This week’s episode of Empire was nothing if not full of family drama, which speaks to the heart of the show — this is a family still trying to stitch itself back together following the matriarch’s 17-year absence and, well, a whole lotta other stuff since she returned.
It’s been very clear from the onset that Lucious Lyon is a troubled man. Brilliant? Yes. Smart? Undoubtedly. Calculating? Always. But troubled too, and this week’s episode did a good job of pulling back the curtain so we could start to see the real Lucious Lyon.
Which, for the record, isn’t even his real name.
Here’s where the plot thickens with regard to the head of the Lyon family. As we had gleaned prior to this point from brief flashbacks, Lucious’ mother was bipolar. What we essentially learned tonight was that after a manic episode in which she almost drowned him in the tub, she shot herself right in front of Lucious.
It would have been impossible for such a traumatic event not to change a child, so some of Lucious’ particularly rough edges make a bit more sense.
However, Lucious’ past doesn’t justify his behavior in the present. What happened in his childhood was tragic and devastating and breaks the heart to think about, but Lucious is now a grown-ass man with the capacity not to inflict pain in the lives of his own children.
This may be an unpopular opinion but, if we’re really being honest, I’m kind of over Lucious Lyon.
As a persona, he’s interesting; don’t get me wrong. He’s fun to watch, and Terrence Howard — who is kind of abrasive and eccentric IRL — plays the role right up to the edge of sanity. It’s a fascinating character study.
And if I look back on the first season, I think there were more times than not I actually rooted for Cookie and Lucious to get back together. Something about the way his ruthless nature belied such fiercely loyal and sometimes tender moments was oddly endearing.
If I really think about it, though, I think the thing I’ve always liked the most about Lucious is Cookie. Viewing the character through her empathetic eyes (their history keeps her tethered to him in many ways) has made me give him the benefit of the doubt thus far.
Let’s face it, though: The man has done some seriously shady things and, above that even, said some deeply hurtful and damaging things to his own children.
We winced watching flashbacks of his appalling ignorance in his early interactions with Jamal. Only recently, Lucious used Jamal’s sexuality as a pawn in a bid to beat out his son for an ASA Award.
We saw him steal an artist right from beneath Hakeem’s nose and, just last week, convince Hakeem’s ex-lover/boss to commit suicide — and then suggest to Hakeem it was his fault.
He’s lied, he’s killed, he’s offended, and he’s done it all repeatedly. But it was a fight Lucious had with Andre on this week’s episode that finally pushed me past my threshold for the Lyon patriarch’s deplorable behavior.
After Cookie played the rough cut of Lucious’ new autobiographical music video, Andre realizes his grandmother had bipolar disorder as well. Naturally, he confronts Lucious about it. As you’ll recall, Lucious has never shown Andre any true respect. He has either largely ignored Andre’s bipolar disorder or he has made Andre feel “crazy.”
During the heated exchange, Lucious says the kind of things you just can’t take back, particularly, “The truth is my mom was a nutjob. I was embarrassed by her, same way I’m embarrassed by you.”
Aaaaand I was out.
I’m sure the argument will be made that this type of behavior isn’t out of character for Lucious — that he is a flawed and very complicated man who has no clue how to love anyone, including himself. Still, I’m just kind of over it. All of the other characters have experienced impressive growth between the first season and now… with the exception of Lucious.
He’s still the same selfish ol’ asshole he was when we first met him.
If there was any doubt about this fact, it looks as though next week’s episode will at least in part corroborate it when Lucious tries to sabotage a public appearance by Hakeem. He’s becoming so unlikable that I half-wish he’d go back to jail and get eaten by the ghost of Frank Gathers.
I’m a huge fan of Empire‘s writers, so I want to have utter faith they’ll somehow imbue his character with any semblance of a redemptive quality or moment, but I’m honestly not confident Lucious Lyon can ever be likable.