Spoilers for tonight’s episode of Empire, “Sins of the Father,” are below, so be warned.
Even the most cursory of Empire viewings will immediately prove that Terrence Howard’s Lucious Lyon is a terrible father. Sure, he provides his kids with financial support, but that’s about it, and he doesn’t even do it without guilt-tripping everyone. Tonight unveiled an even more surprising side of his doomed patriarchy, as he revealed that he, not Jamal, is actually Lola’s father. I’m pretty sure my TV jumped back a bit when I screamed “What?!?” at it.
“Sins of the Father,” much like past episodes, was a pretty literal interpretation of how things played out. We’ve got Lucious ignoring Andre during his time of need, with insults for Rhonda always at the ready. (Seriously, how weird was it that Cookie didn’t seem to know what “bipolar” meant?) He demolished Hakeem’s relationship with Camilla by playing her financial situation against her to send her back to Europe, where she can no longer influence Hakeem’s sound. But it was, of course, his ties with Jamal’s life that did the most damage.
When a coked-up Vernon brought Lola’s mother Olivia and her stalker ex Reg into the Lyon household, you just knew all flavors of shit would hit the fan, and boy did they. It turns out Reg was a psycho that somewhat arbitrarily wanted to murder Jamal for not-on-purpose re-entering Olivia’s life and take care of Lola. Perhaps it was out of pure love, or perhaps he was feeling bad about telling Jamal that his “lifestyle” would be a bad influence on Lola, but Lucious stepped in and attempted to sacrifice himself in Jamal’s place once Reg brandished a handgun. (Okay, so we know it had nothing to do with remorse, since Lucious doesn’t appear capable of showing it.)
Lucious brought out all of his demons in an effort to prove himself more worthy of being shot than Jamal. He brings up reasons why everyone in his family hates him, from leaving Cookie in jail to leaving Andre behind, and it first seemed like a dumb move, given Reg’s complete lack of interest in Lucious’ money or his problems. But then it became obvious it was all a big build to the series’ biggest shocker yet. Thanks to a flashback that featured Andre’s first mental lapse – “Santa Clauuuus!” – we now know that after Lucious was done playing denialist about Andre’s condition, he schtupped his son’s wife and impregnated her, as well as paid her off to keep it quiet. (Assuming they didn’t continue the affair, that is.)
The suspenseful standoff ended with Cookie’s new lover Malcolm putting a bullet in Reg’s head as Cookie was held at gunpoint, but that was inevitable, and my mind was still reeling from Lucious’ words. We should have seen it coming, of course, as this was the episode in which Jamal came up with a song dedicated to Lola that he sang both in the studio and at her bedside, as part of an a capella performance with Hakeem. Of course she wasn’t actually his son. Will she be better off with the newly reformed Olivia as her sole guardian? Probably not, and it keeps us from seeing some potentially amazing family dinners with Olivia and Cookie sitting across a table from one another. Damn this show!
How did Empire possibly get so extreme that even an SNL skit seemed tame in comparison? What in the hell is going to happen when Empire returns next week for its two-hour season finale? And perhaps less importantly, how many billions of people will be watching?