‘Empire’ Finale Kills Off Major Character, Showrunner Teases What’s Next

Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you have not watched the Season 2 finale of “Empire,” Episode 18, titled “Past is Prologue.” To refresh your memory on where we left off, check out last week’s “Empire” recap.

Empire” just lost one of its own — but the question is, who died?

“It sure as hell looks like someone died. The cliffhanger is someone dies,” teases “Empire” showrunner Ilene Chaiken, clearing up any prospective theories that may suggest otherwise.

After a half of season of wondering if Anika (Grace Gealey) pushed Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) down the stairs, the two ladies came face-to-face – and someone was pushed again. Rhonda came up to the top of a building to find Anika and immediately starting fighting with her. After yells, screams and traded blows, Andre (Trai Byers) arrived on the scene, but just a second too late. As he looked over to see his wife fighting with Boo Boo Kitty, his face filled with sheer shock as he watched someone fall to their death. But viewers were left in the dark as the frame was filled with Andre’s face as a loud scream was heard in the background.

“If you have some type of technology that can analyze voices, that shouldn’t necessarily be the answer,” Chaiken says with a laugh. Confirming that one character is definitely dead, she reiterates, “Someone went over. You can tell by Andre’s reaction that someone went over.”

Tonight’s season finale also finally brought about Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) and Laura’s (Jamila Velazquez) wedding day. And if you know “Empire,” you know it didn’t go off without a hitch. In fact, Laura left Hakeem at the altar. When a fight broke out with one of Lucious’ (Terrence Howard) thug friends, played by the rapper Xhibit, Laura freaked out and realized this life was not for her.

If you recall, Chaiken previously revealed to Variety that there would be a wedding and a marriage during this season, and she wasn’t lying. Though Hakeem and Laura were expected to tie the knot, with the wedding already set up, after Laura went running around in her white gown and veil, Lucious got married to Anika.

Yes, you read that correctly.

After being chased by the feds, Lucious and Anika realized the only way she would not have to testify would be to get married – and they had already obtained a marriage license way back when they were actually engaged. (Remember that?)

As for the feds going after the Lyons, Tariq is leading the investigation. And turns out, he is Lucious’ half-brother. (More on that below.)

After Lucious married Anika, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) flipped out and ran away, telling her ex-husband and three sons that she couldn’t support the marriage.

Of course, with Anika possibly being pushed over the edge, Lucious’ new wife – for better or worse – may be dead.

Below, Chaiken tells Variety about coming up with that finale cliffhanger, plus what to expect in Season 3.

We don’t know who died, but Rhonda is either dead or just murdered someone. How will that affect Andre?

Andre just witnessed someone plunging to her death and whoever it was is obviously going to determine how Andre goes forward with his life.

Whoever died, are they completely off the show or could they come back in flashbacks?

I can’t answer that.

Does the cast know who dies?

 They know some things. They don’t know everything.

Lucious and Anika got married so that she wouldn’t have to testify — if she isn’t dead, what’s their relationship going to be like?

Lucious and Anika were barely tolerating one another and were forced into a twisted marriage of necessity. With Anika pregnant with Lucious’ grandchild, should Anika survive, that would be a pretty twisted situation.

Will Cookie be able to turn a blind eye and realize Lucious and Anika’s marriage was for the benefit of her family? 

Season 3! Come back to find out. What I will say is that Cookie and Lucious fell back in love with one another and more or less declared their intentions and Cookie was on the brink of what looked like real happiness.

If Anika dies and the baby is gone, how will the family deal with the loss of a Lyon heir?

The family will react to that. 

Lucious really didn’t know he had a half brother and that it’s Tariq?

Lucious didn’t know he had a half brother. His mother did know it. That is going to be the beginning of a complicated family story for Lucious. Clearly Tariq isn’t just a fed. He’s someone with a very personal stake in taking Lucious down.

That is a huge, unexpected twist – did anyone see that coming?

That moment when we were shooting the scene and Terrence Howard was starring at his half brother and new nemesis and the air just crackled with tension.

 Laura left Hakeem at the altar. Are they done for good or is there a chance he can get her back?

I doubt it. Her parents just pulled her out of there like, “We never want to see you people again.” Hakeem has just endured blow after blow, humiliation after humiliation and I think this must be the final straw for him. He’s stripped of dignity, loss of love and public humiliation. 

Will Lucious’ mom be back for Season 3, and will people find out she’s Lucious’ mother?

You can expect Leah to be a big problem for Lucious in every way in Season 3 with all of those entanglements and her animus towards him obviously driving a lot of her unpredictable behavior.

Last week, Jamal was shot. Will that continue to impact him in the new season, or will he be fully recovered when the show is back?

Jamal’s recovery is just beginning. Jamal was shot. He suffered a devastating physical injury and an emotional injury that we’ve only just begun to see the effects of. You saw that he came out of the hospital in a very fragile state, vowing that he wants to end this cycle, and I would say that at the end of the episode, that determination is crystallized after everything that’s happened.

Have you mapped out Season 3? 

Let’s say that we definitely are going to answer the question of who dies at the top of the season, and we’re going to set our stories in motion in a very dramatic way. In the finale, we set the table for a challenge to Empire and the Lyon family that’s going to serve as the framework for the whole of Season 3, with a “Godfather” style opus of crime and hip hop that has Lucious as the beleaguered kingpin battling back this federal investigation led by a man with a personal grievance, and thug rappers who helped him to build his Empire and are now coming back for their pound of flesh.

How will the finale cliffhangers set up the next season? 

What I really want to say is it just invites us into a whole new world of storytelling. Our third season is really going to be grounded by these stories that we’ve already begun. We don’t feel the need to reach to extreme places for our stories because we feel like we have so much great story with the family and the threads that are already set in motion.

The first half of Season 2 was a “who’s who” of guest stars, but the back half of Season 2 barely had any celebrities. Do you want to continue with less guest stars in Season 3? 

We’re telling our story now. We have a very big story. We set the table in this finale for a very big story that’s going to unfold over the course of the season. We’re not jumping through any hoops for guest stars. We’re telling stories and there will be guests on the show who come to play parts that are required in order to tell those stories.

What did you think of the “Empire” season finale and who do you think died? Weigh in below.

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