Aw, doesn't it seem like just yesterday we were clutching our pearls as Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) rolled down those stairs on Empire? As the second season progressed, the show slowly climbed out of a hole of silliness that sometimes made you feel like you'd arrived at a Drake show only to discover he'd been replaced with Iggy Azalea. By the end though, Empire righted the ship — revealing Anika (Grace Gealey) as The Pusher and introducing a bunch of new reasons to stay the course. Whether or not it can successfully thread all its new stories — including the long-awaited Mariah Carey appearance -- into one fabulous unit remains to be seen, but Season 3's many open holes give promise to a strong start. Here are the burning questions we want to see resolved when Empire kicks off in a few weeks.
Who went over the balcony?
It's probably Rhonda. (Damn, poor Rhonda can't catch a break, can she?) Producers have called attention to Andre's expression when the screen cut to black during Anika and Rhonda's shoving match; Boss Ilene Chaiken told Variety that Rhonda's husband Andre (Trai Byers) will be deeply affected by what he saw. And this isn't a fakeout death, producers say, but an actual one, so you should probably get ready to tell Rhonda your goodbyes. Another reason it's almost certainly Rhonda? There's zero chance of giving up the tension between Anika and her nemesis, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). It's the histrionic, soap opera hot mess we live for.
What'll happen to Anika now that she's admitted to pushing Rhonda?
In the (arguably) sane world we live in, this is the kind of thing that triggers criminal charges. But this is Empire, where homicide is as bad as getting a parking ticket. (The confession, by the way, supports the theory that Rhonda is dead, since there's no longer a victim.) But Anika isn't off the hook; Empire executive producer Sanna Hamri told TVGuide.com "Anika is in so much trouble," which means essentially everybody except Lucious has a motive to go upside Anika's head — or worse.
Is Cookie really done with Lucious?
Obviously not, but Empire has to get this balance right in Season 3 or risk becoming repetitive. Cookie vowed she was done with Lucious (Terrence Howard) after he married Anika, but a central premise of the season is Cookie sticking around out of loyalty to her kids and to Empire. Early trailers even hint at some more romantic tension too, which seemed plausible last season but now... maybe not so much? We fell in love with Cookie watching her pursue payback from Lucious. While it's plausible she can't quit him, it's more fun to watch them spar than cuddle. Taraji's character is at her best when her fangs are out, and nobody gets her as riled up as her ex. If they have some sort of happy ending, it better be hard fought.
Who's coming for Lucious now?
Child, who isn't? There's his mom Leah (Leslie Uggams) for starters, who isn't fooling anyone with those pantsuits and old lady shoes. Granny is dangerous, and storing a lot of secrets in that bun on her head. Then there's Tariq (Morocco Omari), his federal agent half-brother who has some serious axe to swing. There's also Shyne, played by Xzibit, who's jealous of Lucious' success and intends to use his skills in extortion, selling drugs and moving guns to bring Lucious down. He'll be a serious regular next season, meaning it'll be a long time before Lucious gets rid of him. And don't forget Freda Gatz (Bre-Z) will also be back, who, despite being locked up for her attempt to kill Lucious, will still be trying to avenge her father.
What's up with Jamal?
Fan favorite Jamal (Jussie Smollett) may in fact have the second-most compelling story line this season — what with his promise to stay away from his family's craziness to his blossoming relationship with closeted producer D-Major (Tobias Truvillion). Executive producer Sanaa Hamri told TVGuide.com that D-Major and Jamal's relationship will remain an important part of his story going forward. Jamal clearly isn't going back "in" so that either leaves the two of them to carry on some secret affair — not likely for the confident Jamal — or... could Jamal coach D-Major to come out? Even if he did, that wouldn't resolve Lucious' aversion to him for being an opportunist preying on rich industry boys. That's probably just as well for Jamal, who's fed up with his father and keeping one of the show's richest stories going.
How do you think these stories will get resolved? Sound off in the comments.
Empire returns for Season 3 Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 9/8c on Fox.