“Empire” Season 1 Episode 1 “Pilot” aired last Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at 9:00 p.m. on FOX. In this episode, after the CEO and founder of Empire Entertainment Enterprises, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), learned that he had a few years left to live due to ALS, he announced to his three sons — Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jessie Smollett), and Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) — that they would be in competition with each other as he was just going to pick one of them to be his successor. However, things became more complicated when his ex-wife and the first investor of Empire, Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) was released from prison. She tried to get her share of the company and to control over the music career of Jamal. Read on to learn more about this episode.
At the recording studio, CEO and founder of Empire Entertainment Enterprises Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) mentored a young singer as she recorded her new single. While there with his second wife, Anika Gibbons (Grace Gealey), he remembered his recent visit to the doctor, where they performed several tests on him. Afterwards, he was given some really bad news.
The next day, on Lucious’ boat, Andre Lyon (Trai Byers), the Chief Financial Officer of Empire Entertainment Enterprises, Lucious’ eldest, looked down from the second floor with his wife, Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), at his two younger brothers, pianist and vocalist Jamal (Jessie Smollett) and aspiring rapper Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) as they sang and jammed together.
The next day, at the office, Becky (Gibourey Sidibe), Lucious’ secretary, informed him regarding his appointments and pending invitations, which he had not responded to yet. He then told her that his visit to the doctor’s had been okay and that after the upcoming press conference, to cancel all his meetings. He also instructed her to tell his sons to meet him at his house.
At the press conference, he told the media that in order to survive as a young boy, he had dealt with drugs, and the only thing that had saved him was music. He then went on to say that in order to help the disenfranchised in the projects to overcome poverty the way he did, he had just made Empire Entertainment Enterprises a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.
At Lucious’ house, while waiting, Jamal told his older brother that it was rude that he and his wife had not shown up for their dinner at his place as he and his boyfriend, Michael (Rafael de la Fuente), had cooked and prepared dinner for the four of them. However, Andre just told him that he had forgotten all about it. Their father then came in and informed them that a part of going public with Empire meant that one of them would have to fill their father’s shoes someday as the CEO of Empire and that they were now all in competition with each other in order to get picked by their father who would start grooming that person soon. However, Andre, who had worked very hard for the company could not believe that this was happening.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) was released from prison after 17 years. As she walked out, she warned the world that she was coming home.
At the boxing gym, Andre told his father that he was the most qualified to run the company since he was the CFO and had the degrees to prove it. However, Lucious believed that a celebrity should be running the company since they were in a celebrity-driven business. Andre then asked if that decision to put them all in competition with each other was because their mother and Lucious’ ex-wife, Cookie, had just been released. Disturbed by this, Lucious instructed his best friend and bodyguard, Bunkie Campbell (Antoine McKay), to follow Cookie.
Back at Jamal’s apartment, Jamal told Michael that he didn’t want the company, just as he did not want to record an album or go on tours as he felt that the commercialism of it all had taken away the “artist” inside his father. He also told him that he knew that he would never get picked as there was way too much homophobia in the black community. They were then interrupted by Cookie, who came to visit her son. While she rode the elevator up to his apartment, Jamal remembered a particular visit that he had made to her while she was in prison when he was a young boy. His father had refused to come, and she had told him that she knew that he was “different,” but he shouldn’t worry because she was always there for him. She also told him that she did what was necessary and ended up in prison for their sakes. She was then introduced to Michael and informed Jamal that she was there to get what was hers.
After obtaining a new set of clothes, she forced her way into Lucious’ office, where he welcomed her back and told the world that the “Queen has returned.” He then told her that it was her sacrifice that made Empire possible. She then told him that she wanted half of Empire, since she had gone to jail for the $400,000 that she had given in order to start the company. She could not believe that he insisted on calling it his company, and she asked for $5 million a year and to be the head of A & R. However, he refused as his new wife, Anika, was the head of that division. She then left the office and looked over Anika, who had just walked into the room.
She then paid a visit to Hakeem, who was busy having a haircut. She then sent the barber out and beat him with the handle of a broom after he disrespected her by calling her an ugly and inappropriate name. Afterwards, he informed his father that he had met his mother, whom he deemed was psychotic. His father then told him that Cookie wasn’t a bad person and that Hakeem should start cleaning up his act. He then told him that they would be recording an album together, as he had gotten his hands on some good material.
