If youíre not watching ďEmpireĒ by now, what are you waiting for? Itís an entertaining nighttime soap opera with all thatís great about the genre: power, murder, ambition, intrigue, good guys, bad guys, wealth and attitude. The Empire of the title is the hip hop record label run by Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) a small time drug dealer turned recording artist who made it from the streets to the big time thanks to talent and his wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). Cookie is a hit maker but her luck runs out. A drug deal goes south and sacrificing herself for her husband, she spends 17 years in jail. The action picks up as Cookie is released from prison, Empire, the company that they started together all those years ago is about to go public and Lucious is diagnosed with ALS. In the first episode he tells his three sons, Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) that whoever impresses him the most will become the head of the label. Let the backstabbing begin.


One of the showís strengths is that it wastes no time drawing you into the action. Luciousí decision puts all his wealth and power up for grabs. What the characters will do to get it and what Lucious will or will not do to steer the outcome forms one part of the story. The other and perhaps more interesting part of the story is how the relationships will evolve within this fractured family.


Luciousí hardness and cruelty is never too far from the surface, a trait Howard skillfully portrays without making the character completely unlikable. Howard knows how to move Lucious from tenderness to viciousness and back again so smoothly that the transitions are barely noticeable. Thanks to Howardís talent, a scene where Lucious murders his lifelong friend is as emotionally powerful as a scene where his unsteady hand prevents him from shaving, revealing both his physical weakness from his disease and foreshadowing his loss of control. Itís hard to choose where Howard excels the most, as every scene heís in keeps your attention. But if I had to, it would be a tie between his interactions with Jamal, the gay son who he canít accept and Cookie, the wife who he abandoned to face her jail sentence alone.


The show doesnít shy away from Luciousí harsh judgment of Jamalís homosexuality in either the present or the past. One flashback scene shows Luciousí reaction to Jamalís expression of his sexuality as a young child. Itís so cruel itís difficult to watch. Their relationship as adults is complex, painful and authentic. The relationship between Lucious and Cookie is similarly complicated. They are playful, nostalgic, angry and sad with each other, sometimes all in one episode. Cookie is an over the top character (and the most fun to watch) but Henson balances out those moments with flashes of vulnerability that reveal all this woman has lost. Sheís a standout which is no small feat when your co-star is as good as Howard.


ďEmpireĒ is on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.


If youíre not watching ďEmpireĒ by now, what are you waiting for? Itís an entertaining nighttime soap opera with all thatís great about the genre: power, murder, ambition, intrigue, good guys, bad guys, wealth and attitude. The Empire of the title is the hip hop record label run by Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) a small time drug dealer turned recording artist who made it from the streets to the big time thanks to talent and his wife Cookie (Taraji P. Henson). Cookie is a hit maker but her luck runs out. A drug deal goes south and sacrificing herself for her husband, she spends 17 years in jail. The action picks up as Cookie is released from prison, Empire, the company that they started together all those years ago is about to go public and Lucious is diagnosed with ALS. In the first episode he tells his three sons, Andre (Trai Byers), Jamal (Jussie Smollett) and Hakeem (Bryshere Gray) that whoever impresses him the most will become the head of the label. Let the backstabbing begin.

One of the showís strengths is that it wastes no time drawing you into the action. Luciousí decision puts all his wealth and power up for grabs. What the characters will do to get it and what Lucious will or will not do to steer the outcome forms one part of the story. The other and perhaps more interesting part of the story is how the relationships will evolve within this fractured family.

Luciousí hardness and cruelty is never too far from the surface, a trait Howard skillfully portrays without making the character completely unlikable. Howard knows how to move Lucious from tenderness to viciousness and back again so smoothly that the transitions are barely noticeable. Thanks to Howardís talent, a scene where Lucious murders his lifelong friend is as emotionally powerful as a scene where his unsteady hand prevents him from shaving, revealing both his physical weakness from his disease and foreshadowing his loss of control. Itís hard to choose where Howard excels the most, as every scene heís in keeps your attention. But if I had to, it would be a tie between his interactions with Jamal, the gay son who he canít accept and Cookie, the wife who he abandoned to face her jail sentence alone.

The show doesnít shy away from Luciousí harsh judgment of Jamalís homosexuality in either the present or the past. One flashback scene shows Luciousí reaction to Jamalís expression of his sexuality as a young child. Itís so cruel itís difficult to watch. Their relationship as adults is complex, painful and authentic. The relationship between Lucious and Cookie is similarly complicated. They are playful, nostalgic, angry and sad with each other, sometimes all in one episode. Cookie is an over the top character (and the most fun to watch) but Henson balances out those moments with flashes of vulnerability that reveal all this woman has lost. Sheís a standout which is no small feat when your co-star is as good as Howard.

ďEmpireĒ is on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.