DAVID BIANCULLI

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ERIC GOULD

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LINDA DONOVAN

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ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

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NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
The State of 'Empire' Halfway Through its Last Season
December 17, 2019  | By Mike Hughes
 


When Empire arrived six years ago, it brought waves of optimism.

The show would be the best of both worlds: The music would be vibrant – R-&-B, rap, pop, more – and the stories (about a record mogul, his wife, and their three sons) would have a Shakespearean influence.

The pilot film had a King Lear reference. When actor Trai Byers auditioned (successfully) for the role of Andre, he and co-creator Danny Strong talked about Hamlet.

And now? Sure, Empire feels a little like Shakespeare's scenes, but just the ones where a guy talks to ghosts or where witches cackle or where someone gets a donkey head.

In short, it keeps wandering further from reality. That will be obvious when the show, in its final season, airs its "fall finale" episode at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday, Dec. 17, on Fox.

During a crowded hour: the same person is held at gunpoint by three different people, each ready to pull the trigger; three different couples – two of them married – have this-is-the-end arguments; Andre, who no longer takes his bipolar medication, keeps seeing and talking to his late half-brother. In fact, that brother is sometimes able to take over Andre's actions, Sybil-style; and during a live event, someone makes an outrageous pronouncement – something that seems to happen often in the Empire world.

Yes, that's a lot. Many of us can go a month without being held at gunpoint even once.

Some people might suggest we just ignore the excess. After all, soap operas are full of evil twins and amnesiacs and folks seemingly back from the dead.

But Empire is a show that brought steep promise. Three years ago, the Golden Globes nominated it for best drama and named Taraji Henson as best drama actress.

And it has managed to weave great music into its stories. Even in Tuesday's episode, there's a triumphant moment for Alexandra Grey, the transgender actress-singer who plays Melody.

Yes, the show faced a tough break when the career of Jussie Smollett imploded, taking away one of the three sons. But shows have overcome such things, and Empire still can.

The fall finale – ending, of course, with someone at gunpoint – sets up a long break, before Empire returns with its final ten episodes next spring.

No matter what happens, it remains an interesting show and a worthy piece of TV history. But let's hope it returns with more quality drama and fewer witches, ghosts, and donkey heads.

 
 
 
 
 
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