The last episode of Empire aired during the Reagan administration, so you'll be forgiven if you don't remember what happened. Naomi Campbell came back to town married to Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei and snatched up Lucious's company. Naomi, who is used to hurling shade and cell phones, got spit hurled at her by Cookie. Meanwhile, Boo Boo Kitty got her Ali Larter on and shoved pregnant Rhonda down a flight of stairs.
1. LUCIOUS LYON
I know we're all sick of seeing Lucious sulking around in his "Smooth Criminal" getups, but the fact remains that he's technically the one with all the power at any given time on this show. He's the fucking Don Draper of this show: a miserable asshole everyone worships, when instead they should've kicked him out of the conference room years ago. This week, he exerts his power by hiring a bunch of freelance goons (probably posted a Craigslist ad) to rough up board members considering that CEO position. Why didn't he use these intimidation tactics to take control of the company when they were ousting him from it? We may never know, but I wouldn't deign to question the decision-making skills of the man who wrote the Eurovision classic "Snitch Bitch."
He relies on Cookie a lot during his ordeal this week, but that's mostly because she's single again and flirting with him. When Cookie isn't interested in banging Lucious, he has no use for her -- therein lies his power.
2. HAKEEM LYON
Hakeem has "power" by a technicality, I guess, since he's been made CEO of Empire. He gets the board to make him CEO by standing on a table (really) and reminding them the company is his birthright (didn't he reject his last name like three episodes ago?), because it wouldn't be Hakeem if he didn't take a completely normal situation and do something insane in it. Why are you standing on a table in your knock-off Yeezys? You know your Lucious didn't pay all that money for an interior designer for you to scuff up a table in your Iggys. I guess he's also sleeping with Camilla and Laura, the Latina girl on the show that is not Becky G (where'd she go? I like a chick who thots in a hot tub on her first episode).
He's also busy getting his ass whooped by his mom and her endless supply of brooms, so let's not pretend his position at the top isn't precarious. He's in control of Empire now, but with Cookie back in the company running A&R and heading up Lyon Dynasty, he won't be sitting up above her for much longer.
3. COOKIE LYON
Not only is Cookie's fur game on point, she's actually thinking strategically about how to oust Camilla from Empire. Did she watch some Dynasty episodes during this long-ass hiatus? She's still beating her son with a broom and throwing tchotchkes on the floor when Camilla and Hakeem don't take her up on her first offer, but this seems like a brand-new Cookie! I'm here for this badass bitch dropping one-liners and getting shit done like she did in the first season, before she got dickmatized by Adam Rodriguez (I can't blame her, but still, it must be said).
Being flirty with Lucious again is not the key to realizing your inner strength and other Oprah Book Club proverbs, but I'll let it slide, because conversely, I loved her breezily inappropriate chat with Jamal outside the hospital about their sex lives. But Cookie will lose bonus points if joking about Jamal's maybe-bisexuality causes some freelancer with a bone to pick to pitch a think piece to Slate this week.
Joy 2: This One's About a Broom
INT. COOKIE'S LIVING ROOM — DAY
Cookie tries hitting Hakeem with a mop, but water splashes back in her face.
Cookie: I wish I had a household cleaning object I could abuse my child with that would also not get dirty water in my face. I know: I'll take off the mop part from the stick and add some dry bristles. I'll call it a broom!
David O'Russell: This is great, but I think it would sell better if you were a white woman played by Jennifer Lawrence.
4. CAMILLA MARKS-WHITEMAN
OK girl, you came back to steal Empire from Lucious for your evil lesbian wife, but now what? Do you want to run the company? Do you want to cater to Hakeem's every whim? He's a child. You might want to stock up on some juice boxes. Technically Camilla is in power here as well, I guess, but I'll be damned if I know how it benefits her unless she just wants to be Hakeem's side piece.
