This episode of Empire is titled “What Remains Is Bestial,” but it could have just as easily been titled the “Getting Woke” episode. It was equal parts serious commentary on the state of our country, and a throwback to the jaw-dropping drama from whence Empire started. Because when you begin an episode with someone getting some under-the-desk sloppy toppy, you know you’re in for some delicious foolishness. After Andre is released after being arrested for doing nothing more than being in front of his own house, he proclaims to his parents, “What happened to me is what’s happening all across America.” They all agree that being Black was his only crime. Cookie wants to use power and influence to fight fire with fire. Lucious wants to send in his goon squad, a la Thirsty, to handle the cops. Andre believes his Ivy League education and high-profile job will be enough to get him off, but in the words of Donald Trump: WRONG. At his hearing he is read a laundry list of charges, including criminal trespassing (again: in front of his own house) and assault on an officer. His lawyer wants to plea. Andre wants to fight.
Enter Lucious. He swings through the old hood with all three of his sons and this is where things get real. Lucious tells the boys they don’t know they’re Black; when they step outside of their high walls of privilege they might as well be Trayvon (Martin), Philando (Castile) or Freddie (Gray). That’s where I hit the pause button. Lucious uttering the real-life names of young Black men who’ve lost their lives in such violent and pointless ways — and then following up with the fact that their names could become hashtags — made me take a deep breath before I could continue. Because shits and giggles aside, that’s a sad reality. Andre and Jamal, whose PTSD isn’t getting any better, can’t take it anymore and skip out on the rest of Lucious’ lecture. Hakeem, however, is fueled — more on that later. Remember that “sloppy toppy” I mentioned? That was Lucious’ way of letting Anika know that she is only there to take care of his granddaughter/stepdaughter and keep him out of prison. But apparently Anika graduated from “Two Can Play That Game University” with a Masters in “Middle Fingers Up Theory.” Because after getting some under-the-desk top of her own, she reveals that she only married Lucious so he wouldn’t take her daughter away from her, not to protect him. And that if she doesn’t start getting some respect everyone’s going down in flames.
Meanwhile, Lucious is desperate to feed Empire Xstream some new content and land new subscribers, or he loses 50 million large. He threatens to release Jamal’s Black & White album against his son's wishes. Cookie intervenes by flossing her Black Girl Magic and introduces Jamal to Mariah Carey, er, Kitty (and her two giant puppies.) Jamal offers a duet with Kitty to stream in place of his album. He overcomes his PTSD enough to kill it in the studio with Mariah, er, Kitty — who, by the way, is dressed in a leotard and stilettos. I can’t help but think that was Carey's own creative input? But I digress. The hot track was not enough to stop Lucious from pulling one of his infamous double-crosses, and he releases Jamal’s “Black” album sans anything Cookie produced, wrecking his relationship with Jamal and launching an all-out war with Cookie. And the war doesn’t stop there. Hakeem is about to go all Drake vs. Meek Mill on another rapper named Gram (Romeo Miller) for dissing him on his ex Tiana’s track and putting the moves on her in public. In the studio, Shyne displays “bitch tendencies” by choking out Nessa when she doesn’t want to get involved. Inspired by Lucious’ hood lecture that I mentioned earlier, Hakeem spits lyrical venom in the studio all over Gram, officially launching an Empire rap beef. This episode’s title harkens back to Shakespeare’s Othello, which deals with Iago trying to expose the Moor as a beast, but ends up exposing himself in the end. That can best be summed up with the freak that is Tariq, who is desperate to bust the beast that is Lucious. Tariq will use anything to get him, even Andre’s freedom, thus revealing who the real beast is.