Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Bryshere Gray (Hakeem) in a scene from Empire (Season 2, Episode 6)

Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Bryshere Gray (Hakeem) in a scene from Empire (Season 2, Episode 6)

Dear Lee Daniels,

After viewing last night’s episode of Empire, I’ve got three questions.

1. What?
2. Why?
3. Seriously?

Lee, you’re better than this. Last night’s show was about as tasty as a deep-fried cockroach fritter. It was disjointed, over-acted and extremely over-the-top. I haven’t seen this many improbable scenarios in a soap opera since that man-made machine that controlled the weather debuted on “General Hospital” back in the ‘80s.

This is what I truly don’t understand. You’ve got a show with three Oscar-nominated actors in Terence Howard (Lucious), Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Gabourey Sidibe (Becky). You’re in a perfect time slot. You’ve made a star out of Jussie Smollett (Jamal) and given Trai Byers (Andre) a showcase to display his talents. But your show sucks.

That’s really too bad because it all started out so well.
This season, however, you’ve made a series of left turns that have led you so deep into the abyss that Jesus couldn’t reach you with some state-of-the-art spiritual radar equipment.

First, there was the casting of Chris Rock as an OG. No. Not good. He ruined the meat of at least two episodes. Then you’ve given the marginally talented Bryshere Gray (Hakeem) more dialogue than he can handle. How about he spends less time removing his shirt and more time with an on-set acting tutor? Thirdly, the writing just bites. So much so that even accomplished actors like Howard and Henson are struggling to deliver their lines. Howard, especially, has become increasingly robotic.

So, let’s recap. When last we saw the Lyon gang, Hakeem had been abducted by some thugs. Last night’s show opens with Hakeem, with a sack over his head, being led into a deserted warehouse by three thugs. Then there’s an uneven segue to Becky and some unknown hunk making out on a balcony. Huh? Oh wait, his name is J-Poppa and he’s talking about how he put it on her. Again, huh?

Empire (S2 Ep 6)

Gabourey Sidibe (Becky) and Mo McRae (J Poppa) in “Empire” – Season 2, Episode 6

Next we see Cookie in her office trying to reach Hakeem, while his little girl group is being berated by Porsha, Cookie’s recently rehired assistant. After repeated calls to Hakeem, Cookie finally receives a text with a video of her son with his mouth taped up. She quickly dismisses it as one of Lucious’ tricks.

Let’s move on. We can always count on Jamal to make it right with a well-placed ballad. But no!!! He’s stressing out over his cheating boo and Empire’s marketing department for promoting his gayness over his talent. No tissues needed because Jamal has lost his appeal.

Cookie, deeply angered by her inability to connect with Hakeem, storms into Lucious’ office with the video text and soon discovers that her son really has been snatched and is being held for a mere $40,000 ransom. What happens next is so confusing and insane that I don’t even want to try and replay it in my head.

empire

So, let’s just skip to the spoiler. Hakeem somehow gets free, ends up on Anika’s doorstep where he immediately starts swapping spit.

WTH?

And then there’s the born-again Andre. It’s really a shame that he can’t literally manifest some of his light into the Empire writing room. Lord knows they could use it. But his crusade to turn Gutter Life artists into Christian rappers was at least a nice diversion from Hakeem’s PTSD and Jamal’s whining.

The worst scene of the night, however, was when Cookie took Hakeem back to the place where he had been held to confront the thugs who snatched him. This was supposed to give Hakeem an opportunity to reclaim his manhood. Instead homey pulls out a gun, which was subsequently snatched by Cookie, who threatened to bust a cap in their butts if they didn’t leave her family alone.

Seriously? Who does that?

Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Adam Rodriguez (Laz) in a scene from Empire (Season 2, Episode 6)

Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Adam Rodriguez (Laz) in a scene from Empire (Season 2, Episode 6)

So by the time we get to Cookie and Laz (Adam Rodriguez) giving into their desires, too many brain cells had been destroyed to even enjoy it. God help Laz, however, when Cookie finds out what he’s done.

FOX’s new slogan for the No. 1-rated show on network TV is: “Empire is like a fine champagne, simply irresistible.” It’s more like: It’s like a flat champagne that’s becoming increasingly intolerable.

miki turner

Miki Turner is a full time lecturer at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and author of the book Journey to the Woman I’ve Come to Love