Empire wants you to think that the beloved middle-son of the Lyon family may have been fatally shot by a bullet meant by his father, but he will live to see another day. According to the episode description from next week's season finale, Jamal (Jussie Smollett) has a "life-changing experience" that leads him to press pause on his music career.
We can breathe easily knowing Jamal is alive but still, his getting shot was a standout stomach-churning, OMG moment in an episode full of stomach-churning OMG moments. Empire is good again everyone! It's enough to make you want to do your best Hakeem impression and start popping bottles. The other best moments of the episode?
1. Lucious' hateful homophobic remarks to Jamal
It's been evident from the moment D-Major (Tobias Truvillion) slithered up to Jamal that he's more interested in Jamal's money and access than he is a real romance. Jamal, sensitive soul he is, is blinded by D-Major's hotness but Lucious (Terrence Howard) isn't when walks in on them and then spills all the producer's tea. D-Major stands for "majorly on the DL", Lucious says, and he has a penchant for wooing rich boys. Lucious is 100% right here and trying to protect his son, but his delivery is terrible, especially when he says D must be the top. Jamal gets defensive and pounces on Lucious' own sensitive spot — his mom. This makes Luscious say the line that'll go down in infamy: I'll celebrate the day you die from AIDS. Damn! It was poignant, crushing, exciting and relevant both culturally and to the narrative. You go Empire!
Exactly what is Lucious' mom Leah Walker (Leslie Uggams) going to say to the press about the nature of her relationship to the Lyon family? Grandma Lyon pieced together Wednesday that Lucious' annoyingly titled "Boom Boom Boom Boom" is an allusion to his story that his mother shot herself in the head. She is pissed; pissed at the lies, pissed at being stuffed in a home, pissed at being cooped up in that panic room while watching her family enjoy the limelight and now how she had to see her grandson get shot on TV. Lucious maintains that he keeps her stuffed away for a reason (her saying she should have killed him while force-feeding him pie seems like adequate justification, TBH). When she struts out of the hospital and admits to being part of the family to a pack of press, she may very well be pulling a thread that's gonna unspool everything. Exactly how dangerous is she?
4. Cookie, Queen Bee is back
Jamal got shot, but Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) owned this episode in a few key scenes. Much like Lucious' and Jamal's nasty blowout, Cookie and Carol (Tasha Smith) begin a civil, necessary yet uncomfortable confrontation about something serious: Carol is drinking again, but is so blinded by Tariq's (Morocco Omari) fineness and attention to realize he's a federal agent. Carol insults Cookie, unleashing one of Cookie's best meltdowns ever. "Bounce your ass out!" she screams, and hurt Carol is falling apart again.
In another great moment, Cookie has to tearfully explain to Jamal why he needs to stay clear of Freda (Bre-Z), which leads to the scene that shouts "Award!": her bawling, blubbering mama-bear havoc as Jamal gets shot. With blood literally and metaphorically on her hands, Cookie is terrified, angry and vulnerable all at lightening speed and intensity. It felt like we were in the room. It was fantastic. You go Empire.
Empire's Season 2 finale airs Wednesday May 18 at 9/8c on Fox.