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Spoilers ahead for the twelfth episode of Empire Season 5, called "Shift and Save Yourself."
The second half of Empire Season 5 is hurtling toward the resolution of the mystery of the person in the coffin. The flash-forwards were left behind in the first half of the season, and despite a whole bunch of plot twists, it's still not clear which of the Lyons is heading six feet under, although it will be a Lyon. After the events of "Shift and Save Yourself," I have to wonder if Empire is going to kill off more than just the one major character. Here's why.
Isn't Andre Too Obvious As The Only Big Death?
Ever since the winter finale ended with a flash-forward of Andre flat-lining after being rushed into the hospital, he has seemed like the likeliest candidate for the grave. "Shift and Save Yourself" made it all the more likely he'll bite the dust, as the results of a series of medical tests revealed that he's suffering from Stage 4 advanced lymphoma, with months to live... if he's lucky.
Barring a medical miracle -- and the Lyon family already got one of those -- Andre is headed for the grave. Although I'm not exactly rejoicing at the prospect of losing him, I can accept that Andre is likely to die. Empire has gone pretty far in setting the stage for him to die, without leaving much wiggle room. Is it possible that he'll get that medical miracle? Teri certainly thinks so, and she's not ready to let him quit.
My issue is that Empire has made it too obvious that Andre is going to die for Andre's death to be the climax of the season. Ever since the final moments of the premiere, Season 5 has been building to the death. A twist that Andre dies as a result of an illness that was revealed well ahead of the finale just wouldn't pack much of a punch.
Andre may be the much-advertised Lyon who dies, as I do have my doubts that Empire would go so far as to axe two Lyons, especially since the end of Season 5 was planned before rumors began to spread of Jussie Smollett being removed from the show. Now, if we assume that Andre passing away due to cancer would not be the only big death, the natural next question is what could lead to another big death.
Well, thanks to "Shift and Save Yourself," viewers can be confident of one character more than capable of murdering somebody in a spectacularly bloody and remorseless way. Damon Cross was unleashed in this episode, and it's quite clear that you don't want to get on his bad side.
Damon Cross Isn't To Be Crossed
Prior to "Shift and Save Yourself," Damon Cross certainly came across as a dangerous man and not an enemy anybody would want to have, but he seemed more or less reasonable. Even though he had some shady dealings and clearly has his eye on Cookie, this is Empire. Who doesn't have some shady dealings? And honestly, who can blame him for having his eye on Cookie?
This latest episode proved that Damon Cross is really and truly not a man to be crossed, and his shady dealings are known to involve casual murder. Thirsty Rawlings is the unlikely person who revealed Damon's dark side in "Shift and Save Yourself," after he was picked up by the feds at the end of the previous episode.
While Thirsty was questioned about his involvement with Damon and relationship with the Lyons, viewers were sent into a flashback journey in which Thirsty was actually involved with Damon all along. Damon recruited Thirsty when Empire was in trouble and Lucious had to cut Thirsty off, and Thirsty was unfortunately involved with a woman who wanted him to be a big fish rather than... well, a smaller fish that hangs out with the big fish.
With Thirsty on the scene, Damon Cross and another man were discussing one of their shady deals, which involved $10 million and a scam on an orphanage. Thirsty ran some numbers and determined that the other man had skimmed 10% of the top, which amounted to a cool million. Damon was slightly dismayed.
By "slightly dismayed," I mean "so entirely enraged that he beat the guy to death with a golf club." Yes, Damon grabbed a golf club and beat the man repeatedly until he was down for the count, and he directed his men to roll the guy up in the fake turf of a golf green and take him away. Practically quivering with fury and spattered with his victim's blood, he directed Thirsty to send $2 million to the orphanage.
Bloody and violent as that death was, it wasn't something that will change the course of Empire. Rather, it feels like it was an example of the sort of thing Damon Cross is perfectly willing to do if he feels it's necessary. If somebody crosses him, wounds his pride, or denies him what he wants -- such as entrance to a poker game -- then they could end up in very real danger. Or dead and rolled up in a golf green.
Now, the natural person to suspect as a victim of Damon Cross is Thirsty, but flash-forwards confirm that Thirsty will at least outlive whoever winds up in the coffin. He's alive and as well as can be under the circumstances in the flash-forwards. If Season 5 extends beyond the flash-forwards, then Thirsty could bite the dust. If not... well, then maybe somebody else is going to be on the permanent receiving end of Damon Cross' anger.
There are several Lyons unaccounted for by the time the coffin is closed. Lucious is the only one confirmed to be alive, and judging by the promo, Damon isn't going anywhere. Take a look:
Bad timing strikes again! Cookie walks in on what looks like Lucious well on his way to hooking up with another woman; given that this comes shortly after she learned that he had an illegitimate son with another woman, it's understandable why Cookie might not be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt in the heat of the moment. If the editing of the trailer is to be believed, the incident will drive her to Damon Cross, who looks more than a little pleased with himself.