Nothing says Empire is back like a death, destruction, and music. We were promised a jaw-dropping premiere, and we got it. The most dramatic musical family in the world is back to deal with threats from outside and within. Unfortunately, the Lyon family sticks together tenuously with all the adhesiveness of tacky glue. A new family member entering the mix to literally tear it apart isn’t going to help matters. Most importantly, we finally get the answer to the question everyone’s been asking all summer: Who went off the balcony?
No matter who you thought went off the balcony, your jaw had to drop at the moment it actually happened. The unlucky winner who took a swan-dive and landed on a car is…Rhonda. Yes, Rhonda is now dearly departed, as husband Andre was forced to look on in horror. Someone was going to die, there was no questioning that. Only Empire would kill a vital character off and in the next second begin the introduction of a new one. Mere seconds after Rhonda took her final breaths, Anika went into labor. As her husband, Lucious gets special privileges like getting to be in the delivery room. Once there he warns Anika to keep her mouth shut over how Rhonda died. Feds are crawling everywhere, so the last thing Lucious needs is to add city cops to his growing list of annoyances. Even after all of that, the thing which makes Lucious snippy is that the baby is a girl.
Mind you Hakeem was MIA for all of this. Being left at the altar and having his baby mama marry his father at was supposed to be his own ceremony was just a little too much to take. Which is how he landed on Tiana’s doorstep. Fast-forward a little, and it’s back to business as usual. Andre is gone for most of the episode grieving, Jamal is in quite a bit of physical pain, Cookie is fed up, Hakeem walks around with alcohol permeating out of his skin, and Lucious has taken control of his new streaming deal and his granddaughter Bella. Until Hakeem can prove himself as father material in Lucious’ eyes (because Lucious is such a great example of fatherhood), Lucious’ name stays in the father section of her birth certificate and Bella remains in the mansion.
Conflict within the family is nothing compared to outsiders invading. Shyne, the guy who crashed Hakeem’s wedding, comes back with a vengeance. In exchange for not giving the government information on Lucious, he wants a record deal for his niece, and he’s not taking no for an answer. Surprisingly though, he actually helps Hakeem with his music. What’s more, Shyne’s niece Nessa is actually really good! Jamal has been having some physical pain to pair with the emotional trauma he is working through. His first performance since being shot is a call to end gun violence, but being so exposed sends him into a panic attack, forcing Nessa to take over. Lucious is less than pleased that he now has no choice but to give into Shyne’s demands, even if Nessa does have the talent.
Tariq is also not going anywhere anytime soon. Blood isn’t thicker than water where he’s concerned. He has no trouble making promises to every Lyon who will testify against Lucious. Lucious has been playing this game for a long time. He knows the best defense is a good offense. Tariq attends a dinner at the Lyon’s estate, immediately poking everyone with a stick. Not even Cookie will break, but she does have to draw a clear line with Lucious about the business so that she can keep going emotionally. You’d expect Lucious to fight Cookie, but instead he respects her needing space. Their bond is made of incredible strength, which we will see built up through the flashbacks of their early years together. To complement where Lucious and Cookie are now, we see the first time their eyes met as teenagers.
Every Lyon has reason to hate Lucious. For goodness sake’s Jamal was shot because of his father. Jamal makes an excellent point. If they can’t take Lucious down, what makes Tariq think he can? It all starts with a teddy bear; no, seriously. Tariq is no dummy either. If none of his family will give up Lucious, then the best way to get him is to get Lucious to incriminate himself. As Lucious is boasting to his new granddaughter how untouchable he is, Tariq is watching through a bug he planted in a teddy bear in Bella’s nursery.
Don’t think that just because Rhonda is dead that she is gone for good. Losing his wife may just be enough to break Andre. Seeing that he begins hallucinating Rhonda in his grief, it’s a safe bet to say that we haven’t seen the last of her just yet.
RIP Rhonda. Hopefully between all these hostile Lyons, Anika will get her just desserts soon enough. Do you think Empire made the right choice killing Rhonda?
Empire Season 3 Episode 1 Review: "Light in Darkness"
Empire‘s season premiere sets the stage for Season 3’s mayhem with family ties new and old, new talent, and the reveal of which Lyon died.