Spoilers ahead for Episode 17 of Empire Season 5, called "My Fate Cries Out."
Empire Season 5 has spent 17 episodes so far building to the reveal of which member of the Lyon family will wind up in a coffin. The fifth season premiere ended on a flash-forward, and subsequent flash-forwards revealed bits and pieces of the mess coming Lucious' way by the end of the finale. Now, with only one episode left, I have my doubts that Empire has the time for a satisfying season finale.
In "My Fate Cries Out," a lot of the episode was devoted to Andre saying his goodbyes to his loved ones, although only Lucious knew Andre's plan to kill himself to avoid wasting away due to the effects of his damaged heart muscle. Lucious was no help for most of the hour after hitting his head and hallucinating people who died long ago, but he ultimately came around and agreed to give Andre the sendoff he wanted before killing himself.
Unfortunately for Andre, Cookie found the letter he left for her, and it was enough for her to realize what he was planning. She arrived in time to knock the pills out of her firstborn's hand and start a screaming match with Lucious, understandably furious that her husband was helping their son die without telling anybody. The strain was too much for Andre's heart, and he collapsed.
With Andre's collapse, Empire is almost certainly leading into the flash-forward that likely falls first chronologically. The midseason finale ended with a flash-forward of Andre arriving at the hospital via ambulance, and his distraught parents watched him flatline.
Now, if the only flash-forward twists that needed to be resolved were what happened to Andre and who winds up in the coffin -- which may in fact turn out the be the same twist -- then I wouldn't be concerned about Empire running out of time in Season 5 to deliver a solid finale. There's a lot more that Empire will need to pack into the final episode.
The feds are after Empire and especially Damon Cross, and other flash-forwards proved that the whole mess will get even messier. The last episode will move forward enough in time after the death to get to the funeral, where Lucious will find out about Cookie's relationship with Damon.
Well, Lucious will find something out about Cookie's relationship with Damon. In the pictures he's shown by the FBI agents, Damon and Cookie look cozy, but they don't point toward an affair. They never crossed any lines in a public place, and Damon gave his word that he wouldn't tell anybody about Cookie's visit to his hotel room.
Then there's whatever happens to Lucious that leaves him bloody and shaken. In the span of one episode, Empire needs to resolve what happened to Andre, kill off and put together a funeral for a Lyon (or more than one Lyon, as the case may be), settle the situation with the feds and Damon Cross, and explain what happened to Lucious.
The finale may even need to drop an explanation for Jamal's absence, if Empire decided to write Jussie Smollett out after the scandal. I for one figured that Empire would hold off on revealing the death until the finale, but some of the flash-forwards would be explained in at least the penultimate episode. Everything will apparently be packed into the finale. It will definitely not be an episode to miss; I'm just not sure if it will be an episode that satisfies.
The good news is that Empire has already been renewed for Season 6, and Lucious and Cookie at least are likely to be back. The actors playing their sons are not guaranteed at this point, but the finale should clear some things up. Be sure to tune in to Fox on Wednesday, May 8 at 8 p.m. ET to catch the Season 5 finale of Empire.