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Spoilers ahead for Episode 13 of Empire Season 5, called "Come Undone."
When Empire launched back in 2015, one of the central premises was that Cookie was getting out of jail after 17 years following a conviction for drug charges. Although Lucious had a hand in Cookie going behind bars, she was guilty of drug dealing. Now, however, one of the final episodes of Empire ever may be rewriting history about what happened to land Cookie in jail for all those years. According to Carol with the series winding down, she and Candace had something to do with what really went down.
In "Come Undone," Cookie's desire to come clean to Carol about killing the abusive man she loved didn't exactly go as planned, when Carol found out the truth after Lucious and Cookie were fighting about it on the other side of a door. Carol originally just seemed devastated rather than angry, and Cookie was upset, but nothing seemed too terribly wrong... up until Carol drunkenly crashed an event at the community center.
Cookie and Candace dragged Carol out of the spotlight, where Carol spilled the truth on Candace, who was shocked at what Cookie had done. Upset, Carol accused Cookie of not caring about her and deciding to "mess up her life" because she was high. Things took a turn, however, when Carol decided to lash out at Cookie with something unexpected:
Guess what, though? I got something that you might better pay some mind to. Because we messed up your life too, bitch. Didn't we, Candace? Your 17 years!
Now, if this was just a case of Carol drunkenly yelling at Cookie in the heat of the moment, it might not feel like such a big deal. However, this scene served as the cliffhanger of the episode, and Candace very much did not want Carol spilling whatever she was about to spill. Candace told Carol to shut up as soon as Carol brought her into it, and she physically attacked her sister once she brought up the 17 years.
Seeing Candace snap was honestly my biggest shock of the scene, which unfortunately ended before Cookie (and viewers) could find out what they were talking about.
So, if Carol was telling the truth -- and I'm inclined to believe her based on Candace's reaction -- then it seems there's much more to the history of how and why Cookie wound up in prison than viewers had reason to believe. Lucious already rewrote some history to Cookie in Season 6, so it's technically not unprecedented for somebody close to Cookie to drop a bombshell on her about her time in jail, but being betrayed by her sisters could break Cookie more than Lucious' various betrayals ever did.
Only time will tell how bad whatever they did actually was that it led to Cookie's 17 years behind bars. Based on "Come Undone," Cookie may not get a happy ending. For fans' sakes, I hope that Empire planned on delivering some answers sooner rather than later. Production on Empire's final season shut down recently due to the coronavirus, and there are reasons to worry that the final episode or two won't be ready for air for quite a while.
Empire does have other questions to answer, not the least of which is whether Cookie somehow survives what seems to be an explosive attempt on her life, not to mention how Lucious winds up shot and what (if any) role Andre/Kingsley plays. For now, you can count on new episodes of Empire airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.