Set in the glamorous and glitzy world of hip hop and R&B, Empire has had a rocky ride since it first aired in 2015. It nearly didn’t make it past its first season, and was all but cancelled outright, but with the support of its fans, it rallied to keep delivering all the outrageous drama and hot music we’ve come to expect from the Lyon family.
At the heart of the frothy bordering-on-soap show are the Lyons. Patriarch and head (sometimes) of the eponymous empire is Lucious (Terrence Howard). Taraji P Henson plays Cookie, his wife who spent 17 years in jail after taking the rap for Lucious, and thereby missing her children’s lives. Understandably she has some residual bitterness and isn’t afraid of a damn thing. Cookie rocks.
The brothers are Andre (Trai Byers) who is fairly straight-laced but with some mental issues and the only one performing in the music industry; Jamal (scandal-ridden Jussie Smollet) in the middle, and baby of the bunch, Hakeem (Bryshere Y Gray). All of them endure extreme ups and downs and at some point or another, they all try to kill one or more members of their family, mainly Lucious, because he’s not the nicest guy in the world and to be fair, probably tried to kill them first.
Empire is notable not only for these reasons, but its exceptional original soundtrack with Timbaland brought on board as executive music producer, and cast members doing their own vocals. Howard and Henson of course, have previously worked together in this way, in Hustle & Flow (2005). On top of this, throughout its five seasons, Empire has been a showcase of real-life superstars guesting as themselves or as fictional characters. The list includes Courtney Love, Gladys Knight, Jennifer Hudson, Lee Daniels, Cuba Gooding Junior, Forest Whitaker, Chris Rock, Ludacris, Naomi Campbell, Snoop Dogg and many more.
IMDB rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 84%