Why Empire's Big Death Reveal Wasn't The Biggest Twist Of The Season 5 Finale
Spoilers ahead for the Season 5 finale of Empire on Fox, called "The Roughest Day."
Empire spent the fifth season building to the reveal of a member of the Lyon family that died, and a series of flash-forwards dropped clues about who would end up in the coffin. Everything pointed toward the big death as the biggest game-changer of the season, with the FBI investigation coming in second. Well, the biggest twist of "The Roughest Day" was not who died or how they died, although those were both doozies. The biggest twist was the abandonment of Lucious Lyon by Cookie.
Even fans of the Lucious/Cookie romance may have to admit that Cookie's decision to let Lucious go was pretty justified, although he'd certainly had a tough enough episode even before she dropped the bombshell. The season finale picked up shortly after the previous episode ended, with Andre flatlining in the hospital with a bum heart. The doctors did manage to get Andre back, but his heart was still too damaged, and his body was still too toxic from the chemo for him to land a top spot on the transplant list.
He needed a heart that would be a perfect match, and he was not optimistic. The lucky break for the Lyon family came in the unlikely form of Jeff Kingsley. Tracy planted seeds of doubt in Kingsley's mind that Lucious actually cared about him, and Kingsley snapped. He confronted Lucious alone and pulled a gun. Tearing up, Lucious told him to go ahead and shoot, but aim for the brain so that Andre could have his heart. Distraught, Kingsley turned the gun on himself, shooting himself in the head.
R.I.P. Kingsley. You weren't all bad, and you did help your family in the end. Andre got his heart, and the rest of the episode saw the downfall of Lucious and Cookie's relationship.
Cookie was already furious with her husband for his decision to help Andre kill himself, and she clearly didn't trust him anymore. When Tracy accused Lucious of killing Kingsley to get the heart for Andre, Cookie defended her husband to Tracy, but later demanded that he tell her whether he did it or not. She didn't even seem 100% convinced when he vehemently denied the accusation more than once.
This is on top of Cookie's frustration with Lucious earlier in the season, when he wasn't helping her or even listening to her as she tried to process what Andre was going through. The final blow that broke them in "The Roughest Day" came when Lucious decided that he and Cookie needed to get out of town for a while.
The FBI was hot on Lucious' trail, and Damon Cross flipped to help the FBI catch him. He agreed to help the feds catch Lucious, which would in turn give the lead investigator a splashy case that would help her political campaign the next year. Oh, and he promised $20 million to her campaign. All he wants is for Lucious to go down in his place, although it's implied that he'd like another chance with Cookie as well.
Lucious neglected to fill Cookie in on his plan to take a break from the spotlight until they were at the airport, where a helicopter was waiting for them. Cookie decided that she was not going to leave her sons and family behind just for Lucious. Even though she loved him, he and Empire weren't good for her, and she would not sacrifice herself or her sons for Lucious anymore.
Lucious tried to play the card that she loves him, but Cookie stuck to her guns that love isn't enough and she can't trust him after all the lies and hurt. She's ready to put herself first. Lucious wasn't listening and continued trying to persuade her to join him in the helicopter, so Cookie blurted out that she'd slept with Damon Cross.
Viewers know that this isn't true, but the feds painted enough of a picture of Cookie and Damon's relationship that Lucious could believe it enough to take off without her. Empire Season 5 ends with Lucious taking off indefinitely, Cookie claiming that she'd slept with another man so Lucious would leave her with their sons, and the feds presumably still on Lucious' tail.
Good thing Empire has already been renewed for Season 6, or fans would have reason to be pretty stressed out after this ending! It may be months before we get answers to any of our burning questions after this finale, but at least we can bet that they're forthcoming. Hopefully Empire does at least reveal whether or not Jussie Smollett will be back sooner rather than later.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.