(Caution! Spoilers about Empire's season premiere ahead.)
Empire's third-season premiere began laying the foundation for some really messy storms to come -- not least of them an impending showdown between Lucious (Terrence Howard) and his half-brother, FBI agent Tariq (Morocco Omari), as well as Shine (Xzibit) the gangster/budding music mogul. But there's much, much more about to go down for the characters on this soap of course, and we saw glimpses of that frighteningly juicy future in Wednesday's episode.
Andre (Trai Byers) as we saw, is all torn up over the death of his wife Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), who plummeted to her demise in the very first seconds of the season. Having already lost his unborn child thanks to the other time Anika (Grace Gealey) pushed her, Andre is understandably losing it. Not in a colloquial way, mind you, but literally. His mental health issues -- a mix of bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia, it seems, based on the hallucinations he's having -- that've been present since Day 1 are coming to the forefront stronger with Rhonda no longer around to help manage his meds and bouts of mania. Andre both balances and represents the tricky intersection of faith and mental health familiar to many African-Americans, who can frequently find themselves, friends or family members trying to "pray away" or solve mental disorders on their own instead of seeking treatment.
"His faith is going to be tested, for sure," says Sanna Hamri, an executive producer and director on Empire. "Andre has turned to faith, and as we know, people turn in and out of faith. The journey is going to be bumpy. [African-Americans] have a history of not wanting to address mental health issues. It's always been taboo, but in our show we want to address that."
What we didn't see addressed much in that premiere is the fallout from Anika's murder of Rhonda. True, Lucious is the only one that really knows Anika pushed Rhonda down the steps last season, and Andre is the only person we saw right after Rhonda went over the ledge. But other than a passing mention of it this episode, the Lyons seem collectively unperturbed that a member 0f their family is no longer alive because of Anika. That's not going to last, Hamri says.
"She's deeply in trouble," Hamri says. "Lucious knows exactly what she did. He's going to hold that over her head. She's in prison, in a way; if she does something wrong... it's a very interesting dynamic."
Of course, if anybody has motive now for revenge and/or to kill her it's Andre, whose wife and baby are dead because of crazy Boo Boo Kitty. Could she be another major death this season? "What have we learned at Empire?" Hamri says between laughs. "You never know. You never, ever know."
Empire airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Fox.