‘Empire’ Season 2 Episode 15 Review: New CEO Is Chosen In ‘More Than Kin’
Recap and review of Empire – Season 2 Episode 15 – More Than Kin:
The Lyon family is a group eternally locked in a back-and-forth struggle between love and hate, loyalty and rebellion. It’s what makes Empire great, most weeks. But “More Than Kin” illustrates that while blood is thicker than water, in most cases, that doesn’t mean family necessarily needs to get along. This was a strong episode, revealing how the Lyon sons are being pulled in opposite directions from Lucious, while Cookie and Lucious are pushed closer towards one another.
In the episode’s big reveal, Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) are named the new co-CEOs of Empire. It’s all thanks to Cookie’s last-minute save at a Lyon family media event. Both Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) bail on the event for different reasons, undermining the message of Lyon family unity that the event was intended to portray. So Cookie makes the announcement that the Lyon family will be performing together onstage at the ASAs — this, despite Cookie not even being sure the Lyon men will go through with it. As if this isn’t bad enough, Lucious only pretends to be thrilled about the co-CEO appointment, which indicates to us that the internal power struggle at Empire isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Honestly, that’s probably for the best, at least for the audience, since Lucious’s pathological mission to reclaim his company has made for some great TV these past few weeks. I’ve also loved watching how his relationship with Cookie has grown more complicated. For instance, when he’s about to seal the deal with TV reporter Harper Scott (Annie Ilonzeh), she makes the mistake of talking trash about Cookie, prompting him to kick her out. Lucious’s fondness for Cookie even prompts Jamal, Hakeem and Andre (Trai Byers) to wonder if perhaps their parents might be getting back together. It’s something Hakeem can’t even fathom, but it might actually be best for the narrative to see what a real Cookie/Lucious union would look like. They’re dangerous enough when they aren’t on the same page. But together? Forget about it.
This is not to underestimate how formidable each of the Lyon sons have become. For one, Hakeem seriously mans up this week, promising to take care of Anika (Grace Gealey) and their baby. Even when Anika is rushed to the hospital with pregnancy complications, he’s right there by her side, even though Laura (Jamila Velazquez) isn’t thrilled about learning he got another woman pregnant. But it’s more than that, as he stands up to Lucious after learning that his father threatened to have Anika killed. Hakeem says if he ever tries to interfere in the life of his baby’s mother, Lucious will never see him or his grandchild again. It’s a move that apparently earns Lucious’s respect, at least enough for him to call Laura and mend fences on Hakeem’s behalf. Say what you will about Hakeem, but this mature version of the character feels far more three-dimensional than the hard-partying kid from earlier this season. There’s a distinct change in Hakeem, and it’s evidenced not just in the writing, but in Gray’s performance. I’m digging this Hakeem, and I’m seriously hoping he sticks around, even though it might be more fun for the writers to have him as a potential wild card, who can act in any number of different, crazy ways without any of those actions technically being out of character for him (usurp his father as CEO? Why not? Ruin Camilla’s life? Of course! Suddenly become Father of the Year? Go on, Hakeem!). And I’d love to see his relationship at least somewhat mended with Lucious, so that Lucious starts taking his son more seriously. That ought to give their future conflicts more weight, rather than what we have now, where Lucious basically just patronizes the kid. If they make peace, it could end up being one of the biggest developments of the season, from a character progression standpoint.
But making peace won’t be so easy with Jamal, who not only gets dissed by his father at a press conference, but also has to listen to Lucious drone on about his influence on Jamal’s Black and White album. It’s more Lucious mindgames, and Jamal isn’t having any of it, opting to bail on the Lyon family event in favor of going to the club where he and Michael (Rafael de La Fuente) first met. There, he sits in on a jazz performances and delivers an impromptu concert that essentially erases all of the bad press Lucious tries to drum up against him. It’s a bold move, and it illustrates how Jamal has come into his own, both as an artist and as a man. Much like with Hakeem, it’s a story that’s as evident in Smollett’s performance as it is in the writing. While Henson and Howard are the two titans of the acting ensemble, I think Smollett is an underrated gem, and one of the keys to why this show works as well as it does. It’s Jamal’s story that frequently provides us with our keenest insight into the music industry, and it’s his relationship with Lucious that is usually the most compelling to watch through its many ups and downs. That said, this isn’t to take anything away from Andre, who also gets to one-up his father after learning his grandmother is still alive. It appears he’s off to Pennsylvania to pay Mrs. Walker a little visit, and while we don’t see the fruits of that decision this week, it’s definitely coming. And it’s going to have disastrous consequences on Lucious, especially once everyone finds out that his “Boom Boom Boom Boom” music video is only a half-truth. Lucious may have created this Empire as a legacy for his family, but if one thing is evident this season, it’s that his family members are most likely to be the ones to tear it down.
“More Than Kin” delivers the twisty, over-the-top, melodramatic Empire that we need at this late stage of the TV season. I swear, it’s just one of those TV dramas that feels like it’s from a different era, when primetime network TV was still worthy of discussion around the watercooler the next day.
But what did you think of Empire Season 2 Episode 15, “More Than Kin”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Empire, read our review of last week’s shocking “Time Shall Unfold”!