Should We Keep Calling Empire’s Most Toxic Relationship "Love"?

Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX.
Going into the upcoming Empire spring premiere, it’s impossible to avoid the "Twisted Kind of Love" previews plastered across FOX. The sneak peek is centered around the garbage fire romance that is Cookie and Lucious Lyon, or, Coocious, as their son Jamal Lyon (Jussie Smollett) calls them in the video. While watching the sneak peek, I had to question whether the on-again, off-again exes’ relationship could even be classified as "love."
As we learn throughout season 3, the Lyons met as teenagers and fell for each other through their mutual adoration of Lucious’s rap skills. Cookie left her father John and her own promising future to be with Lucious, and John died from a heart attack afterwards, seemingly from stress. Soon enough, the duo began selling drugs for cash and Cookie ended up in prison because of it.
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Seventeen years later, we pick up at the beginning of Empire, where Lucious (Terrence Howard) is a multimillionaire CEO and Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) is a convict.
Things between the Lyon king and queen have only gotten worse over the years, after that time Cookie tried to smother Lucious with a pillow, that other time Lucious got Cookie thrown out of Empire, and that other-other time Cookie and Lucious were moments away from getting back together...before he decided to marry Anika (Grace Gealey-Byers) to save his own skin.
The pair’s relationship has simply been decades and decades of hurting each other in the name of love and hustling, where Cookie is usually the one pulling the short straw. While Cookie and Lucious’s history has mostly stayed under the label of "toxic" — except for that very soapy and criminal pillow attempted murder — it looks like things are about to drive directly into abuse territory.
The Super Bowl ad for Empire’s midseason premiere, "Sound & Fury," shows Cookie pointing a baseball bat at her now-ex. Next we see Lucious splayed out on the glass-covered floor with a giant gash on his head. Lucious might be awful, but nobody in a relationship should be smacking the object of their tortured affection with a deadly object and calling it “love.”
The better name for Cookie and Lucious’s very tangled web is obsessive ride-or-die-ness. The pair can’t trust anyone else with their businesses, family, or artistic expression, since they relied so heavily on each other as children. Now it’s 30 years later and they can’t break the cycle, nor do they really want to.
It’s unhealthy for viewers everywhere to see Empire’s rollercoaster to hell romance as a love story, although it doesn’t look like this ride is going to end any time soon.
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