Empire episode 5 recap: Second chances, holy water, and unmarked vans
It can be really hard to make a clean start — especially if you're a Lyon
Empire has always been about cleansing, about finding new beginnings.
The show, after all, kicked off with Cookie Lyon being released from a 17-year prison stint and attempting to find her place in the company she co-founded with her ex-husband, Lucious. Empire Records itself represented a rise out of a life of crime and poverty for the couple, a second chance to give their three sons everything they never had growing up.
So it's only fitting that in Wednesday night's episode, "Be True," we finally witness a baptism.
It's even more fitting when you consider how the baptized — Andre Lyon, Lucious' eldest son — finally received what he wanted. Last episode, his re-entry into the professional ranks of Empire Records was a reward for digging up the corpse of an old family friend, Vernon Turner, whom his wife had murdered. This episode, he's in church.
Andre has long been the show's most interesting character, but he's often overlooked by both the audience and the rest of the Lyon family.
Given his midnight digging party last week, it's no surprise he feels the need for a good holy cleansing, and the baptism sheds light on who Andre has always been: a lamb who thinks of himself as a shepherd. Each time his father tells Andre he doesn't belong in his world, he wants to fit in even more.
This stubborn devotion to his father — and, sometimes, his father's business practices — might be a reaction to Andre's life as an outcast, battling bipolar disorder, dulling himself with drugs to fit in, attending Wharton when his father came up selling dope. He doesn't even fit in with his own siblings — his kid brother, Jamal, has a voice that would make Michael Jackson jealous and his youngest brother, Hakeem, is a famous rapper.
Meanwhile, all Andre knows is business. And the business methods taught at Wharton don't often agree with his father's.
Andre demonstrates that in "Be True" when he walks in on Thirsty Rawlings — the shady lawyer who claims to be on retainer now, a sort of Vernon replacement — pouring himself a scotch from his father's bar. He's immediately suspicious. When Thirsty asks him to steal all the records from Lyon Dynasty, a rival company set up by Cookie, Andre grows angry, explaining he would never hurt his mother.
"I'd appreciate it if you forget this conversation ever happened," Thirsty says.
"I'd appreciate it if you left the glass on the table, leave my father's office, and don't come back until he returns," Andre responds.
Of course, that doesn't mean Andre is without sin. Part of the baptismal preparation mandated by his pastor involves confessing his transgressions against the Lyon family to the Lyon family. Given that this group holds grudges longer than Jamal holds notes, this seems inadvisable. But, as he always does, Andre throws himself fully into whatever he's been commanded to do.
His confessions to his brothers about pitting them against each other go over well enough, but those to his father about helping Cookie when she first left prison and trying to commit suicide in Lucious' recording booth are met with a little more ice.
Lucious doesn't believe that sins can be wiped away, and in some ways, he might stronger for it. Instead of looking for a new beginning, he just uses what he's already learned on the streets. That may or may not include ordering an attack on Tiana, a star who defected from Empire Records to Cookie's Lyon Dynasty, and an invasion of Cookie's headquarters — acts pinned on Thirsty.
If Lucious was cold to Andre's confession, Cookie counsels discretion. She appears to have figured out what happened to Vernon, and when Andre attempts to cleanse his sins by telling her, "I've done horrible things," she cuts him off, responding: "So have I, Dre, but we're good people. You wouldn't be here, trying to make it right, if you weren't.... Now keep your mouth shut."
Andre isn't the only one in Wednesday's episode who appears bent on turning over a new leaf. Hakeem tries to come on to Laura, the silky-voiced Latina he met in a Brooklyn bar and signed to his label, and when she bristles, he goes against type and actually apologizes. "I respect that you're not that type of girl," he says, showing both a personal and professional maturity he's been sorely lacking. "I won't ever push up on you ever again." But his redemption is interrupted when somebody throws a hood over his head and pushes him in to the back of a van — so much for maturity.
Is Lucious to blame for kidnapping his own son? That seems a bit extreme, even for him. But as everyone else seeks fresh starts, he only grows colder. Cookie even calls him out on it: "This must be really liberating for you, Lucious. Having no morals."
Singer-songwriter Ne-Yo, playing himself — a good move by Empire, which should have used him more creatively — is also wary of Lucious, advising Jamal to avoid taking relationship advice from his father. In the show, Ne-Yo is going on tour with Jamal, who is deciding whether or not to bring along his boyfriend Michael.
Ne-Yo is a nice addition to Empire, but honestly, the whole plotline could use a good cleansing. After all, it's hard to care much about Jamal's relationship issues when Hakeem has been kidnapped and Andre is potentially on the verge of confessing to murder to fulfill his religious obligations.
Luckily, Empire's always been about fresh starts.