Up until last week's episode of Empire, in which Lucious (Terrence Howard) crammed his sons in a limo and then ran down a list of their problems, the demented daddy seemed to have hit an almost OK relationship with Jamal (Jussie Smollett)... and his sexuality.
There was even hope this season that Lucious could come to at least be respectful of Jamal — especially since their relationship could hardly get lower than that time last season Lucious uttered those infamous words, "The day you die from AIDS, I'm gonna celebrate." Jamal, you'll remember, had been beginning to fall under the charms of producer D-Major (Tobias Truvillion) — who'll be back this season, FYI — and Lucious' clumsy effort to protect his son from opportunist dude on the DL disintegrated into pretty much the most vile, homophobic statement you could ever make to anyone. All that seemed to be undone though, when Jamal jumped in front of a gun to save his dad's life and Lucious showed a sweet side — calling Jamal "his baby" and even going to meet Freda Gatz (Bre-Z) in prison to get vocals for Jamal to use. Suddenly a pathway had opened for Lucious to see his son not just as a human, but a hero, too, something that in theory could've made him accept his son no matter what.
Pretty soon, we'll start to see Jamal's love life heat up again, with a suitor emerging from his PTSD group and D-Major coming back. So could Lucious be finally ready to embrace his kid for all he is?
You can probably hold off on adding that to your calendar, but for Jussie Smollett, the picture is a little more complicated. The reason they're not exactly Ward and Beaver Cleaver has less to do with his sexuality than some might think.
"I don't think, at this point, really it's not necessarily about Jamal's sexuality," the actor told TVGuide.com as part of a call with other media outlets. "It's not to say that Lucious is the supportive father and is going to be on the marches and the front lines of parents of LGBTQ people, but I also think that they just have a problem with each other because more than anybody, they're most alike. You know what I'm saying? That is the issue."
Empire, as producers have said plenty, likes to hold a mirror to society and especially highlight issues relevant to African-Americans. Jussie thinks "acceptance" and "tolerance" work both ways — with ground rules.
"The thing is, we don't all have to see the world in the same way," Smollett says. "Lucious has every right to think and to believe that Jamal being homosexual is wrong. We don't all have to agree... It doesn't make us bad people. It only becomes wrong when he s--ts upon Jamal and Jamal's basic freedoms. It only makes us bad if your disagreement and your beliefs then [trample] over my simple basic freedoms."
And with both of these stubborn Lyons showing they'll do what they want to when they want to, this tension probably isn't subsiding anytime soon.
Empire airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Fox.