News flash: Empire's Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is gay. (Except for that one time when he explored his bicuriosity with Sky Summers (Alicia Keys) and that time he was married to Olivia Lyon (Raven-Symoné), but that's all over, it seems.) Groundbreakingly out and proud, Jamal is hardly what anyone could call "flamboyant": his shiny suit aficionado brother Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), certainly outdoes Jamal in his love of bedazzling and drama, and Jamal really isn't the "yaass queen," type. But Empire never lets viewers forget that Jamal is gay, because Jamal has quite the active romantic life.
Jamal, and his thriving sex life, is propaganda. Empire co-creator Lee Daniels has talked at length about Jamal being a way to appease what he called homophobic black audiences, and it worked. He's Empire's most loved character, after Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). In normalizing Jamal, Empire made a commendable effort to show him as a full person, which means, of course, dating. (And dating with abandon: Jamal has had — and curved — more baes than his brothers.) Some of these dudes had potential; others were total f---boys. One thing they have in common: most were guys he's worked with, an incredulous coincidence that makes one wonder if Jamal checks LinkedIn for a rainbow flag before making hiring anyone. But who cares? Jamal may be thirsty, or irresistible to all men; fans are here for it either way. How have all his boo thangs stacked up? Here's a ranking of the boys he's given some of that Lyon fever so far from worst to best.
5. Ryan Morgan, the Filmmaker
These two were doomed from the start, since Ryan Morgan (Eka Darville) met Jamal when the singer was still trying to play straight for the public. Lucious hired Ryan to do documentary on Empire and, as one does, they ended up sucking face. Jamal tried to convince Ryan to hide his sexuality from Lucious too, leading to a conversation about growing up gay with an African-American father and living in the truth, yada yada yadda. Theirs was a situation of pure convenience and pretty dull at that, until Jamal's (suspected) baby with Olivia interrupted their flow and Ryan peace'd out instead of wanting to play papa. Which is fine: Ryan was way too serious for the upbeat Jamal. On to the next.
4. Warren Hall, the Mole
Not only a bad choice, but also dangerous. Jamal met Warren (Terrell Carter) because Warren was tasked with infiltrating the Lyon pride by Diana DuBois (Phylicia Rashad), his aunt and Cookie's nemesis. Now, Warren is undeniably fine, but he's also inherently problematic. Because this is Empire, we know how this is going to play out: he's going to catch feelings for Jamal, who'll lap up all the attention like he's personally drinking all the water at Extreme Thirst Beach through a straw, and then he and everyone watching will have to suffer through the fallout while he sits at the piano to coo Are these feelings real? But guess what Jamal? It doesn't matter. Feelings aren't facts, and the fact is, he's been sent to do a job, which is to seduce and con you. However it plays out, it's going to take a while: Carter has been promoted to season regular, so it's going to drag out. Ugh. Do better Jamal! That said, he sure does fill out a pair of pants, so nobody can blame you for getting caught up. NO. ONE.
3. D-Major, the Champion F--boy
Closeted music producer Derek "D-Major" (Tobias Truvillion) was kind of a scumbag, at least initially; he, like most of Jamal's questionable romantic choices, was a total opportunist, slithering his way into Jamal's life through work when he served as the American Sound Awards' musical director. D-Major is Empire's way of commenting on the whole "DL brother" cultural phenomenon, and it's totally appropriate to have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, the myth of the sneaky guy sleeping with men but denying it to everyone backs the destructive message that gay/bisexual people are untrustworthy. On the other hand, that is a thing that actually happens in real life and specifically in the hip-hop world. But much less nuanced was the cartoonish way their fling started, which is squabbling over music and then, inexplicably turning into an aggressive makeout session that looked like giving CPR to someone standing up. Remember, this is the relationship that trigged Lucious to deliver the stunning line, "The day you die from AIDS, I'm going to celebrate," to his son, causing Jamal to understandably cling to D-Major, as a protest. Over time, D-Major Derek proved to have genuine feelings for Jamal — possibly even saving his life when Jamal almost overdosed — but he's ultimately hard to trust. The "chemistry" (wink) was fire though and GURL, who doesn't have an ex whose...chemistry was so good you couldn't think straight? Hmph.
2. Michael Sanchez, the Day One
A.K.A. the one who got away. Michael (Rafael de la Fuente), Jamal's live-in boyfriend from Season 1, was sensitive, supportive and sexy: a Grand Slam of a guy Jamal loved and deserved. Granted, Jamal caught him getting a beej from another guy (which happened while he and Jamal were fighting and anyway, rock stars don't tend to go for middle-class heteronormative monogamy) but other than that, Michael seemed promising. Even Cookie liked him! Sadly, their relationship got complicated once Jamal's career took flight, prompting Michael to look for something a little more stable. He's reoccured since, and although nothing has stuck, he remains a good choice for Jamal.
1. Philip, the Rock
Qualifications: Fine? Check. Stable, with good intentions? Check and check. Philip (Juan Antonio), who ran a PTSD support group, helped Jamal through a rough patch and held his hand (as well as other parts) on the journey to healing. Yes, a therapist hooking up with a patient is completely inappropriate. But Philip is sturdy in a way none of Jamal's other loves have been and the military vet won't hesitate to defend Jamal, like he did when he popped D-Major in the face for making a crude crack that Philip couldn't "give it" like he could. (Which admittedly was kinda funny/petty.) Philip has been ghost for a minute but of all the jump-offs that've stayed on team Jamal, he's the best and biggest total package and the best chance at giving Mr. Lyon the love he deserves.
Empire airs Wednesday nights at 8/7c on Fox.