By Alyssa Debonair
Hip Hop Vibe Staff Writer
For the first time since its premiere in January 2015, “Empire” wasn’t the number one show on Wednesday nights, last week. Instead, NBC’s series, “This Is Us,” took that spot. That was a sad moment for more reasons than one.
Early on, “Empire” succeeded due to the hype of the show, without question. Stellar performances from Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson held the attention of fans of their movies. But, watching a serial drama is a hard thing to do.
Much different than the movies, television shows come on every week and Lee Daniels rewarded those fans. Seeing how they had “Empire” breaking-records, FOX kept the show on Wednesdays at 9 pm. The “Empire” success even opened the door for “Rosewood,” their drama starring Morris Chestnut and Jaina Lee Ortiz.
However, “Empire” began showing signs of slippage during season two, as fans and critics, alike, grew tired of all the celebrity cameos. In the season premiere, alone, “Empire” featured Al Sharpton, Don Lemon, Chris Rock (as Frank Gathers), Sean Cross, Swizz Beatz, and Andre Leon Talley guest starred. Then, the likes of Ludacris, Petey Pablo, Ne-Yo, and Pitbull were among the other guest stars.
Alicia Keys was the biggest and most-distracting cameos of season two, playing Skye Summers. Skye briefly turned the show’s openly gay character, Jamal (Jussie Smollett) out. But, for the most part, fans and critics were growing tired of the celebrity cameos, which Lee Daniels acknowledged and switched back from.
Season three has had its fair share of cameo appearances, with Birdman, French Montana, and Mariah Carey all making appearances. This time, it has been much toned down and there is a more organic focus on the storyline and the guest appearances fit. For starters, French Montana is playing the role of Vaughn, who helped Andre (Trai Byers) crash “Empire’s” servers.
Speaking of the hacking, it was possibly in contention for being “Empire’s” best episode ever. This season has seen Xzibit given a full-time role with the show and Romeo Miller also has a big role, this season. Each role plays a key part in the series and the storylines are the best they’ve ever been.
Suspense was added when “Empire” decided to kill off Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), which led to Andre (Byers) returning to his dark roots. The addition of Nessa (Sierra McClain) has created conflict between Andre, who is moving on with her, and Hakeem (Bryshere “Yazz” Gray) who is also looking to bounce back. Living up to its soap opera origins, Cookie is even dating a politician played by Taye Diggs and his mom is played by Phylicia Rashad.
Lucious has come full circle, seeming to be falling for Anika (Grace Gealey) after their horrible breakup and her having his son, Hakeem’s baby. Meanwhile, Lucious’ mom, Leah (Leslie Uggams) is playing his half-brother, Tariq (Morocco Omari) by pretending to give him dirt on Lucious. Storylines are on fire, yet people are tuning out in droves.
“Empire” was once averaging 20 million combined viewers an episode, which it was expected to decrease from such a high total. Since then, the series has fallen to the 10 million range, bringing it down to Earth with all of the other shows on television. Much of it had to do with the MLB playoffs causing “Empire” to postpone the show.
When “Empire” was expected to return, the World Series had an extra game, which angered fans that accused the show’s production team of lying to them. This Wednesday, at 8 pm, will be the fall finale, and people need to tune into the show, it is honestly better than ever before.
Watch the promo for this week’s “Empire” episode below:
Follow Alyssa Debonair on Twitter @AlyssaDebonair.