As you toss the last of those Thanksgiving leftovers into the garbage, you may still have the feels from spending time with family during last week’s holiday. Either that, or those memories leave you drained. No, it’s not the tryptophan from the turkey. Of course you love them, but admit it: Sometimes they can be a lot, which brings me to the latest episode of Empire, titled “What We May Be.” The sometimes shady business of dealing with family is the overarching theme of the episode, which had me gasping for air between laughs and tears. Mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, it's all there sprawled out like a twisted tree. After Angelo gives Cookie an ultimatum — either she’s in or out, she decides she’s in and takes him back, then promptly allows him into her. Once the deal is sealed, the next item on Angelo’s list is to get Cookie back into the public’s good graces after her nude selfie leak. He decides it’s time for her to meet his mother. Every girl knows this is a big deal, but our Cookie is ready — especially after receiving a “how to be a society bitch” tutorial from her highfalutin sister Candace, complete with digs at our new FLOTUS’ plagiarizing skills. (Petty levels run high with Empire writers.)
To kill time, Cookie sucks down Twizzler sticks and pays a quick visit to Jamal, who’s just been given some “candy” of his own from D Major. Her visit turns into a trip down memory lane when Jamal shows her the “music museum” project he’s been working on, which consists of a song dedicated to Cookie accompanied by archival footage of young Cookie, a.k.a. Loretha, and her sisters. Things come to a screeching halt when Cookie spots her father in the video. We learn that when young Loretha chose Lucious over her square-bear boyfriend, coupled with the drug money Cookie’s father found under her bed, he kicked her out. Three days later he dropped dead of a heart attack. Cookie’s sisters blame her for their father’s death. Those memories send Cookie into such a tailspin that she bails on meeting Angelo and his mother — the regal Diana Dubois (Phylicia Rashad). Cookie arranges for a make-up dinner at her home with her three sons, since Mrs. Dubois is all about family. Evil Andre — who isn’t evil at all this episode — can’t make the dinner because he promises Nessa he’ll show up to her late brother’s annual memorial and deliver Freda Gatz — who swore to Shyne she’d never record for Empire. It’s up to Andre to change her mind while satisfying his new lady’s request to meet her family. It works! Freda jumps on stage, Nessa is happy, and Shyne is sneaky, recording the private footage to most likely boost his burgeoning record label — that, or pass it off to Tariq.
Cookie pulls out all the stops in preparing to impress Claire Huxtable 2.0, everything from hiding her furs to yanking penises off her walls. But how does that saying go? Best laid plans? Jamal shows up a little “crispy around the edges,” high off D Major’s “new meds.” Hakeem, who’s failing miserably at babysitting his own daughter, brings the crying infant to the dinner and plunks her right into Cookie’s arms. Shortly after, Anika and Lucious crash the party. Right here is where I crown Lucious the “King of All Shade.” Poor, defeated Cookie’s family business comes spilling out onto the carpet as Lucious drops bombs demolishing Cookie’s attempt at a good showing. He points out to Mrs. Dubois “the gay one,” “the irresponsible one,” and “the crazy one” referring to their sons. He also breaks down the twisted Lyon lineage. After calling Angelo’s mother “mad shady,” high Jamal saves the day with the song he’d been working on for Cookie. It tells the story of her love for her father and Lucious. Those lyrics not only tug at Cookie, but Lucious too, prompting him to collect his wife and daughter/granddaughter and leave Cookie’s apartment and quite possibly her life, setting her on the course her father originally wanted for her. That’s when Empire got me and my tears. In the end, Mrs. Dubios is impressed with Cookie’s love for family and confesses that she’s no blue blood herself, signifying that Cookie’s her kind of peeps. But shit, isn’t she everybody’s?