You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Empire’s’ Season 4 Premiere Celebrates a 20th Anniversary and a Recovering Lucious

When Fox’s “Empire” ended last season, Lyon family patriarch Lucious (Terrence Howard) was just waking up from a coma after almost getting killed by a car bomb. Though he survived the attack physically, he lost his memories of his family and of himself. When the show returns for its fourth season, it’s three months later and he still doesn’t have his memory back, but the family is pushing on with their business – and a milestone with the 20th anniversary of their company.

“It really sets the template for the season,” showrunner Ilene Chaiken tells Variety about the anniversary celebration that will open the premiere. “In this episode, it serves as the framework for telling the story of where Lucious is and what it means to everyone.”

Chaiken says the premiere will also see a break in format, in order to better tell this story. The episode “book-ends” the story by starting the action at the 20th anniversary celebration, begging the question of whether or not Lucious will be well enough to “walk onto the stage with his family and step back in his old shoes,” Chaiken says. (The show will answer that question back at the celebration at the end of the episode, she promises.)

But first, the premiere will flash back 24 hours earlier to tell a “very intimate and intense story about where all of these characters are, what they’re dealing with and what they have at stake,” Chaiken says.

Where exactly the show finds the characters three months after that fateful moment by Lucious’ bed last season will not only answer just how injured Lucious is but also how Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and their boys have been holding up and keeping the business afloat. Although many of them “certainly want the old Lucious back,” per Chaiken, they have their own struggles to overcome, too.

Andre (Trai Byers), in particular, is dealing with “tremendous guilt” over the role he played in his father’s attack, orchestrating it and failing to call it off in time. “He realized his mistake in those last moments,” Chaiken says. “Whatever’s happened to Lucious is on him, and he wants not to be found out, but he’s also filled with guilt and remorse. And he also is entrapped by Shine, who’s the only other person that knows.”

Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) is struggling to be a single father, without his father around to guide him, after making an “unholy alliance” with Diana DuBois (Phylicia Rashad). “We’re going to find out what that alliance is about and what she’s trying to extract from him,” Chaiken promises, adding that things are further complicated for the youngest Lyon given that his baby’s mother Anika (Grace Byers) is in jail.

And also being played by the DuBois family, although he doesn’t quite know it yet, is Jamal (Jussie Smollett). “While Jamal has been focused on his father, we’re going to find that Warren has played the role of the good boyfriend and given him time,” says Chaiken. “And when we come back into our story, Warren is finally feeling like he’s gained Jamal’s trust, and now we should be anticipating what he’s there to do and how that’s going to pan out.”

The Lyons certainly have a lot pulling them apart this season, but Chaiken says the key things bringing them together are Lucious and Empire. The theme of this season, says Chaiken, is: “Who is Lucious now, and who will he become, and what has he lost? What is the family, but especially Cookie, doing in the face of the aftermath of Lucious’ injuries?”

“Empire” season 4 premieres on Fox Sept. 27 at 8 p.m.

More TV

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

  • R. KellyR. Kelly in concert at

    'Surviving R. Kelly' Producers on the Lifetime Doc's Ripple Effect

    The ripple effect of “Surviving R. Kelly” continues to widen more than a week after the documentary aired on Lifetime, renewing public interest — and outrage — over the litany of sexual abuse allegations against the R&B artist. Lady Gaga and Phoenix have apologized for working with him. Chance the Rapper and other artists are said to [...]

  • Yellowstone

    Viacom Lays Off Paramount Network Staffers Amid Reorganization (EXCLUSIVE)

    Viacom has laid off a number of staffers in its entertainment group, with the majority of the affected employees hailing from Paramount Network, Variety has learned exclusively. A Viacom spokesperson declined to comment. But a source with knowledge of the situation that the number of affected employees was fewer than 20, or less than 2% of [...]

  • The Last OG

    TV News Roundup: 'Last O.G.' Sets Season 2 Premiere Date on TBS

    In today’s TV News Roundup, “The Last O.G.” announces its Season 2 return date and Variety has the exclusive first look at Fox’s new legal drama “Proven Innocent.” FIRST LOOKS Netflix has announced its new limited series “Black Earth Rising” will launch on Jan. 25. The contemporary thriller series stars Michaela Coel as Kate Ashby, a Rwandan girl [...]

  • Matt Walsh

    'Veep' Star Matt Walsh to Lead ABC Comedy Pilot 'Happy Accident'

    Matt Walsh has been tapped for a lead role in the upcoming ABC single-camera comedy pilot “Happy Accident.” In the series, two Pittsburgh families – a father (Walsh) with three adult daughters, and a hotel lounge singer with her med student son – are forced together after a decades-old secret is revealed. Walsh currently stars in [...]

  • Jane Fonda

    'Grace and Frankie' Renewed for Season 6 at Netflix

    Netflix has renewed “Grace and Frankie” for a sixth season ahead of the Season 5 premiere this Friday. The series stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as the titular characters who found their lives turned upside down when their husbands (played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, respectively) revealed they were gay and left the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content