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Fox's EMPIRE Concludes First Season With Over 17 Million Viewers Watching Finale & EP Ilene Chaiken Weighs-In On All The Shocking Twists!

Courtesy/FOX

Courtesy/FOX

Empire continued its record-setting first season on television with a soapalicious two-hour season finale that aired on Wednesday night on Fox.

When the dust was settled, the show was watched by over 17 million viewers and the show averaged  a 6.9 rating and 17.6 million in its regular 9 o’clock hour (which will count in season averages). The 6.9 rating, was just a tick below last week’s  The Walking Dead on AMC, and is the highest for any regularly scheduled broadcast drama since CSI on CBS in October 2008!

Now as for the drama last night, did we not love the performances of Jussie Smollett (Jamal), Taraji B. Henson (Cookie) and Terrence Howard (Lucious)? Showrunner Ilene Chaiken chatted it up with EW.com post-finale to give insight into the storyline decisions which featured a death, a pregnancy, and someone ending up in the slammer!  And, we learned just which one of Lucious son was handed the Empire … for now.  And in one of the best catfights in primetime soap history, Boo Boo Kitty and Cookie went at it, and we mean, went. at. it!

In story, viewers learned that Lucious ALS diagnosis was a mistake! He actually has Myasthenia Gravis .  Was it the plan all along, or did they change his medical condition midstream?  Chaiken revealed: “Yep, from the very beginning … of course we talked about the ALS and what’s going to happen because Terrence is the star of the show. And co-creator Danny Strong said, ‘Well I always thought it would be a misdiagnosis.  And I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ In the room, we talked about whether or not that was the best story solution and in the end we thought, ‘Yeah let’s just go for it! We researched it extensively to make sure it was credible. But it’s actually quite supportable with research.”‘

Courtesy/FOX

As for if Jamal was the Lyon son who would lay claim to the empire, and show his dark side in the finale by almost killing someone on a balcony, Chaiken admitted, “That was not quite so planned. But what (creators) Lee Daniels and Danny put forward in that same group of meetings was we look at him like a Michael Corleone character. We want to see him rise to the occasion, surprise everyone by being the most cunning, the most gangster at the end of the day.”

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The catfight between Anika (Grace Gealey) and Cookie was indeed a riff on the Dynasty fights of old between Alexis (Joan Collins) and Krystal (Linda Evans)! Ilene stated, “It was truly an homage to Dynasty in that way and for that we owe Lee.  Lee is the devotee of Dynasty who’s always said, ‘I want this to be that.’ I delivered the first draft of the script and that scene was there but the catfight wasn’t there. Lee read the script and said to me, ‘Ilene I want my catfight.’  Taraji then read that scene and came to me and said, ‘Cookie’s been in prison for 17 years—I would clock her and she’d be out.”‘

At the end of the finale, Lucious finally gets arrested for the murder of Bunkie as someone turned him in, but who? In the very last seconds of the episode when behind bars, a vengeful Lucious utters out loud,”Game on, Bitches!”  And that according to Chaikenwas improved by Terrence Howard.  The creative team loved it so much that they kept it in and it was the perfect button on a whirlwind soapy season.

So, what was your favorite moment on last night’s season final of Empire …  the catfight? Jamal ascending to the head of the empire,  Cookie trying to snuff out Lucious with a pillow?  Lucious final words from jail? Vernon (Malik Yoba) getting clubbed over the head by a now pregnant Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) and dying?  Watch a recap of OMG Moments in the Empire video recap below.  Then, share your thoughts!

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kevinRebecca1AnacarrieAnnieMo Recent comment authors
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davlestev1
davlestev1

I haven’t even finished the article and just had to say MichaelFairman KNOCK IT OFF…LMAO…Boo Boo Kitty and Cookie went at it…you got some street in you to son…ROFLMAO…now let me fininsh this article.

davlestev1
davlestev1

There were so many jaw dropping hand to mouth out loud exclamations at the TV…like that knock to the head of MalikYoba and while they were talking and not showing the outcome I was saying outloud..he dead…she killed him…lol

Scott (ATWT Fan)
Scott (ATWT Fan)

The first hour was more entertaining than the second, but over-all it was one flawless season finale. Being on season two!

Mo
Mo

The catfight was awesome, but I too thought that Cookie, who’d been in prison and would have learned a few things, would have come out on top more.

Loved when Lucious gave Cookie a pillow as a gift.

There was a lot put in the show. I think they have too many guest performances. And it’s like they said, okay, we have Jennifer Hudson, now let’s try to work her in rather than saying, we have this role, let’s find someone for it. Dial down all the cameos and I think it will be better. The show doesn’t need the ‘stars’. It’s good with the regulars and the writing. Although, I hope Hakeem takes acting lessons during the hiatus.

