Empire, Lee Daniels’ hip-hop industry soap opera, returns to Fox on Wednesday night for Season 2. Even if you missed Season 1, all you’ll need is a few episodes of this flashback-heavy drama to get with the program.
With jaw-dropping antics and superstar performances from Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson (reunited a decade after co-starring in Hustle and Flow), there’s a reason why everyone’s talking about Empire.
1. Empire has the best cameos of any show on TV.
Courtney Love, Rita Ora, Snoop Dogg, Patti LaBelle, oh my! Anyone who’s anyone has made an appearance on Empire, and some — like Queen Jennifer Hudson — got multi-episode arcs. And Season 2 will bring us none other than Oscar-winning babe Maria Tomei as a venture capitalist who presumably will have an interest in Empire Entertainment. Chris Rock, Ludacris, Kelly Rowland, and Andre Royo will also join the second season.
2. There is no such thing as family loyalty on Empire.
The Lyon family will throw literally anyone under the bus to get ahead — which means the tension on the show never ends. You cannot trust your mother, you cannot trust your son, you cannot trust your husband, and you definitely cannot trust your ex — especially if you’re Cookie or Lucious. Even though, deep down, they love each other, they each love power and money more. No one is safe.
3. Empire knows how to get away with murder (sometimes).
The folks on Empire don’t just murder tracks, they murder their enemies, and each other. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t, and in one case we just don’t know yet: At the end of Season 1, Rhonda sort-of-accidentally killed Uncle Vernon trying to protect Andre, and she talked her husband out of calling the police by dropping the bomb that she’s pregnant. Will Andre have to take the fall for the sake of their unborn child?
4. The music.
Empire is like a scripted drama cross-bred with a variety musical show, with almost every episode offering some kind of performance. Empire gave us the hit single “Drip Drop,” an epic rap battle, and a super awkward impromptu duet between Lyon and Jamal. Everything’s going to be ok as long as they don’t let Terrence Howard sing anymore.
5. Cookie Lyon.
She’s hot, she’s smart, she’s ruthless, she’s charming, she’s batshit crazy: She’s Cookie Lyon, the reason that Empire became the biggest new network show of the year. Cookie sacrificed 17 years of her life to for the sake of Lucious and her sons, and now she won’t stop until she gets what she is owed. Whether she’s interrupting board meetings or showing up to dinner in lingerie, she steals every scene she’s in. “Child, I don’t want no chicken!”
Photos by James Dimmock / Fox