Thursday, April 02, 2015

My Review of Empire's 1x08: "The Lyon's Roar"

Written And Directed by Danny Strong

Jamal: "This the kind of song that makes a man love a man."

Well, this was a turning point of an episode. I was hoping for Jamal to finally come out but even I didn't think he was going to do in such the fashion that he did. If ever there was a perfect way for a television character to come out, this episode might have captured it just well with only Lucious being uncomfortable with it.

Publicly changing one of his father's hit songs in order to tell the whole world he was gay (after getting good advice ironically enough from both Lucious and earlier in the episode, Ryan) could've easily backfired on Jamal too but given the applause his performance generated and the support the rest of his family openly displayed, it really couldn't have gone any better for Jamal during that moment. A later scene where Hakeem told him how brave he was nearly made me want to cry as well and that wasn't the only time during the episode I wanted to do that.

I liked that Cookie also pointed out to Lucious that no-one cared about their middle child being gay but at the same time, it didn't stop Lucious from spiting everyone by dropping the Legacy album that took up a good deal of the plot for this episode (along with the White Party where Jamal came out at). It always seems to be a tiny step forward with Lucious and several steps backwards with him, doesn't it?

When he wasn't being a dick about Jamal coming out, he also managed to have sex with Cookie one more time in the studio before agreeing to marry Anika earlier than he wanted and then there was his attitude towards Andre as well. I know Andre has been pretty underhanded with the plotting to take over Empire behind Lucious's back but I actually felt sorry for him in this episode.

Yes, he tried to pimp out Rhonda for votes on the board which was pretty sleazy of him but his comments about why Lucious resented him (along with the latter's issues of his oldest boy marrying a white woman) certainly generated some sympathy from me. Andre is the businessman of the family - not the creative type and somehow that's made him the outsider of the family. In fact, if you look at all of the Lyons, they've all been outsiders, haven't they?

Cookie's been locked up for seventeen years, that isolated her from the family, Lucious is somewhat tyrannical, which would isolate anyone, Jamal for his sexuality (mainly by Lucious), Andre for not being musical/marrying Rhonda and Hakeem for being the baby at times. It's just something I've picked during the whole series. Perhaps the final four episodes will strive harder to band them all together. Whether or not it results in them trying to kill Lucious remains to be seen though.

However as an episode, this was definitely a series highlight for me. Whether it was the prospect of Jamal properly moving forward both as a character and a musician or various other threats to Lucious's legacy (including his own idiocy) or even a potential new rivalry with Cookie and Camilla, this episode certainly didn't disappoint.

Also in "The Lyon's Roar"

Flashbacks this week were of Cookie's trial and her looking at family pics in her cell with a certain song being the dominating factor throughout the episode.

Lucious: "What song do we do?"
Cookie: "You're So Beautiful."

Jamal seemed to be getting into the spirit of fatherhood with his scenes with Lola in this episode. I still think for good reasons that he should get a DNA test though.

Andre (re board member): "Pretty, isn't she?"
Rhonda: "I'd say about a six."

Cookie (after slapping him): "That's for leaving me twisting in the wind for seventeen years."
Lucious: "Do it again."

Jamal has gotten a new love interest in Ryan - the cute Australian guy who was filming the Legacy documentary and the White Party. He's feistier than Michael was.

Andre: "I thought you liked our games."
Rhonda: "Tonight just made me sick, literally."

Ryan: "The joys of being the son of a black man."
Jamal: "Yes sir."

How sexy was Jamal in this episode? Seriously, Jussie Smollett is a beautiful man but during the White Party performance, he was something else.

Jamal (re Lucious): "I'm telling you right now be careful. You do not want to love that man."
Cookie: "Why not?"
Jamal: "Because he's incapable of loving anyone but himself."

Camilla: "Excuse me, you're older than I am."
Cookie: "Oh, I don't think so, Aunty Camilla."

Actually Naomi Campbell is older than Taraji P. Henson by a few months, funny enough. Other interesting moments in this episode included Andre with the gun in the studio and Anika going to see Beretti.

Andre (to Lucious): "You know why my family hates me? I know why. Because I'm not talented. Not the way you want, right?"

Jamal (re coming out): "You don't think it was a mistake?"
Hakeem: "Not at all. It was the bravest thing I've ever seen in my life."

Standout music: Literally every version of "You're So Beautiful" but even more so Jamal's performance and the haunting version Cookie sang in the last flashback. Special mention for the Jamal/Lola version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" as well.

Cookie: "That is fine by me, Lucious. Nothing good can come from loving you, except for my three babies."

Chronology: From where "Our Dancing Days" left off.

"The Lyon's Roar" was a bloody triumph. The best episode of the series so far, Danny Strong did an excellent job writing and directing this one. This show keeps hitting newer highs and it's wonderful to watch each episode get better and better but this was the pinnacle so far.

Rating: 10 out of 10

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