Someone is poised to die at the end of Empire's fifth season, and the question weighing on everyone's mind has been who?
An ominous flash-forward in the season premiere saw Lucious (Terrence Howard) mourning the loss of a mystery person in a closed casket, setting the stage for an overarching mystery that has left us baffled so far. There have been few clues to go off of... until now.
Ahead of Wednesday's new episode, which finds the Lyon family back in control of Empire Records, Empire boss Brett Mahoney is offering up our biggest clue yet, revealing who definitely won't be in that coffin come season's end.
"It is not Cookie in the casket. It's also not Becky or Thirsty," Mahoney confirmed to TV Guide.
We weren't too concerned about Cookie — she is the heart and soul of the show, after all — but confirmation that the Lyon family matriarch is safe for now still comes as a huge relief. However, that doesn't eliminate Hakeem (Bryshere "Yazz" Gray), Andre (Trai Byers), or Jamal (Jussie Smollett) from the equation, meaning we might end up losing a different Lyon at the end of the season. Our vote is actually on Kinglsey (A.Z. Kelsey), the newest member of the family and Lucious' sworn enemy. Given what we've seen in the past, few are able to stand up against Lucious and live to tell the tale.
Although this latest clue definitely brings us one step closer to figuring out who will wind up six feet under this season, Mahoney said viewers won't find out exactly who it is until the finale, which is set to air later this spring. With the show doing away with its cryptic flash-forwards, the remaining episodes of the season will focus on catching up to that grim event, as mounting issues continue to test the Lyon family.
Wednesday's episode, titled "In Loving Virtue," will see things come to a head for Cookie and Lucious as they seize control of Empire Records and usher in a new era for the company. As teased in the video above, Lucious sets out to do away with the digital analytics that Kingsley favors for something different. According to Mahoney, this change of approach in how to run the family business will turn out to be a lot tougher than he could have anticipated.
"What he's gonna find is that Kingsley kind of damaged Empire, and because of the data mining scandal, they have to win their fans back and win their trust back," Mahoney said.
Cookie and Lucious' different approaches to how the family should rehabilitate Empire's shattered image will create a huge conflict for the already strained couple, who are still reeling over the dizzying reveal that Kingsley is Lucious' biological son. Those issues will be exacerbated by the return of Cookie's ex-lover, Damon Cross (Wood Harris).
"He's gonna be a thorn in the marriage of Lucious and Cookie," Mahoney teased.
This week's episode will also feature the return of Lucious' murderous, bipolar mother, Leah (Leslie Uggams), who we haven't seen since the end of Season 3. Her reemergence will force Lucious to look within and think about his actions on a critical level. It's all part of Empire's bid to return to its Seasons 1 roots, focusing on the complex dynamics of the Lyons and all the drama that comes with being part of this famous musical family.
The remaining episodes of Season 5 will also see the series try something completely new: take its talented cast of musicians on tour. Hakeem, Winter, and Jamal are set to hit the road in the coming episodes, which could explain Jamal's absence in the season's final two installments. Jamal was written out of the penultimate and finale episodes amid Jussie Smollett's recent legal issues, which has left many wondering about his future with the show. But whether or not this exit is permanent remains to be seen.
In the meantime, watch the drama unfold when a new episode of Empire airs Wednesday, March 20 at 8/7c on Fox.