Empire Season 3 Finale Recap: "Toil & Trouble Pt. 2"

Photo: Courtesy of FOX.
Finally, a season strung together by flashbacks, flash forwards, and characters who reminisce on the past while others plot destructive futures, concludes in an expectedly dramatic form: it eliminates the antagonist’s most prized possession — his memory.
This move can easily be deemed a cop-out — why not kill off Lucious and face the greater challenge of writing a show without him, an opportunity Shonda Rhimes would relish in - or a poetic conclusion to a long, winded season that felt more like a fever dream or a string of erratic thoughts, instead of a well composed storyline, as most soap operas do. Memory is crucial to the human experience. Without memory, Lucious can’t connect to the people he loves, because he doesn’t know who they are. Without memory, he can’t run an empire, because he won’t know how - or won’t remember why it meant so much to him. Without memory, he has to search for himself all over again. Maybe that last one is a good thing - perhaps he will find a good person inside himself?
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Now, those countless flashbacks make sense. And last week’s flash forward is not in vain. The writers were trying to tell us that someone important was about to lose their mind - they were transporting all these memories to us in hopes we keep them safe for this treacherous villain. We got the juice now, yall.
This season finale did a good job at making ends meet, proving that love prevails, as well as grudges, and making almost every character recant their half season long plans at the very last moment. To think that Andre was serious about killing Lucious is disturbing, but the fact that he was so close to doing it would have made for a great horror movie. Cookie, too, was ready to bring down Leviticus and Juicy, the Queen Bee who runs it, but fell back on the plan as well. Lucious, as terrible, terrible, terrible, as he is, had a wild change of heart. The true villains of the show turned out to be Shine, Grandma Lea and the DuBois - they would make for an impeccable super villain group. If anyone is looking for fanfiction inspiration, or simply a writing prompt, please, feel free to take this idea.
One of the greatest criminals of this episode is the fine ass singer who performed for Jamal at a club. Not only is he a sight to behold, he is talented as fuck, and clearly he and Jamal had a connection. His crime: stealing not only Jamal’s, and my, heart, just to find out he is one of Angelo’s shady siblings working from the inside out to undo the Lyons.
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Anika knows the DuBois have her baby, and when she visits them, Hakeem follows. The DuBois blackmail Anika and Hakeem, telling them that they can have their first born back as long as they remember that they owe them a favor in the future. What is this, Rumplestiltskin? If so, DuBois is a much easier name to spell.
Grandma Lea, now responsible for a dead body (Tariq) has to cover up her crime somehow. She lures Anika back to Lucious’ home, under the enticing allure of mail (really? For me it would’ve been an Asos package. But divorce papers is a great reason to go back to your ex’s house). After making her open the letter with a huge letter opener, she steals Anika’s fingerprints and frames her for Tariq’s murder. This all happens while all the Lyons are in Vegas, which is also another poorly written moment, as Lucious has said several times that Lea is dangerous and should never be left alone.
In Vegas, on the opening night of Leviticus, Lucious confesses his love to Cookie, right in front of Juicy. We learn that earlier in the episode, when she signed papers in the Empire conference room, she was really signing over her rights to the club. Disappointingly, Juicy doesn’t put up much of fight, but maybe this won’t be the last we see of her. Lucious surprises Cookie with - wait for it - the Vegas performance, which isn’t the Inferno album at all, it’s When Cookie Met Lucious. Jamal performs on stage and Cookie starts to realize they’ve been planning this all for her for weeks. Call me petty, but if I were her, I’d also be remembering that Lucious was sexing Juicy for weeks, too, and pretending to be in love with her, and hurting my feelings all the time. Cookie crumbles easily when it comes to Lucious.
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Cookie calls Shine to squash the plan. And after Jamal’s performance, Lucious’ serenade and a commercial flaunting a sneak peak of Jussie Smollet’s When Cookie Met Lucious visual album, a really, really random character appears, to tie up more loose ends, of course. It’s Barry, the ex boyfriend that Cookie left Lucious for as a teenager, and also the man her father wanted her to be with. Turns out he is a happy, glowing doctor, with a happy, glowing wife who is also a doctor, and a daughter that is becoming a doctor as well (jeez). If only all encounters with exes could be this...peaceful?
Lucious and Cookie, in awe of the couple’s affection and happiness, are inspired to build a better relationship. They decide to travel the world together, and announce to their sons that they’re stepping down from the day-to-day Empire duties. In turn, Andre will be taking Lucious place, and he literally gets the keys to the kingdom. “We should’ve done this a long, long time ago,” Cookie admits. You think?? Andre is damn near ready to kill father because of this. Anyway, Andre bursts out the club to tell Shine to cancel the scheduled bomb, but nope, Shine isn’t about to get rejected twice in one night. As Cookie and Lucious exit the club and are about to step into their car, Andre frantically warns them to run. Lucious, doing the first decent, selfless thing in 3 seasons, pushes Cookie out the way before the car blows up. The vehicle goes up in flames, and Lucious’ fate is undetermined.
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See, the episode could’ve ended here for me, but unfortunately there were 5 more minutes to spare. We flash forward once more - 3 months exactly - to the Lyons in a hospital room with an unconscious Lucious and a touchy feely doctor, played by Demi Moore. Lucious’ eyes flutter open, briefly at first, but soon after, at full force. He’s awake! But as he looks around at his beautiful family, he doesn’t have a damn clue who they are. And all at once, everything that has happened in the past 50 minutes, the makeups, the twists, the turns, the sewing back together, drifts away as easily as a dream after you open your eyes.
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