Annie
Annie

I have watched the entire season, and loved it (much to my surprise!), but I felt the season finale was the first episode that was a letdown. First, the scene where Jamal is holding Beretti over the balcony was laughable. I did not buy it AT ALL. I guess because Jamal now sings every song with a sneer on his face we’re supposed to believe he’s suddenly a badass? We have seen no sign of this up to this point, so it was a complete character change. And where were Beretti’s bodyguards through all of that? Lucious and his entourage had no trouble finding them, so that just wasn’t believable.

Second, it made no sense that in a matter of a few minutes, Cookie would go from trying to kill Anika to agreeing that she should be a part of the takeover gang. No way. I know she supposedly has “contacts” and they supposedly needed her, but again, I just didn’t buy it. Wouldn’t they at least consider that she would run right back to Beretti with the information, or worse, Lucious?

Third, what the heck with the Jennifer Hudson character? I thought she was supposed to be a music therapist, but they spend no time in therapy, she’s clearly very religious and seems to be getting through to Andre through God, and then with one word from Lucious, all of that is over? He whole story arc had “gimmick” written all over it. I agree with Mo that they should keep the cameos to a minimum and focus on the Lyons.

Finally, the Anika/Hakeem hookup was gross, that had a real ick factor to it.

All in all, I still love the series and maybe I was expecting too much for the finale. Still looking forward to season 2.

Anacarrie
Anacarrie

I loved the finale overall but I agreed with everything you said about Jamal becoming an overnight gangsta; the lack of bodyguards and Cookie teaming up with Anika. Because she’d rather get back in cahoots with Lucious then team up with Boo Boo Kitty.

Rebecca1
Rebecca1

I agree with a lot if what u said, as well. To add to that, I find it strange that Cookie went from seemingly still loving Lucious, seething with jealousy and resentment toward Anika, having sex with him and hopes of getting back together, seeming broken hearted when he revealed he was dying…to trying to literally kill him. I understood her anger, resentment, etc., still, I thought the bond went deeper than that.

I also thought Cookie could wipe the floor with Anika…but I think they wanted a good old-fashioned soapy cat fight is they overlooked that ” little” detail.

As for names…I agree. Unneeded…worse when Oprah makes her debut….so not necessary.

kevin
kevin

Personally I liked the Lucious/Jamal music bonding bit myself.

Empire

‘Empire’ Series Finale Brings Lyon Family Together; While Many Viewers Dissatisfied Over Makeshift Ending

Following Tuesday’s night series finale of Empire, which featured once again, brilliant performances from Taraji P. Henson (Cookie) and Terrence DaShon Howard (Luscious), many longtime viewers took to social media unsatisfied with its conclusion.  However, it should be noted that the shows producers did their best to use the footage they had in the can to craft something they hoped would be meaningful.

As previously reported, due to COVID-19, Empire had shot 18 episodes and a half of episode 19, of their 20 season order, when they were forced to shut down production.  Thus, the set-up and focus of the finale had to be significantly changed.

If you have not seen last night’s finale and plan to watch, do  not read any further for spoilers.

In an episode entitled “Home is On The Way,” which now makes complete sense post-viewing, Cookie and Luscious throughout trials, tribulations, realizations, deaths, and wrestling back control of the company, find their way back to each other.  Throughout the episode, viewers are treated to flashbacks of the duo’s long and twisted history – the good, the bad, the ugly, the dirty, and the nasty.

Photo: FOX

To get them back together, the series had to figure out what to do to with Yana, the musical protege with whom Luscious was involved with.  Backstage at a major concert event, Yana realizes that Luscious is not going to come on the world tour with her, because he still deeply loves Cookie.  He does not deny it.  When Yana’s father, Damon sees her backstage in what looks like she is hugging and all into Luscious, he pulls out a gun.  When we come back from commercial, we learn Yana was shot and killed, sending Damon on a spiral to get Luscious once and for all.

Following the shooting, Lucious tries to cancel the premiere of Hakeem’s Lyon legacy movie over concerns for the safety of his entire family,  but the Andre of old steps up and says they won’t let fear force the family to do that.

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Earlier in the episode, Luscious had previously requested that in the event something should happen to him to please get a special letter he wrote to Cookie, where he opens up about his feelings for her.  When Cookie gets the letter, it is juxtaposed with the Luscious vs. Damon showdown; which Luscious ultimately wins when he clubs Damon over the head with his own prosthetic leg.

Photo: FOX

With the threat to their ultimate happiness eliminated, the series ends with the entire family attending the premiere party of the film Birth of an Empire, where Hakeem performs a rap, “The Oath,” as an ode to the Lyon legacy. The  lyrics of the song detail Cookie and Luscious’ family story and flashbacks from all six seasons are used throughout the rap.  Then came how to deal with the missing Jussie Smollett and the character of Jamal Lyon in said flashbacks.

While Luscious, Cookie, Andre and Hakeem’s flashbacks showed the actual actors who play their respective roles, Jamal’s flashbacks only showed a young child portraying the middle son of the clan – eliminating any appearance of Smollett from the finale; even via previously shot footage from the five seasons in which Smollett appeared.

