‘Empire’ Season 2 Episode 14 Review: ‘Time Shall Unfold’ Reveals Massive Bombshell
Recap and review of Empire – Season 2 Episode 14 – Time Shall Unfold:
Empire delivered one of the twistiest episodes so far this season with “Time Shall Unfold”, and I say that due to the magnitude of what the major bombshell of the episode could end up meaning, as the season moves forward. These people have been through a lot in the past year, and it seems as though all the lying and backstabbing will come back to haunt them, sooner rather than later.
The big bombshell is that Lucious’s mother is alive, and being kept at a quaint little in-patient facility in New Hope, Pennsylvania. We know this because Thirsty (Andre Royo) drops off an envelope of money for Mrs. Walker (now played by an older actress rather than Kelly Rowland-in-old lady makeup, which is a pretty smart choice), who stares out a window while singing “Mona Lisa”. She’s still crazy, but the lack of any apparent scar on her head leads to questions of whether Lucious (Terrence Howard) was ever telling the truth about that suicide attempt. It’s not impossible for a person to survive a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, nor is it beyond probability that they could end up being a verbally cognizant person afterwards, as evidenced by Mrs. Walker’s song at the end. But the fact that it’s just as plausible that Lucious lied says a lot about his character. In fact, this was a doozy of an episode for Lucious. I mean, if his true colors weren’t already apparent from killing his best friend in the series premiere, or trying to goad his youngest son into shooting him a few episodes back, Lucious has been a real piece of work throughout this entire series. But he takes it a bit further here: Anika (Grace Gealey) tells the Lyons she’s pregnant by Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray), and asks only that they give her child a real family by welcoming her back into the fold. Lucious’s response is to approach Anika privately and offer her $10 million to leave the child with him, and disappear from their lives forever. Naturally, Anika rejects the offer, claiming that the child is probably going to be worth a whole lot more than $10 million as the heir to Empire (which wasn’t a great moment for Anika, but hey, she’s just playing Lucious’s game). But even with the rejection, Lucious doesn’t stop scheming against his kids this week.
Case in point, Lucious takes Andre (Trai Byers) to visit the grave of Mrs. Walker, without telling him that his grandmother is alive. It’s a fairly touching scene, as Lucious assures Andre that his mother was a brutal, vicious woman, and that medical science will help people with Andre’s bipolar issues as time unfolds. But this plays as emotional manipulation, as it prompts Andre to tell Lucious details he can use against Hakeem at the upcoming shareholders meeting. It all leads to one of the best scenes of the episode, and also one of the most uncomfortable, as Lucious embarrasses Hakeem at the meeting by revealing his lack of business acumen in front of everyone. To be fair to Hakeem, he initially carries himself quite well, capably answering Lucious’s first question about the five biggest challenges facing the music industry today. However, Lucious quickly turns the meeting against him by showing that Empire has actually been tanking under Hakeem’s leadership. A lot of people depends on Empire’s live shows for their income, and Hakeem doesn’t really know how to handle a crisis. In a sense, Hakeem is an ideal CEO if everything is running smoothly. But when things get tough and the hard decisions need to be made, Lucious argues that his boy is the least qualified. Of course, this ends up having the effect of getting people to cheer for Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and float her name as a possible CEO. That could make an interesting power struggle, although it makes me feel a bit bad for Andre, who might be the only member of the Lyon family by the end of this who hasn’t gotten a turn at running the company.
For his part, Jamal (Jussie Smollett) is trying to get his new album finished. But he’s struggling to find the right tone. He wants Freda (Bre-Z), but he can’t get a major female hip-hop star to do a guest collaboration with him if there are other female MCs on the album. So he has to let her go. This leads Freda back to working at the barbershop where a chair is set aside in tribute to her late father. It’s a peculiar fall from stardom, which is why it’s not that surprising to see it get reversed at the end of the episode. Long story short, Jamal is offended when the female rapper mails in her verses (literally) rather than collaborating in person, so he decides to ditch the collaboration, track down Freda, and beg her to come back. It’s a good musical pairing, and I continually find myself invested in Freda’s rise as an artist (that Kobe Bryant line was great). However, I worry that the show is far more interested in her rise only as a means by which we get the big reveal that Lucious had her father killed. While I’m sure the eventual outburst of emotion will be something worth watching, I actually like Empire best when it focuses on the music industry, and the hustle of being a success at a variety of different levels. At the very least, I find it more interesting than any paternity drama the show might drum up, although kudos to the series for tying up the loose end by revealing that Jamal really isn’t the father of little Lola. I mean, we all knew it, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.
Ultimately, “Time Shall Unfold” is an episode that is definitely among the more intriguing of the season for how Lucious’s manipulations take over the narrative. Empire is a fun drama most weeks, but I find it’s far more compelling when its melodramatic, over-the-top nature takes a temporary backseat to a more grounded look at family dynamics and music industry intrigue. This was like a mixture between the two approaches, with Lucious seeming like an excessive supervillain at times, while the story about the management of Empire and Jamal’s album woes provided a more straightforward narrative. I love that this show can pull off that sort of balancing act.
But what did you think of Empire Season 2 Episode 14, “Time Shall Unfold”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Empire, read up on the recent wedding between series stars Trai Byers and Grace Gealey!