Why Empire Needs To Say Goodbye To One Actor For Good After 100th Episode
Spoilers ahead for the milestone 100th episode of Empire on Fox, called "We Got Us."
The end is nigh for Empire, but the Fox series won't wrap without hitting a major milestone with an episode that definitely went in some unexpected directions. As the 100th episode, "We Got Us" finally took Andre's story to the point of no return. Egged on by his hallucination of Kingsley, he escaped a mental institute and nearly killed Teri and baby Walker. Meanwhile, Cookie was imagining a life where Lucious had gone to prison instead of her, Hakeem got married in Vegas, and Lucious took control of Empire. In the process of this episode, one actor proved it's time to say goodbye for good: A.Z. Kelsey.
Now, before I go any further, I want to say that I've actually really enjoyed A.Z. Kelsey as hallucination Kingsley throughout Season 6, and his arc in Season 5 was one of the most compelling. He was great as real Kingsley, the Kingsley only existing in Andre's head, and playing Andre-Kingsley. If the story hadn't handled Andre's story in "We Got Us" like it did, I could be on board with Kelsey in the mix through to the end of the series. After the events of "We Got Us," though, I say that Kelsey needs to say goodbye for any further Empire scenes, other than perhaps flashbacks.
After giving into his Kingsley side earlier in Season 6, Andre finally broke in last week's episode, when he trashed his wedding venue after Teri finally was able to alert his parents that something was very wrong and she was in danger. He didn't waste any time in escaping the mental institution they placed him in for treatment in "We Got Us," and he got the location of Teri's safe house so quickly that I was almost offended on her behalf. Not such a "safe" safe house!
In a scene that could have passed for Empire's version of The Shining, Andre chased Teri through the house as she clutched Walker, and it was only thanks to the timely arrival of Lucious that Andre could be stopped. He ran off and wound up in a church, with hallucination Kingsley by his side. Empire honestly had me convinced that Andre's end was nigh and he was going to commit suicide in the 100th episode.
When he grabbed Kingsley and started drowning him in the baptismal font of the church, I was just waiting for the reveal that in drowning "Kingsley," Andre had drowned himself and Empire was saying goodbye to another Lyon brother. Fortunately, Empire proved me wrong that Andre was going to die before the credits on the 100th episode rolled, as Andre pulled Kingsley out of the font and embraced him, proving that Andre was going to accept the qualities that he tried to subdue and manifested in the "Kingsley" form.
Andre conquering his demons in the form of Kingsley really means that Empire doesn't need A.Z. Kelsey as Kingsley or hallucination Kingsley anymore. If Empire wasn't fast-approaching its series finale (which itself is coming earlier than intended), I wouldn't be so anxious for Kelsey's departure to be permanent. With a limited number of episodes left and Andre's mental break plot seemingly resolved, Empire would be better off focusing on the stories that haven't yet been finished than revisiting the hallucination Kingsley arc.
If "We Got Us" was indeed A.Z. Kelsey's final episode of Empire, then I take my hat off to him for rising to play two very different versions of kinda sorta one character. Hallucination Kingsley was very different from the Kingsley who killed himself at the end of Empire Season 5, and Kelsey got to show off his acting range throughout Season 6. He had a good run, and Empire is ready to move on in its last couple of episodes.
Unfortunately, those last couple of episodes will bring Empire to an end a couple episodes shy of its original order, and the finale won't fulfill the original vision for the end of the series. See what happens next now that Andre has overcome his Kingsley side with the next new episode of Empire, airing Tuesday, April 14 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.
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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.