Last week, Camilla killed herself because this show won’t just embrace the fact that it is a soap opera and allow her to be Cookie's one-liner adversary each week. Jamal and Hakeem's singing was a poor substitute for Paxil, and in case you forgot, THIS SHOW IS BASED ON SHAKESPEARE BECAUSE IT IS A HIP-HOP SOAP OPERA ON THE SURFACE BUT IT'S REALLY HIGHBROW, OK?!
1. COOKIE LYON (last week: 3)
Last week, she was busy trying to control Empire, but with Camilla dead, this week is all about Cookie’s birthday. It's her first birthday out of prison, so she's working overtime trying to convince her family to show up at her birthday dinner. Jamal pretends he's not going, but of course all of her sons come to the dinner, even though they hate Lucious. Their love for their mother is stronger than their hatred of their father, so Cookie easily wins the power rankings this week.
She's also the only person who's put two and two together and understands that Frank Gathers is Freda Gatz's father, which means Freda's not gonna be happy when she finds out that Lucious killed her daddy. You better go ahead and protect your boys, Cookie!
2. JAMAL LYON (last week: 4)
This is the second week in a row that Jamal is in my good graces. I'm glad he's fighting with his daddy again, because him trying to be a masc mogul earlier this season was about as threatening as Michael Jackson in the "Bad" video. He's much better as the sensitive son who makes Cookie believe he's missing her birthday dinner, then shows up to sing a song for her. He's also great at being the benevolent alternative to Lucious, as he offers Freda a verse on his album, partly to get back at his dad, but also you should probably have someone who grew up in the hood on a song about crime and violent streets, since we know Jamal's ass didn't grow anywhere near a stray bullet. It's further proof that Jamal shouldn't have been trying to run Empire at all; he needs to focus on making music and stop trying to prove himself to Lucious.
3. THE MUSIC (last week: 6)
The aforementioned song with Jamal and Freda, "Shine on Me," is Jamal at his R&B emo best, and Freda is spitting straight fire. The music is so much better in this second half of the season, it's a perfect blend of hot beats and cheese we haven't seen since "Drip Drop." And, speaking of Hakeem, this song "All Nite" featuring Tiana and Laura is kind of a banger? It even has a Yo Gotti remix and a "music video." I would unironically turn up to this trap anthem in the clerb in between Drake and Rihanna songs.
4. ANIKA CALHOUN (last week: not ranked)
This crazy queen of shoving pregnant women down stairs is only in one scene this week, but it's probably the most horrifying. Rhonda is fighting with Andre, so she looks to her best friend Anika for a place to stay. Can you imagine what kind of Misery shit Anika has in store for her? In the wake of Camilla's death, Anika is poised to be the series's next great villain. Boo Boo Kitty is finally showing her claws.
5. HAKEEM LYON (last week: 8)
This is some Gossip Girl nonsense, but dare I say that Hakeem is actually good at running Empire? He manages to squash a beef between Tiana and Mirage a Trois, produce Jamal and Freda's song, surprise his mom for her birthday, and propose to Laura. He's basically the Chuck Bass of this show, and I'm liking Hakeem in a position of power, where he doesn't act nearly as childishly as he used to when he was acting out against his family.
6. LAURA CALLEROS (last week: 9)
Those other girls in Mirage a Trois don't warrant a power ranking, they're so nonexistent. They didn't even sing on Hakeem's track with Laura. Is she aiming for a solo career before they even drop an album? Sis also got an engagement ring from Hakeem, so she's sitting pretty at the top of these power rankings. Let's just hope they don't go the way of Cassie and Diddy...
7. TIANA BROWN (last week: 5)
I mean, homegirl has her own tour, so she's still doing pretty well. But she drops a couple of spots this week for getting into a petty beef with Laura about Mirage a Trois going one song over their set time. The crowd is getting amped for you, it's really not that big a deal — especially when your "big entrance" seems to be sashaying out onto the stage without a single transition. Is this a tour or a cabaret? I can't quite get a read on whether Tiana is happy with Hakeem and Laura's engagement after their beef is squashed, but if she's not, that leaves three women (Tiana, Laura, and Anika) vying for Hakeem, which is a bit much. I like Tiana, but she needs some other purpose on this show besides being Hakeem's ex-boo thang with Danity Kane songs.
8. FREDA GATZ (last week: not ranked)
Freda was seen last week, but didn't have much to say. This week, she's realizing what a son of a bitch Lucious really is when he cuts her from his music video and doesn't bother telling her until she shows up on set. Her bond with Jamal (and the fire verse she spits on "Shine on Me") goes a long way toward legitimizing her as an actual character in the show, plus there's also her desire for revenge against the person who killed her father. Cookie knows that Lucious did it to save her, but Freda doesn't know that yet. She's in the middle of the power list right now, but expect her to climb higher once she realizes what the Lyons are keeping from her.
9. ANDRE LYON (last week: 11)
Poor Andre. After finally regaining some semblance of normalcy in his life (he seems like he's back on his meds, but we don't see it explicitly), he finds out that his grandmother is bipolar by watching Lucious's music video. Hearing his father lash out at him and referring to Andre as weak for having a mental illness was rough, but Andre seems to have finally reached his breaking point with trying to appease Lucious. If he starts seeking the mental help that he needs while turning against his father, he could skyrocket to the top of this list.
PS: Being shirtless would also help, Andre! Just a friendly suggestion.
10. LUCIOUS LYON (last week: 2)
Lucious took quite a tumble this week, mostly due to switching up the "Boom Boom Boom" music video so it would tackle his tragic childhood. Confronting his mother's suicide -- and the time she tried drowning him in a bathtub -- shakes Lucious to his core and keeps him from being on top of his game. When he lashes out at Andre, it's not a power move but one of sadness and desperation, and it only seeks to further drive his family away from him.
Plus, it's really not a good idea for him to be on the outs with Freda, since he HAD HER FATHER KILLED. Try some perspective, fam.
11. BECKY WILLIAMS (last week: not ranked)
Becky always shines when she's sparring with Jamal and Hakeem. This week, she tells Hakeem to mind his own business when he asks about her "freaky deaky" weekend, then blasts him for letting Tiana and Laura squabble while on tour. She even refers to it as "Keyshia Cole versus Black Twitter" bad, which made me cackle endlessly.
12. RHONDA LYON (last week: same rank)
Sis, I know you're having trouble in your marriage, but running into the arms of the psycho who shoved you down a flight of stairs is not the move. Rhonda, you in danger, girl.
13. PORSHA TAYLOR (last week: 14)
Porsha earns her own ranking this week, but you're not going to rise very high when you think a cobbler is appropriate for a birthday dinner and you don't know how to pronounce peonies.
14. HARPER SCOTT (last week: 7)
Harper hasn't slept with Lucious yet, so thank God for small favors. Beyond that, she's mostly just there this week. Quite a tumble from last week, when she was digging into everyone's business for social media clicks.
15. SHAKESPEARE (last week: 1)
The episode gets its title from King Lear, of course. "He's mad that trusts in the tameness of a wolf, a horse's health, a boy's love, or a whore's oath," the Fool tells Lear in the third act of the tragedy. This is one of Empire's more subtle Shakespeare references, especially after last week's Bard bukkake.
Cookie also drags the fashion line Antony and Cleoprata — "I always hated that name" — so this isn't really Billy Shakes's week.