Will this threaten their enduring love? It’s probably still too early to tell.

Trust is Gained and Trust is Broken

Andre takes a step forward in his relationship with Pamela after she is involved in a shooting via her job on the police force. She tells Andre she fatally shot the shooter and when he tries to comfort her and say she had no choice, she confesses that she planted the gun on the guy to justify her shot. So, now she’s given Andre means to put her away if he wanted, which demonstrates how much she trusts him.

He’s happy about that. But, we’re not so sure. This whole thing could still be a ruse. Maybe the incident didn’t play out like Pamela said. Maybe she’s setting him up to get him so “comfortable” and trusting that he falls straight into some sort of law enforcement trap. We’ll see. Nothing ever seems this easy on “Empire.”

Meanwhile, Warren attempts to follow Diana’s bidding to lure Jamal into a threesome to exploit him. But, he bails because he’s truly in love with Jamal. He’s about to tell him about Diana’s scheme, then doesn’t. Anika stages a “fake” visitation with Bella for the whole Lyon family. They go to the designated location, only to find Bella is not there. But, Diana and Warren are waiting to gloat in the “set up.” Warren isn’t the least bit happy, though. Jamal is shocked to see him with “the enemy.” He feels betrayed and angry, so he beats him up. Lucious, however, refrains from unleashing any fury. The problem is, witnesses film the attack on their phones. We’re pretty sure Jamal is going to be in a lot of trouble. Plus, his trust in love is broken yet again. Will this cause Jamal to break his sobriety? And, what will Cookie plan in revenge? We’re thinking we need to brace ourselves. Something tells us the action’s going to take a really dark turn.

“Empire” airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on FOX. Stay tuned to AXS for updates.