Lucious erupts from a flurry of flames like the foreboding, insidious devil he is, in a black suit, cane (cough, pitchfork), and blazing pupils for eyes. This opening image is so comedic in its blatancy: we have always known Lucious is evil, but this is the first time Empire has depicted his badness in such a cliché way. There’s a method to the madness, though: Lucious is releasing an album, aptly titled Inferno. I couldn’t stop LOLing.
Fire is packed with so much symbolism to explore, unpack, and play around with. There’s the literal meaning of fire, which ranges anywhere from the cause of third degree burns to one of the four elemental sources of power. Growing up, fire was a way of telling someone something is poppin — “yo, that new mixtape is fire!” Today we say “lit,” which is essentially the past tense version of light, but still embodies the idea that something is turned up or glowing with awesomeness. When you diss a person, especially in public and in the right company, your comrades will say, “oh! Shots fired.” Finally, there’s the steamy, sexy representation of fire: the flame ignited between two lovers.
In “Sound and Fury,” we see some of these representations and more, mostly depicted through the usual resistance between Cookie and Lucious. When Lucious announces his upcoming “Inferno” album at an event, without consulting co-CEO Cookie, she retaliates by bringing his mother, Lea Walker, on stage. Rumours and controversy swirl around Lucious and Lea, so this move was definitely a problematic one for Lucious, who has made the public believe his mother died. Well played, Cookie. Shots fired.
Rivalries between other characters only turn up the heat between Lucious and Cookie. Tiana, Cookie’s artist, is still in competition with Nessa, Andre’s girlfriend and Lucious’ artist, over the Queen of Empire spot. Nessa lands a performance in Lucious’ Inferno showcase, which is seemingly a loss for Tiana, until she and Hakeem crash the performance and turn it into one of the dopest collaborations in Empire history! That’s fire.
If I wrote this show, Tiana and Nessa would be friends, and take over the company with record album sales, sold out tours, and several endorsements. Two Black girls are better than one: the days of one queen R&B singer are no more; at least, that’s true in my Spotify playlists. But, I don’t write the show, so Tiana and Nessa got into a fight. Weave was snatched, faces were slapped, long legs rolled around on the floor. Sometimes Lucious and Cookie’s tension is exercised through their constituents.
Cookie and Lucious’ animosity towards each other is also revealed through their fine ass but equally imperfect children. Jamal, who is recovering from a drug addiction in rehab, is ready to make music again — in the studio. His new friend Tory Ash (Rumer Willis) convinces him to sneak out one night to record a song. While Cookie and Lucious look for their son, they continue to argue and criticise the other’s parenting. Nonetheless, their eldest son Andre is plotting Luscious’ death with Nessa’s big brother Shine. That seems hella drastic to me but then again, this is Empire I’m writing about.
But the climax of the premiere happens when Lucious announces the new head of A&R, after firing the current one, who was hella shady. Becky, who has been pining for a promotion, and helped Thirsty with a task earlier in the episode (they kidnapped Bam Bam’s mother, a potential witness against Lucious’ Frank Gather’s case, and used her as bait to get Bam Bam not to testify), is sure the spot is hers.
Meanwhile, Cookie, who, time and again, has proven she’s more than qualified for the role, starts to think the promotion is for her, as Lucious describes the candidate as his muse, as his biggest critic who turned into his greatest ally, as the DNA of Empire. Sounds just like Cookie, right? In the end, the title goes to his super devious, bad bitch, arranged-wife Anika. Girl. I been waiting to see you all episode! Took you long enough.
Cookie is furious, and rightfully so. That night, she trashes Lucious’ office with a baseball bat, Beyoncé style. In an epic monologue, she reminds us all she’s given up and endured for Lucious: 17 years of her life in prison, a miscarriage, dozens of entrepreneurial music ideas that birthed Empire. And for what? For him to give the young, manipulative Anika a stunning speech about her influence over Empire and a new job title? Cookie gave Lucious 3 kids. Anika gave Lucious a grandchild. Let that shade sink in.
Lucious has made it painfully clear that if he can’t have Cookie, he will give her hell. He’ll sabotage her romantic relationships, mess with her money and career, manipulate their sons and worse, chose Anika over her when we know damn well Boo Boo Kitty is new to the game. But Cookie always gets the last laugh. After she destroys Lucious’ office, their lips somehow attach like magnets and they almost have sex. The fire still burns deep for these problematic enelovers (lovermies?). Cookie knows better, though: she walks away before things get too far, leaving Lucious with a severe case of blue balls. Hell hath no fury like Cookie scorned.