Another Empire episode, another celebrity guest star in a major role. Nia Long made her Empire debut as Las Vegas queenpin Giuliana in "Play On" and did not disappoint. With only four minutes of screen time, the actress still made more of an impact than anything that happened in the episode before she appeared. Of course, that means murders and schemes were afoot.
As is Andre Lyon’s way now, he and Shyne (Xzibit) meet Giuliana, her abusive husband Rafael (Al Vicente), and another violent criminal literally named Danger, in an abandoned and poorly lit warehouse. Rafael immediately proves to be too volatile of a man for anyone to work with when he starts dragging Giuliana around by the neck, pointing a gun at Andre (Trai Byers), and drinking out of a bottle.
When it seems like Rafael is definitely going to murder everyone amid a drunken paranoia spiral, Giuliana shoots her own husband. Shyne then shoots Danger to keep the aptly-named gangster from killing Giuliana. Not one to cry over a little spilt blood, Giuliana immediately offers to do business with the remaining men and shakes Andre’s hand in a way that suggests so much doom is ahead.
Previews for the rest of Empire’s season prove Giuliana will get in very tight with the Lyons, rubbing family matriarch Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) the exact wrong way. From what we’ve seen, the Sin City queen is the only real adversary Mrs. Lyon has ever had on the show. With one shot, Giuliana confirmed she’s equally as shrewd and intelligent as Cookie, and she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty.
Although it’s possible the women will end up fighting for dumpster human Lucious’s heart, it seems their tension is far more about control of the Lyon family and therefore the sprawling Lyon business empire. Everything on this show is about power, after all — not true love. With Giuliana already striking up deals with Andre and set for a sexual relationship with Lucious, as sneak peaks suggest, the clever woman is slowly clawing her way in Empire Entertainment.
While Anika (Grace Gealey Byers) tried something similar over the years, the A&R exec doesn’t always play by the same bended rules that gun-toting women like Cookie, and now Giuliana, do. Because of this we would love to see Cookie and Giuliana team up to defeat Lucifer Lyon, we mean Lucious Lyon, together, but it’s far more likely these two are about to go to war.
At least we know we’re in for a very well-styled battle.