5. ANIKA CALHOUN
Speaking of side pieces, Boo Boo Kitty shows up like Carmen Sandiego at Rhonda's bedside, acting like she didn't shove her down a flight of stairs and cause her to miscarry her baby. Anika could have a much higher position if she'd just announce that she's carrying Hakeem's baby, but she's still being secretive about it. The longer she keeps it hidden, the bigger the blowback is going to be. This is going to bite her in the ass. She should see that, but she's crazier than Andre, so her tumble to the bottom of the power rankings should be a glorious ball of fire.
6. JAMESON HENTHROP
I presume this white gay wants to sleep with Jamal — or maybe he just wants to run his career, because we can't be having Sam Smith out here as the only LGBT representation in mainstream music. (Frank Ocean is missing like he and his album boarded a Malaysian airplane.) He convinces Jamal to quit it with this whole "maybe I'm sleeping with women now" shit and embrace his gay side. Right now, he's basically Jiminy Cricket in Miami Vice leisure suits.
7. JAMAL LYON
Jamal is still out here singing in this little falsetto and being in his feelings. He slept with Alicia Keys last time we saw him, and he's still thinking about her concrete jungle and how he's gay, but sexuality is fluid and girl, whatever, just pick an interesting story line this season. Please. One. Jameson wants him to be pro-gay and in your face with his music, but he forgets that Jamal is black and that if this were the real world, he wouldn't be on the cover of any damn gay magazines anyway. So sleep with Alicia Keys all you want, boo — Out would prefer a half-naked Steve Grand.
8. RHONDA LYON
Rhonda is making strides for the role of White Person Cast in a Predominantly Black Show. She is breaking down barriers, y'all. Jenna von Oÿ could never give you that tumble-down-the-staircase-followed-by-a-miscarriage-while-lying-in-a-pool-of-blood and still manage to deliver a community-theater monologue just moments from death. I'm sad that Rhonda lost the baby, especially since she was so fond of baby bibs, but come on, we all thought she was faking her pregnancy, right? The whole Internet thought this baby was fake until the finale last winter, when she started showing and Anika pushed her down the stairs. I really thought we had a Kristen DiMera–style baby snatcher on our hands, but alas.
Rhonda now seems like she's gonna develop a drinking problem, because don't get it twisted, she's still a white woman in peril on prime-time television.
9. ANDRE LYON
Andre very rarely has power in any situation. He's always falling on the damn floor sobbing like he's been taken over by the holy ghost, causing your auntie to whisper in somebody's ear, "Why you gagging? She do this every Sunday." He kind of puts it together to help Cookie with her maneuver to get the company back into the family's hands, so he's not useless this week, but he's pretty sidelined.
10. LAURA CALLEROS
This young girl who for some reason is still on the show, even though I'm not sure anyone besides Hakeem and Cookie have ever had scenes with her, allows Hakeem to berate her and then fuck her in her bedroom at her parents' home. Oh, girl. He don't love you. She's already been sorta-kidnapped by Anika pretending she was an Uber driver — now she's gonna have Camilla coming for her. I hope Laura shows some backbone soon, or at least has a concealed-carry permit; otherwise she's gonna get wiped off this list with the quickness.
11. THE MUSIC
Remember when the music on this show was laughably bad like "Drip Drop"? Or when Jamal used to prowl rooftops sobbing about the fact that he can't afford his apartment in Williamsburg to the tune of Mariah Carey whistling "so what I'm gaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy" at rap battles? Me too. This week we got two songs about how heavy it is to wear crowns. We get it, the show is based on King Lear (or Lion in the Winter, if you're a white person with a graduate degree). Meanwhile, you've got Jamal singing his low-grade R&B about how he can have sex with whomever he wants because he's still getting Pepsi money or whatever. Snore.
12. THOSE OTHER RANDOM HEFFAS IN MIRAGE A TROIS
They (maybe) quit the group because they don't like the "telenovela" fighting between Hakeem and Laura. But this is Empire, so they could very well be back next week without any mention of the fact that they quit.