“Empire” wrapped up the first half of Season 3 on Wednesday night, and no surprise here — viewers were left with a ton of cliffhangers, including the safety of many Lyon family members.
Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) found out that her boo Angelo (Taye Diggs) not only got a DUI back in the day, but a girl that was in the car with him was left to die. Jamal (Jussie Smollett) was ordered to go to rehab by his family, after hitting rock bottom. And Andre (Trai Byers) has vowed to kill his father, Lucious (Terrence Howard).
Here, “Empire” executive producer Sanaa Hamri, who directed the midseason finale, breaks down the episode. Plus, what’s up next when Season 3 returns in March?
At the end of the episode, we find out that not only did Angelo get a DUI, but there was also a girl in the car who he essentially left to die. Should we take that story for face-value? Is that really what happened in Angelo’s past?
From what we know right now, yes, absolutely. After Diana (Phylicia Rashad) didn’t follow through with her promise, Lucious decided to delve deeply and he found the truth of what really happened. I think Lucious’ whole angle is to make Cookie realize that Angelo is not who he seems to be, and is not as powerful and strong as he seems, and that he was a coward for leaving the girl to die.
So do you think that Lucious’ motive here is to really protect Cookie? Or does he just want to one-up Angelo?
I think it’s all of the above. Obviously, they have a strong bond and Lucious loves Cookie and he does not want her to be with any other man. I think that he is going to try to come in between her and Angelo even more so because Angelo is reminiscent of Barry, her high school sweetheart, who he had taken Cookie away from. So I think Lucious is very aware that Angelo is very much a probable candidate of the last people that she’s been with. I feel like he’ll do anything to break them up.
How will this new info impact Angelo and Cookie’s relationship? Is this a deal-breaker?
We’re going to have to see how she get the information from Angelo. Knowing Cookie, she wants to get all the facts and make her own decision. It’s really going to be about how strong the Lucious/Cookie bond is, and if that is going to create a fissure within her and Angelo.
The first half of this season was very much about Cookie breaking away from Lucious and finding her own independence and meeting a new man. What can we expect from Cookie in the back-half of Season 3?
She’s co-CEO so it’s going to be focused on what happens with Empire, her relationship with Lucious and if with this information, if she’ll be able to go even deeper with Angelo. I think there will be many layers going around. At the beginning of the second half [of the season], she’s specifically dealing with Jamal. He’s going to be in rehab and going through drug addiction. That’s a huge thing for a mother to deal with.
Will we see scenes of Jamal in rehab?
Yes, we will. And we’re going to go through the journey of an artist who is addicted to pain medication, and we’ll see if he’s able to overcome those demons and get through it. That is going to be very much part of Jamal’s story.
Cookie is the one who told Jamal he’s going to rehab, so how will that impact their relationship? Will Jamal resent his mother?
She did it in the smartest way by including the entire family. This was very much Lucious and Cookie coming together as parents, in order for him to go to rehab. Obviously, Lucious and Cookie are in cahoots, and I think Jamal is able to look at it as a family intervention versus just Cookie. Sure, he’s going to feel betrayed, but I think he will understand that it’s the best for him.
Why did Cookie give Jamal the pills that she threw down the sink?
It’s a few things. First, going through withdrawal is extremely painful and dangerous and something that you just have to go and get somewhere to get clean — that couldn’t happen right then and there since she can’t call 911 because it would be all over the tabloids, and she doesn’t want to see her son suffer. It’s very painful withdrawal, so I think that’s part of it. Secondly, he has to compete the show or else his career would have been over, had he not performed, and she knew that. So she figured, might as well give it to him — she didn’t want to see her son in pain, and she didn’t want to see his career ruined — and smartly enough, right after, she gets his ass to rehab.
Andre had visions of Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) again and asked her to let him go. How will that pivotal moment change Andre’s path going forward?
I felt that when I directed that scene, it was pretty much a big, poetic goodbye to Rhonda. Andre is fixated and he knows what he’s about to do — he’s going to take over Empire and he’s going to get rid of his father. He’s given up all of his religiosity and has gone in the other direction. For his mental instabilities, he’s gone even more manic in that direction, and what he’s found in Nessa (Sierra McClain) is a partner who admires him for his Machiavellian ways, and that is enough for him to say goodbye [to Rhonda]. At the very end, he throws his ring into the water because he’s finally letting go of being married to her in death.
Will we see any more of Kaitlin Doubleday, who plays Rhonda, or is she done with the show?
I mean, we said goodbye to her ghost. So that’s it. It’s a big goodbye. Kaitlin plays a ghost.
At the end Andre tells Shyne (Xzibit) that he wants to kill Lucious — does he mean that literally, or just figuratively in the sense that he wants to take him down and take over Empire?
Of course he means it. He is going to kill his father. That’s his goal. He wants to kill his father. That’s what he’s going to try to do for the second half of the season. Will he be able to do it? I don’t know. He may, he may not. That’s why people are going to have to watch the show to find out. But Andre’s character is so dangerous because he has nothing to lose and he’s ruthless and he’s calculating. When he hacked Empire, nobody found out and nobody knew it was him until the very end, so obviously he knows what he’s doing. In his head, he wants to kill his dad. And we’re going to see if Lucious is going to find out or not or be in harm’s way — that’s going to be part of the journey of the second half of the season.
Will a new pact form between Shyne and Andre to take Lucious down?
Well, here’s the thing: the way we’ve left it is that we don’t know what Shyne thinks about Andre’s whole plot. Shyne wants a stake at Empire, he wants to be part of that legacy, he wants to grow his business. It will be interesting to follow Shyne and see what he’s going to do with this information — is he going to play Andre? Is he going to really go against Lucious and try to get him murdered? Or is he going to wind up telling Lucious that his son is trying to kill him?
Lucious brought Tariq (Morocco Omari) their father’s badge, but I don’t believe they’ve resolved their issues. What can we expect with Tariq and the FBI storyline when Season 3 returns?
Tariq is in deep trouble by the finale. The entire FBI is now aware that he’s related to Lucious. His job is most definitely probably in jeopardy. He’s obsessed with getting more private information about Lucious, his own father and also Leah (Leslie Uggams), and I think that Tariq’s obsession is going to get in the way of a lot of the going-ons, whether it’s with Andre and Shyne or whether it’s with Lucious. I feel like he’s the perfect mix to create even more havoc.
What will be the themes of the back-half of Season 3?
It’s going to be Andre and his rise, and what damage he’s going to do to Empire. It’s going to be about Cookie and her relationship to Lucious — how deep is their love, and will it last or will it be gone forever? We see a lot more flashbacks in which we get even more of a sense of the bond between Lucious and Cookie, and what happened in the past, so we’re going to learn so much more. And then also with Jamal, will he be able to be an artist who’s sober? Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) has a kid, and he’s trying to build this whole Takeem situation with Tiana (Serayah) — is she going to bite? And then you’ve got Nessa in the mix who’s trying to overtake and outshine Tiana because they’re all on the same label. It’s going to be a larger struggle for power, and we’re going to see if the Lyon family will be able to stay together. But I feel like the whole Andre of it all is going to be really, really intense.