SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched “Empire” season two, episode 16, titled “The Lyon Who Cried Wolf,” which aired on May 4.
Leah Walker has been unleashed. Lucious’ (Terrence Howard) mother was finally introduced to the Lyon family, after years of believing she was dead. Andre (Trai Byers) formed a relationship with his newfound grandmother, but Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) knows that she’s bad news for her family.
On the brighter side of the Lyon spectrum, Jamal (Jussie Smollett) met a new man in the music biz and entered into his first steamy hookup since breaking up with Michael (Rafael de la Fuente).
Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) began to come back to her senses, recalling moments from the night she fell down the stairs — and now, she believes she didn’t fall, but was pushed. And all signs in her mind point to Anika (Grace Gealey). While at her pregnant friend’s home, Rhonda looks at Anika’s shoes and remembers being pushed by someone wearing those same exact shoes.
At the end of the episode, Lucious was stuck in a room with his unstable mother who had baked a ton of cakes, forcing Lucious to eat them. But don’t think that this is motherly love — Ms. Walker was holding a cake knife that was a little too close for comfort as the scene cut to black and she told her son, “I should have killed you.”
Will Lucious be safe with his mother back in town? Here, “Empire” showrunner Ilene Chaiken tells Variety all about the episode, plus what’s to come in the last episodes of the season.
Jamal has a new hookup. Is his relationship with D-Major going to be serious or just something fun?
It’s the beginning of a story. We’re not rushing anywhere with it, but it’s a complicated relationship. There’s Jamal who fought hard to live in his truth and come out of the closet and he winds up involved with a guy who is as deeply closeted as many men are, and that’s a challenge for a gay man, certainly.
Gay relationships are pretty taboo in the hip hop world. Why was this storyline of two gay black men important for you and the writers to include?
We didn’t view it as an issue that we needed to take on. We looked at it as something that happens in the world and something that happens often. We’ve heard many, many stories. Jamal is obviously a wildly attractive guy who is going to be attractive to a lot of people, but is also probably lonely — it’s hard as a star to really find love and find someone who can move in the same circles as you and it’s inevitable and it’s bound to happen that those unexpected attractions are going to flare up. This is the first time we’ve told a story like that for Jamal. It’s the beginning of an interesting story that we hope will have legs.
So we will see more of D-Major?
We definitely will see more of it. The character is with us through the end of the season, but we’re not rushing to a conclusion either.
Tiana kissed Hakeem on the cheek and was a bit flirty in tonight’s episode. Does she still have feelings for Hakeem? And is Laura jealous?
I’m just going to say that Tiana has feelings for Hakeem and it doesn’t have to go anywhere quickly, but those feelings aren’t going to go away. Hakeem is in love with Laura and Tiana is going to sit tight.
But you told me last week that Hakeem and Laura are getting married, so they’re still on track?
Laura and Hakeem are planning to get married, and it’s a good and hopeful sign that they’re talking about stuff. Laura is expressing her needs and Hakeem is reassuring her.
Grandma is back! Where do we even begin?
Andre has done something impulsive, and Cookie realizes that Leah being here is not a good thing for Lucious and the family. She needs to go back where she’s safe, where we’re safe, where she’s taken care of. Cookie is being genuine and she’s also being protective of Lucious and the family when there’s so much at stake.
The episode ends with Lucious in a room with his mother eerily holding a knife. Should we be worried for Lucious’ safety?
I think that we need to be psychologically worried for Lucious now that his mother has been unleashed. The episode is called “The Lyon Who Cried Wolf” — the family is so used to the family saying things that aren’t necessarily true. Lucius telling everyone, “You don’t understand what you’ve done, you don’t understand how destructive she can be,” is going to be taken as another one of those manipulative things when in fact what were seeing is that there’s a great deal of truth to what Lucious is saying. This woman is a danger to him and perhaps the whole family.
Harper was kidnapped. That isn’t much of a surprise, given what she did to Lucious. Will we see Harper again?
I think that might be the last we’ll see Harper for that season. Her fate might be debatable, but Lucious with Thirsty running point for him certainly takes care of problems.
I noticed that when she was kidnapped, her shoe fell off. Is that meant to foreshadow this coming back to bite Lucious?
We’ll see. Anything can happen, but definitely, he had her taken care of.
Cookie’s sisters were back in town, and we found out that Carol was helping Lucious back in the day when Cookie was in jail. What should viewers take away with that knowledge?
She certainly helped him with some crimes that Cookie would have disapproved of. She was his girl and that’s not what Cookie expected her sister to do when she went away to prison. Cookie said “take care of my family” — and that’s not at all what she meant.
A man was spying on Cookie’s sisters and heard what they were saying. Who is that?
That’s Tariq. What we know about him so far is that he grew up with Cookie and Lucious. He was a neighborhood kid who they all knew. He became a cop, but nobody disliked him for being a cop. He definitely is someone that Carol is happy to see and flirt with and it gives her that little spark of hope that a good man might have come her way. What we, the audience, know that Carol doesn’t is that he might not be a local cop anymore, but he’s a fed. Why is he there should be what we’re asking. He’s a fed — that does not bode well for the Lyons.
Rhonda finally starts to remember the night she fell down the stairs. She looks at Anika’s shoes and remembers her being there. Does that seal the deal that Anika is the person who pushed her?
She’s having a memory. She lost her memory, but it’s coming back. She’s having post-traumatic stress flashbacks. That doesn’t mean that it was Anika, but if it was Anika that pushed her, then there’s trouble coming.
The song that the Lyon men all performed together was really special. How did that number come about?
It started as a song that was written by Jussie Smollett, and then we built on that song. We were looking for the song — what is this family anthem going to be? Because it’s really the hero song of the season. Jussie brought it to us, and then all of the musicians got together and built on it and brought these elements to it to make it even more than the sum of its parts.
We’re heading into the final two episodes of the season. What can you tease that’s coming up as the season wraps up?
The next episode is something we’ve been building toward all season long — it’s the ASAs. What’s going to happen at the ASAs? Who’s going to win? Will it be Lucious or Jamal? Will Cookie manage to get her family on stage, as promised, to perform that incredible number? What can possibly happen with all of that at stake? And is Tariq and this fed investigation going to somehow create a new and global problem for Empire and the Lyon family that might somehow derail all of those great ambitions?