[WARNING: The following contains spoilers from Empire's first season finale.]
Because Empire doesn't waste time with anything, the show's Season 1 finale begins with a bang. Literally. Cookie and Malcolm decide to heat up their relationship by taking a trip to the Berkshires together. However, Cookie admits she's nervous about the weekend because she's never been with anyone besides Lucious. And remember, this is the woman who only a few weeks ago was trying to flash her vagina to Malcolm via a security camera and told him to "take a bite" of her cookie.
Of course, they end up doing it and Cookie realizes that not every man includes baby wipes as a necessary part of foreplay. Unfortunately, Porsha accidentally spills the beans about her boss' weekend diddle to Lucious, who predictably acts like the overgrown, petulant child he is. When Cookie returns to Empire, she discovers that her ID badge no longer works and is given 15 minutes to clean out her desk. The twist of the knife: Lucious and Andre lied about putting her on the board of directors, so she has no real claim to the company.
Malcolm, who somehow avoids being fired, decides to go to D.C. where he has a cushy government job waiting for him. He asks Cookie to join him, but she refuses to leave her career and children behind. And good thing, too, because the Lyon boys need at least one parent who is in their corner. Especially Hakeem.
The littlest Lyon still hasn't gotten over Lucious sending Naomi Campbell away, so when he gets the chance to freestyle during Snoop Dogg's performance at an Empire party, he uses it as an opportunity to get back at his dad. Lucious refuses to let this slide (see above re: overgrown, petulant child) and punches his teenage son in the face.
Let's all give a round of applause for Parent of the Year right here.
Meanwhile, that other Lyon brother you probably forgot about is still getting closer to Jennifer Hudson. (Is falling for your music therapist any better than falling for your regular therapist? I thought not.) The pair begins going to church together and Dre decides that now that he's found God, it's time for him to leave Empire and focus on a higher purpose. Instead of feeling relieved that his son is finding happiness again, Lucious adds "faith" to the list of things he plans to take away away from Andre. (So far, that list also includes "parental support" and "the chance of running Empire.") Lucious takes his God complex to a whole new level when he decides to prove to Andre that he's more powerful than the Almighty by asking Jennifer Hudson to record a gospel record, proving that anyone can be bought.
Stinging from the losses of both Hakeem and Andre, Lucious finally runs to Jamal, whose first record is blowing up, no thanks to his father. During their conversation, Lucious mentions that he's suffering from writer's block and Jamal realizes that the best medicine for such an affliction is a big ol' dose of nostalgia, so he takes his father to the house he grew up in (you know, the one where Lucious once threw Jamal in the trashcan). The trip to the past works, inspiring a musical pissing contest between Lucious and Jamal until they wind up with a pretty great song.
Afterwards, Lucious finally decides to make his move, offering Jamal Empire. But as with everything Lucious does, it comes with a catch: In order to be Lucious' successor, Jamal has to get Lucious' master tapes back from Baretti by any means necessary. With barely any hesitation, Jamal proves he has that "inner monster" Lucious is always ranting about when he goes full Clueless on Baretti, hanging him over the edge of a balcony (yikes. That makes Jamal the Barney from Foot Locker, and he is so much better than that.)
While one son is going completely insane out of nowhere, prompting me to wonder if murderous tendencies are genetic, Lucious discovers his other son, Hakeem, sticking it to his ex-fiancée. Yup, you read that right. After weighing his vengeance options, Hakeem apparently decided that signing with Baretti wasn't enough and chose to f--k Boo Boo Kitty instead.
Having the image of Anika and Hakeem sleeping together burned into his brain probably had Lucious feeling grateful that his days were numbered. But sucks for him, because it turns out that - SHOCKER - Lucious doesn't have ALS after all. In fact, his real illness isn't even fatal, so we can look forward to many more years of Terrence Howard warbling away on Fox.
The only downside to his newly diagnosed illness is that Lucious has to take a drug that causes insomnia. He attempts to get around that little hiccup by taking sleeping pills, too, the combination of which results in some very vivid hallucinogenic nightmares. Cookie stumbles into the middle of all this and through her keen detection skills - aka a ridiculously contrived expository monologue - deduces that not only is Lucious going to live, but also that he killed her cousin. And though we've seen Cookie upset before, we've never seen her upset enough to grab a pillow and try to smother her ex until now.
However, Cookie doesn't finish what she started, and Lucious lives through the night. (Though, at breakfast the next morning, none of his sons look too thrilled with the newfound knowledge of their father's extended lifespan.) Lucious does what he can to make things right, presenting each member of his family with a gift: a winged necklace for Hakeem, representing his new freedom; a cross for Andre, representing a new multimillion dollar foundation he can run; and a scepter for Jamal, representing Lucious officially passing the torch of Empire. As for Cookie, she gets a pillow.
That's right. Lucious' medication apparently wasn't strong enough to block out the memory of his ex-wife attempting to murder him. He then uses the security footage of the incident to kick Cookie out of Empire once again. Yet even after all that, when the FBI picks up Cookie and tries to get her to turn on Lucious, she refuses to snitch. Talk about a ride-or-die kind of girl.
But loyalty apparently doesn't run in the family. When Boo Boo Kitty resurfaces, it takes barely any effort to recruit Keem into planning a hostile takeover of Empire. Dre is initially reluctant to join the fun, but after Rhonda leaves him, disgusted at his relationship with Jennifer Hudson and the way he gave up the company without a fight, he decides to go for it. What does he have to lose, right? (That is, besides his father and Jamal.)
However, their scheme comes with one major hitch: It involves Cookie and Anika working together. After a brief but amazing catfight (directed by none other than Debbie Allen), the rivals agree to put their differences aside in the name of their mutual hatred of Lucious. But in order to set their plan in motion and obtain control of Empire, Lucious has to get caught in a scandal big enough to take him down. If only he had recently murdered someone...
Vernon then pops back up out of nowhere, but his return is short-lived. Almost as soon as he reappears, he begins brawling with Andre over a business disagreement. Rhonda returns mid-fray and knocks Vernon over the head with a candlestick like some character in Clue, accidentally killing him. Because people on TV are idiots, Rhonda refuses to let Dre call the police. She also decides this is the perfect time to tell Andre that she's pregnant. The happy parents-to-be dispose of the body and attend Lucious' big concert as planned.
Before taking the stage, Lucious delivers his umpteenth apology of the season, but this time, he finally tells Jamal he's sorry for the way he's treated him. Lucious also reveals his real name, Dwight Walker, but we're just going to pretend that never happened. Unfortunately, this heartfelt moment is cut short by the feds storming in and arresting Lucious for the murder of Bunkie. Though, the fact that the now-deceased Vernon was the FBI's star witness might mean Lucious is more difficult to lock up than anyone originally predicted. Who woulda thunk?
What did you think of the Empire finale?