The Lyon family is usually known for its dysfunction, chaos, and drama, but every now and again, we get glimpses of real, true family unity and love.
Lee Daniels decided to remind us that amidst all the madness, the Lyon family is truly bonded to one another. Blood is truly thicker than water with this crew, even if they spill each other’s blood along the way.
The title given to episode 13 of Empire‘s second season is “Tameness of a Wolf.” At first glance, it would appear that the wolf who is tamed in this episode is Cookie Lyon. She is uncharacteristically kind, sweet and patient throughout the episode. She’s, dare I say it, motherly even.
While we’ve always known that Cookie loves all of the Lyon men, it’s usually buried under a snarl, an eyeroll or a slap. But in this episode, we see Cookie earnestly attempt to restrain herself, exercise patience and play a more maternal role than she ever has before.
We learn that the reason for Cookie’s sweet motherly act is because her birthday is coming up. And apparently, all the Empire Grinch wants for Christmas is for her family to eat lunch together in peace.
Given the level of dysfunction that runs rampant in the Lyon camp, it’s a tall order. But surprisingly, it all comes together in the end.
Jamal throws Cookie off of his scent by dropping flowers off at the video shoot for Lucious’ “Boom Boom Boom” video saying he’ll take her out shopping and spend the day with her the following day to make it up to her.
See Jamal is still bitter about Lucious floating that whisper campaign that Jamal might not be gay because he hooked up with Skye Summers (Alicia Keys). But what doesn’t make sense about Jamal’s anger is that Lucious didn’t FORCE Jamal to lust after Skye, that was his own doing.
Furthermore, didn’t he proclaim that he was sexually fluid the previous episode and say that he eschewed labels for love? So why is he ashamed of his heterosexual dalliances?
You can’t have it both ways Jamal: It’s hypocritical to cry about your daddy smearing your good name in the gay community and at the same time reject being labeled exclusively homosexual or bisexual.
A lot of this conflicting mess comes from the fact that Lee Daniels and the writers of Empire have treated Jamal as more of a gay rights vessel than an actual character, so he’s been mercilessly molded to fit whatever agenda the team wants to push that episode, regardless of what inconsistencies it presents in subsequent episodes.
But we could spend a whole good week dissecting the jacked up mess that is the Jamal Lyons character. Let’s get back to Cookie.
So after Jamal tells Cookie he’s not coming to her birthday dinner, she’s feeling down.
Cookie begrudgingly shows up at Lucious’ house for their miserable birthday dinner for two. Lucious even has a sad ol’ teddy bear and balloons waiting for her. But, surprise, surprise, Cookie hears someone in the living room singing “Happy Birthday.”
At first she assumes Lucious hired Stevie Wonder (frankly, he’s probably bookable for birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and baptisms any way) to sing her a special birthday song.
So when she bursts through the door to the living room, she’s expecting to see a black man with a hairline pushed back to the middle of scalp, dark shades and braids with the noisy plastic beads on the ends.
But nope: It’s her three beautiful sons (plus her white daughter-in-law) instead.
There aren’t many of these heartwarming, Cosby Show moments in Empire, but this is definitely one of them. The pure joy and happiness beaming from Cookie’s face during this scene is enough to make you believe in magic. Happy birthday, Cookie!
But alas, the family harmony is short-lived.
Lucious Lyon Ruins Yet Another Great Day
After a wonderful meal, Cookie excitedly invites the Lyon family to watch a rough cut of Lucious’ “Boom Boom Boom” video, which she’s been working tirelessly on. Because the video delves into the gory details of the traumatic relationship between Lucious and his mother (played by Kelly Rowland), Cookie thinks it could serve as a way for the boys to better understand and relate to their father’s troubled ways.
The video makes the case that Lucious wasn’t born evil, he was turned evil by his psycho mother who tried to drown him in a bathtub and then shot herself in front of him leaving him homeless and abandoned on the streets.
Unfortunately, what Cookie didn’t predict is that the mental illness that the actress playing Lucious’ mother in the video exhibits would make something click in Andre‘s head. He realizes then and there that his grandmother was also bipolar and that he likely inherited the mental illness from her, since they both attempted suicide and suffered from extreme emotional highs and lows.
This realization sends Andre into a rage as he confronts Lucious about the fact that he knew his own mother was bipolar but acted like Andre’s behavior was completely out of the blue. Lucious rightfully points out, “Back then we didn’t have a name for it, but I guess, yeah she was bipolar.”
Lucious adds, “I don’t know how knowing that my mother put a gun to her head, how that would’ve helped you.”
Andre won’t hear it and he blames Lucious for hiding the truth from him and here’s where things get ugly.
“You wanna know the truth? The truth is you’ve got mental issues. The truth is I sent you to all them damn schools thinking that maybe that was gonna help you some way. The truth is I let you marry Rhonda thinking that maybe that would give you some sense of identity. But the real truth is my mother was a nutjob. I was embarrassed by her, the same way I’m embarrassed by you. Now does that help you with your truth?” Lucious says.
Damnit. This is the exact problem with Lucious. Just when you start to feel sorry for him and empathize with him as an actual human being, he pulls out his forked tongue and shows his true devilish spirit. Needless to say, Andre is CRUSHED by his father’s harsh words and Cookie’s happy family reunion goes up in smoke like a blunt in Snoop Dogg’s mouth.
Oh well. It was nice while it lasted.
NEXT: HAKEEM’S LOVE TRIANGLE + THE LYONS WANT TO WORK WITH FREDA GATZ