The next day, Cookie spotted Bunkie, who was still following her. After she thanked him for looking after her three sons while she was in prison, he promised that he wouldn’t tell Lucious that they had met up. He then told her that he felt bad with the way Lucious was treating him and warned her to be careful as Lucious was on a warpath as he was scared of something.
Back at the office, Lucious warned Jamal once again that his being homosexual would not help him at all because he felt that no one would buy his album when he came up with one because of it. Jamal then got upset because his father insulted him and Michael and wondered out loud as to why everything had to be about business. After he raised his voice at Jamal, Jamal remembered the time when he had walked to his family one night in his mother’s heels and scarf, back when Hakeem was a baby and when his mother was managing his father’s budding career. When his father had seen him, he had gotten angry and had carried him hurriedly out of the apartment. While Jamal remembered this, Lucious remembered the CAT scan that he had just gotten.
At Andre’s place, after Rhonda gave him his pills, he told her that he knew that his father would never give him Empire as he wasn’t an artist and deduced that Empire would go to Hakeem. Rhonda then suggested that if Jamal made a play for the position, then Jamal and Hakeem would be able to destroy each other, leaving Andre to inherit the company as the last man standing. In order to do this, he visited his mother and apologized for never visiting her. He then suggested that she manage Jamal’s music career so that he would be able to be the head of the company. She then informed him that he had tried but had been shut out and did not know how to get what she wanted. Andre then reminded her that she had more leverage than she thought she had and told her what to do.
The next morning, Cookie crashed the board meeting and, in the office, told Lucious that she wanted to manage Jamal’s career. She then threatened that if she did not get what she wanted, she would inform the SSC that she was the original investor in the company and that the first investment in it was drug money. He then let Jamal go to her and said that he didn’t want him anyway, which she knew from the very beginning.
Later that night, Cookie went to see Jamal perform at a club. While there, the scene flashed back to the night that Jamal had come out to his family. His father, furious that he was dressed up like a girl, had tried to leave him in the trashcan outside. Cookie then ran out, scooped up Jamal into her arms and tried to kick Lucious for doing so.
After the set, Cookie told Jamal that he should be selling out stadiums and offered to manage his career. However, he refused as he believed that it took out the purity out of the music.
Afterwards, Hakeem and Jamal met up at Lucious’ new club. Jamal then promised that he and Hakeem would never kill each other after learning that both their parents were trying to manage their individual careers.
Later that night, Hakeem told his father that he couldn’t work with the material that he had been given, as it was “whack,” and his father called him a disappointment. Because of this, he went over to Jamal, who came up with a melody and got his band to record it for Hakeem so that he could use it for his rap. It turned out that when they both collaborated with each other, the product that they got was wonderful. However, after the recording in the studio, Lucious refused to accept that Jamal had a part in creating the song, even after Hakeem had told him that Jamal had helped him with most of it. Because of this, he was tired of being set aside and told his mother that she had won and allowed her to manage his career. However, he reminded her that he was going to do it as himself, which meant that he would come out publicly.
The night before, while Hakeem was collaborating with Jamal for his rap, Bunkie paid Lucious a visit and pulled a gun on him because he wouldn’t give him what was rightfully his and threatened him with his own knowledge of Lucious’ past crimes, as he had been there as well. Lucious then remembered his visit to the doctor, where he was told that he had ALS and had around three years left to live.
The scene then flashed back to one of the money drops that Cookie had made, in which she couldn’t help shake the feeling that something felt off. However, she told him that she knew that their upcoming album was going to be a hit and made him promise to never stop playing. He then reassured her and promised that nothing would tear his family apart.
Back in the present day, in the boardroom, Cookie, in exchange for control over Jamal’s career, signed an agreement that she would never disclose that she was the initial investor in the company. Afterwards, as Lucious found out that Bunkie was getting too close to several dealers who could later on be dangerous for the company, he shot him under a bridge.
The next day, on the boat, Cookie told Lucious that Hakeem’s rap was good, and warned him that he was going to make Jamal, whom she was not ashamed of at all, a star. She then warned him to be ready for war and that she was doing this in order to show him that someone like Jamal could run the company.
Afterwards, after welcoming Cookie back home, Lucious announced that Hakeem and Jamal were both going to be releasing new albums soon.
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And that was all for the recap on “Empire” Season 1 Episode 1 “Pilot.” For more news and updates, including spoilers and recaps on “Empire” and other television shows, keep following Movie News Guide (MNG).
Catch “Empire” every Friday at 9:00 p.m. on FOX.