'Empire' season 4 premiere recap: The Lyons face a whole new challenge
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The Lyon family roared fiercely back onto TV screens across America on Sept. 27 in the intense “Empire” season four premiere on Fox. Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Lucious’ (Terrence Howard) second chance at love they were starting in last season’s explosive finale is threatened by the life-altering accident that left Lucious without his memory and one of his legs. Meanwhile Andre (Trai Byers) is still waiting to take over the label and Jamal (Jussie Smollett) returns to the stage to support Empire’s 20th anniversary.

Papa Lyon Lost His Roar

Huge props should go out to Terrence Howard for portraying Lucious’ amnesia-induced fog/new personality with such graceful precision. We see a whole new, almost childlike version of Lucious. There is no trace of the calculating, self-serving monster we have seen in past seasons. He’s confused and so much softer. He even pushes Jamal to find love with his new man, because life is short. He also owns up to Cookie being the one to write his old hit song in front of a huge crowd at the Empire 20th anniversary gala, where Jamal and Hakeem sing a great new song “Love Me.” With coaching from Cookie, Lucious addresses the crowd with the power and swagger of his “old self” and even shows the crowd his prosthetic leg. Afterwards, we know it was all an act as he reverts to his new, soft-spoken, injured self.

An Enemy in Disguise?

Demi Moore is doing a fantastic job as Lucious’ therapist, Claudia, who calls him Dwight. Lucious clings to her and seems to be falling in love with her. Cookie, of course, is threatened by this and is keeping a wary eye on what Claudia is doing with her ex. Claudia comes across as being so innocent. Yet, when she “borrows” Anika’s dress out of the closet for the gala, we all know she has so much more up sleeve. Poor Cookie! She’s been through so much and almost had the love of her life back. Let’s hope she keeps Claudia totally in check.

Is Andre’s Plan Going to Come Back to Bite Him?

Thirsty lets Andre know the police are still investigating the explosion and then Shine pressures Andre about why an investigation is still happening and when he’s going to make good on his promise to take over Empire. Andre is clearly nervous about all of it, though, he assures Shine all things will happen in time. Lucious has already asked Cookie if someone did this to him and she doesn’t respond. Will karma come around to bite the oldest Lyon child for the life-threatening attack he ordered on his own father? He did try to call it off – but, he was too late. It looks like repercussions may still happen. We’ll have to wait and see.

Mama DuBois is Still Scorned

It’s admittedly still off-putting to see Mother Huxtable, Phylicia Rashad, play such a devious, vengeful character like Mama DuBois. She’s slowly setting her pawns in place to destroy the Lyon children. Angelo’s (Taye Diggs) hot cousin Warren (Terrell Carter) is playing poor Jamal (he is never lucky in love!) and she’s still got her hooks in Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) by insisting upon weekly visits with Bella so she can hurt Cookie with photos of the baby there. It’s especially creepy when she tells Warren she’s going to “pick the meat” from the Lyon family’s bones. Shiver, shiver.

“Star” Crossover and Too Much, Too Soon

Queen Latifah makes a fun “Star” crossover appearance in the episode as Carlotta approaches Cookie and Lucious to try and help her budding girl group, Big Trouble, find fame. She doesn’t realize Lucious doesn’t even recognize her but Cookie does, and tells her to contact Empire’s A & R department.

Things implode, as they often do, at the Lyon family dinner table when Lucious tries to find out more about his sons’ personal lives. Andre tells him his wife is dead, Lucious discovers he took credit for Cookie’s song and then Andre snarls, “We’re limited to a shallow wall of pleasant memories.” Hakeem has an angry outburst and then Lucious snaps, throws a glass and says he can’t take it. He leaves the table and the family runs after him, trying to stop him from jumping in the lake, as he can’t swim.

Demure Claudia rushes in to save him and Lucious retreats with her. The season is being set up for dealing with Lucious’ emotional and physical injuries and everything is at stake again for Cookie, her love, her business and her children’s lives. We know she’ll never go down without a fight. She sums it up well telling Lucious, ““Lucious, you gon’ remember me. I’m Cookie Lyon, baby. I’m unforgettable.”

“Empire” airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on Fox.