“Ain’t that a bitch.” That’s not a question; it’s a statement. It’s a reaction – MY reaction to multiple moments during the midseason finale of Empire. It’s also what Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) says to Jamal (Jussie Smollett) when he finds that they’ve both been nominated for Song of the Year at the fictitious American Sound Awards — a category he’s coveted since he was a Lyon cub rapping his way up the ranks. But this was only one of many shocking moments that went down during the episode titled “Et Tu, Brute?” The title alone signifies that this is going to be an episode focused on betrayal. "Et Tu, Brute?" is a Latin phrase that translates to, “you too, Brutus?” In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, they are the last words spoken by Caesar as he’s assassinated by, among others, his friend Marcus Brutus. Essentially, it’s spoken when betrayed by a “friend.” Everyone in this damn episode could have been screaming “Et Tu, Brute?!!” because Empire’s betrayal runs deep. Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) returns to her old prison for family day, upon the request of Pepper (Rosie O’Donnell) in the last episode. She brings Jamal and Laura (Jamila Velazquez) along to perform for the incarcerated women and their kin. While there, Cookie goes in search of her friend Jazz (Da Brat), who she discovers is in her feelings and wants nothing to do with Cookie “LaRetha” Lyon. There has to be more to this story after the hiatus, right? “Et Tu, Brute?” is taken to a whole ‘nother level when Mimi Whiteman (Marisa Tomei) gets Lucious to admit his disdain for the board members of Empire, and his plans to 86 the ones who aren’t with his program. The betrayal starts to unfold at the announcement event of Empire’s new streaming company when Mimi introduces her wife Camilla Marks (Naomi Campbell), the same Hakeem-loving-cougar that Lucious and Cookie had gotten rid of last season! Things only get worse when they get to the boardroom and Mimi airs Lucious out for filth in front of the entire room. She proposes a vote to unseat Lucious, who’s left dumbfounded at the unsuspecting turn of events. Andre (Trai Byers) and Lucious’ sleazy lawyer Thirsty (Andre Royo) go about attempting to convince board members to vote in favor of Papa Lyon in all sorts of creative ways.
Later that night, after a rally of solidarity for Lucious and their Empire legacy, the family appears to all agree about securing Lucious as the head of Empire. During an intense vote, where it was going to come down to one, Hakeem, remembering all of Lucious’ most devious deeds, votes against him as the conniving Camilla lingers outside the boardroom. Mimi delivers the final blow announcing that Camilla will take over her seat on the board. But the biggest and most shocking “Et Tu, Brute?” moment of the night all began when Anika (Grace Gealey), who’s been becoming fast friends with Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday), paid her another visit to check out Rhonda’s baby-to-be nursery. Rhonda rambles mindlessly to Anika about how Lucious is nearly frothing at the mouth at the mere thought of his heir growing in her belly. Well, this certainly sends Anika into a psycho spiral. So much so that later that night Rhonda is suddenly and unexpectedly pushed down the stairs – belly full of baby because she apparently IS really pregnant – by a dark shadowy figure shaped like Anika! Lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of a spiral staircase, one can only presume that she’s dead and/or has lost the baby. There can only be one Lyon heir, apparently.
Along with some cool quickie cameos from Jason Derulo and Nicole Richie — Empire wrapped on a pleasingly high note. It seems to have captured the magic that made the first season a viewership monster (16 million for the season 1 finale). Now for the bad news. New episodes of Empire won’t resume until March 30. Ain’t THAT a bitch.