Empire showrunner, Brett Mahoney spoke to TV Line as to the decision on ending of the finale: “I realized that the movie premiere, with the family coming together, with Cookie and Lucious recognizing their love for one another, we definitely have the spirit of what I had intended for our true series finale, It’s almost the idea that the family is more important than the empire. That the love that they have for each other is more important than anything else … that’s definitely where we’re headed in terms of the actual series finale.”

As to the premise from the beginning of season 6 that fans were hoping would be answered in the series finale – who blew up Cookie’s car and who shot Luscious – Mahoney shared: “I was not able to answer that in a satisfying way with what we had shot, so that’s why I’m hoping that we can really still shoot our intended series finale and answer those questions.”

The biggest cliffhanger to come out of the series finale from Tuesday night is; will Mahoney and company be able to re-group and shoot the series finale they intended; following any lessening of the COVID-10 safety measures in the coming months? Stay tuned.

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Empire

TONIGHT: ‘Empire’ Series Finale: How It Will Conclude? Even Taraji P. Henson Says She Doesn’t Know

The coronavirus pandemic not only has wreaked havoc on the physical, emotional, and financial well-beings of everyone in our country and around the world, but for TV viewers it really messed with production plans for many of your favorite shows.   For the primetime soap Empire, that could not have been more true.

Faced with having filmed 18 episodes and a part of its 19th (with an originally planned 20 season order), its series finale and story had to be restructured.  So tonight on Tuesday April 21st, the hip hop music drama will say goodbye on FOX.

Empire has had a very twisted road in its six seasons.  For its first few years on the air, it was a juggernaut bringing in huge ratings.  Then in 2019 things took a turn with a behind the scenes shift when one of its leads, Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon), made headlines for his claimed hate-crime attack on the streets of Chicago in the wee hours of the morning.  This led to plenty of revelations in Smollett’s case with the law, and his not returning to the series for the end of its fifth and in its sixth and final season.

Photo: FOX

Showrunner Brett Mahoney told TV Line that if things line up right following the pandemic, he could see trying to give the show a proper send-off: “I can’t guarantee it will happen, but we’re hopeful. And if we don’t actually get a chance to shoot the series finale, I think we’ll find some creative way to get (the information) out there, whether it’s by just releasing the script or finding another way to satisfy fans “= We don’t know what the costs will be in terms of keeping our sets. And then the question becomes who from the cast will be available at that point.”

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On Monday’s episode of the CBS daytime series, The Talk, the ladies welcomed Taraji P. Henson (Cookie Lyon) to get a preview of what to expect tonight.  She surprised the hosts by saying she doesn’t really know.

Henson expressed: “We were in the middle of the 19th episode when everything got shut down. So, I used to know how the show was going to end, but I don’t know. They are going to make some kind of movie magic in that editing room. They are going to take all the footage they have already, and just come up with some kind of finale… I will be finding out what’s happening at the same time you guys are finding out, which is kind of fun.”

She added, “I’m a little hurt because I didn’t get to say goodbye to my cast and my crew. I bought them amazing letterman sweaters, that’s my gift to them because it was our senior year.  I hope ‘Empire’s’ legacy will be that African American stories do translate, and they cross over, and they’re international.”

Watch Taraji on The Talk below. Then weigh-in: how do you think the story will conclude for Luscious (Terrence Howard) and Cookie, and the Lyon family in the makeshift ending of Empire? Let us know in the comment section.

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Breaking News

EMPIRE’s Final Season Cut Short Due To COVID-19; Series Finale Now Set For April 21

Will we now ever know just how the lives of Empire’s Lucious  (Terrence Howard) and Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) and their dysfunctional family will resolve now that the series has had to scrap two of their planned episodes in their final season?  The sixth and final season was scheduled to run for a total of 20 episodes.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the production shutdown left them with only 18 episodes tht could be completed.

That means, as first announced during last night’s episode of Empire via voice-over: “Get ready for the shocking final three episodes of ‘Empire,’”  that reveal let viewers of Empire know there was change in plans.”  Now, the shortened season and series finale end on FOX on April 21st.

Reports also note that episode 19 was partially shot and that footage of that unfinished episode will be cut into the finale.

As to what happens with the character of Jamal Lyon played by Jussie Smollett, who everyone knows ran into significant trouble with the law; on last reports executives said he would not be back for the final episodes of the series, although there has still have been mentions of the character throughout season 6.

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Come April 21st, there still may be more Empire in our future, if  FOX executives decide to greenlight a potential spinoff headlined Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon; that first came to light earlier this year in January as being in heavy discussions.

So, what do you think of how Empire will wrap-up after 6 seasons? Do you feel short-changed, or glad they are trying to work in everything they shot to deliver some kind of series finale for fans of the primetime soap? Comment below.

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