‘Empire’ Season 2 Episode 12: ‘A Rose by Any Other Name’ Features Two Shocking Deaths
Recap and review of Empire – Season 2 Episode 12 – A Rose By Any Other Name:
Empire certainly isn’t pulling any punches since returning from hiatus. As a result, “A Rose By Any Other Name” ends up being one of the most shocking episodes of the season, as a pair of shocking deaths end the hour. It’s as compelling as Empire has ever been, and it illustrates that, even though there have been slip-ups on both sides of the Lyon family, blood is thicker than water.
The deaths are part of an episode-long arc in which Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) comes to his sense and realizes how much damage Camilla (Naomi Campbell) is causing to his loved ones. So he comes up with the Hakeem version of “making things right” — by seducing Camilla and then filming it. He then sends it to the jealous, possessive Mimi. It’s a bad enough sign that Camilla is cheating on Mimi, but it’s much worse when you take into consideration some of the awful things Camilla said about Mimi on the sex tape, such as her hope that Mimi will die so she can take control of Empire directly. In a sense, the murder-suicide between Mimi and Camilla seemed sort of inevitable. After all, these are two volatile personalities whose relationship didn’t seem rooted in anything more substantial than mutual attraction. When Mimi receives the video from Hakeem, she sells all her Empire stock, which allows the Lyon family to reclaim controlling interest in the company. But Lucious (Terrence Howard) must tie up loose ends, so he visits Camilla and Mimi’s home to discover Mimi murdered in her bathtub, poisoned by something Camilla put in her drink. Lucious holds Camilla at gunpoint and essentially talks her into committing suicide by noting what a horrible experience prison will be for her. I know I said Lucious egging Hakeem to kill him was his most chilling moment, but I think this is right up there with the most shocking things Lucious has ever done. The man just did not give one single damn that he was forcing an emotionally vulnerable woman to take her own life. Hell, he seemed to get a visceral thrill out of revealing to Camilla that Hakeem was the one who sold her out in the first place.
While the Lyon family tends to hurt one another when they’re at odds with each other, this is a clear reminder of just the kind of damage a united Lyon family can do. This was insane television, with both Camilla and Mimi dying — and offscreen, no less! I don’t know if Marisa Tomei was busy, if they couldn’t afford her, or if she didn’t feel like coming back. But I thought it was both cheesy and also kind of clever the way they filmed the scene to avoid actually having to show Mimi’s face. We only see her limbs hanging out of the bathtub. For her part, Camilla doesn’t even get the closure of an onscreen death, as she swallows the poison while Lucious casually walks off, having successfully gotten two obstacles out of his way. It’s a bone-chilling moment, but I almost feel like it’s the right move for the narrative not to see either character die. The act itself isn’t the revelation, but rather, how little it means to Lucious beyond allowing him to retake his company. Lucious is a cold-blooded man, and Hakeem is taking after his father more and more. Say what you will about his aptitude for acting as CEO, but that Camilla plan was the work of a cruel genius. I shudder to think what could happen if Hakeem and Lucious were to get on the same page more often. If nothing else, I think Hakeem and Lucious are the two members of the Lyon family who are most alike. More than any of the brothers with each other, and more than Cookie with any of her children, or even with Lucious. Their dynamic is fraught with complication, but with the underlying message that, at the end of the day, blood remains thicker than water.
Of course, there are limits to just how thick blood remains. Jamal (Jussie Smollett) completely flips out after Jamieson (William Fichtner) reveals to him that it was Lucious who spilled the beans about the Skye Summers affair. So he writes an absolutely ruthless takedown song against Lucious titled “Like My Daddy,” in which he not only calls his father an inauthentic lying piece of garbage, he reveals that Lucious Lyon isn’t even his real name. Naturally, this doesn’t phase Lucious at all, since he feels he’s now free of the burden of trying to hide who he once was. But the truth of the matter is that the ASA Awards race has strained the relationship between Jamal and Lucious in ways that…well, probably could have been anticipated, honestly. Much like Hakeem and Lucious, the relationship between Lucious and Jamal is one in which father and son seem eternally making up and going to war with one another. I have to give it up for Smollett, who really showed the depth of Jamal’s pain over what he views as his father’s betrayal. “Like My Daddy” borders on scary, just from the fiery intensity he pours into the song and its performance. In that moment, I could see how this guy could be Lucious’s son. That Lyon ruthlessness is in there, and I think the show should explore that a bit more by having Jamal struggle with that side of himself, and how his father brings it out of him. At the very least, I find a story like that to be far more compelling than Tiana (Serayah McNeill) threatening to quit if Laura (Jamila Velazquez) and the rest of Mirage a Trois is put on her tour, mostly because I feel like that story is going to be less about Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) finding a way to manage two separately volatile acts, and more about a love triangle developing around Hakeem. And with Anika out there carrying his baby, it seems this entire half season is going to be Hakeem-centric, in a lot of ways. I like Hakeem and find him to be an interesting character, but I like a broader approach to the stories. Empire is far more successful when it feels like an ensemble drama. There are other Lyon brothers than Hakeem, after all.
Like Andre (Trai Byers), for example, who drags Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) to counseling sessions with his pastor. For some, spiritual guidance is enough, but it’s clear Andre needs a whole lot more help than a pastor’s counseling can offer, as Rhonda pleads with him to get his meds adjusted by a doctor. And yet, while he’s made out to be the naive one, it’s hard not to feel bad for Andre here. I initially felt apathetic towards the story, but that ended up changing pretty quickly once I came to realize how often his pain is overlooked. Cookie accidentally chastises him for being “crazy,” shocking herself at her own verbal slip-up. She apologizes profusely, and Andre holds it together pretty well. But he essentially falls apart at the end when he uses his late son’s trust fund to buy back Empire stock. It’s a crushing reminder of what he’s lost, and it results in the most beautiful moment of the episode, as Jamal and Hakeem team up to comfort their brother by playing a song for him that they wrote together. Titled “Good People,” it’s my favorite music moment of the entire series. It’s the type of song and performance that made me feel like applauding at the end, as Andre’s eyes are soaked with tears while Cookie comforts him, Hakeem is struggling to keep it together for the rap, and Jamal is just soulfully singing his heart out. It’s good enough to make me forget that positively awful flash-mob scene where an LGBT group harasses Jamal for “letting the gays down” by sleeping with Skye. Those moments are part of Empire‘s quirky, over-the-top, melodramatic style, but it’s not where the heart of Empire lives. The heart of the series is in moments like this, where the music is woven so intricately and perfectly into the story that it’s impossible to imagine these stories told any other way. It’s an absolutely beautiful moment, and my favorite of the season, full-stop.
Between the awesome musical moments and the shocking ending, “A Rose By Any Other Name” just might be the best episode of Empire this season. It’s kind of amazing how quickly the show is hitting a stride, considering most shows go through a bit of a feeling out process after returning from hiatus before building up momentum again. I thought this was awesome television, plain and simple.
But what did you think of Empire Season 2 Episode 12, “A Rose By Any Other Name”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Empire, read our review and analysis of last week’s midseason premiere, “Death Will Have His Day”!