Empire: A One Trick Actor Show?
It's the show that's been buzzing all over the internet and front running the conversations at the local water cooler as people try to ask themselves,
"What craziness is Cookie Lyon going to get into THIS week?!"
The first episode of the new Fox series, Empire, was shaky at best. There were some things that I wasn't too clear on and other things that I felt were way too stereotypical. Obviously the plot of having a Black woman getting out of prison for being a drug dealer was a bit much for my Mixed self to take in. I sat there asking myself,
"Can we be ANYTHING else other than whores, cheaters, and drug dealers?"
But I digress! The pilot (though lacking) was enough to keep me watching and, as are so many others, I'm hooked! The story, though still predictable, is fun to watch and as always I can never wait for Cookie to be seen on screen. However, with a very talented cast (including: Terrance Howard, Gabourey Sidibe, Malik Yoba, Grace Gealey, and even Courtney Love) I'm surprised at how much Taraji P. Henson seems to be the backbone of the show itself.
It's no secret that the series is making waves as the hottest new show of the season, however critics question whether or not Empire, as a whole, has what it takes to compete with prime time shows (who also have Black leading ladies) such as Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder.
Every epsiode I'm looking for the scene in which an actor, other than Henson, is going to give as much as she does and it never seems to happen! Of all people Howard would be my first pick to be able to do this, yet and still, I'm left with the longing for another actor to be able to deliver. Henson continues to dominate the show, which leads me to ask the question,
"Is Empire a one trick actor show?"
Competeing shows such as Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder feature a strong lead but also features a supporting cast that is just as strong; giving every scene a dynamic that most dramas of recent years have been lacking. We are all aware that Hollywood is a place where the beautiful domniate! If you're beautiful AND talented then you're a rarity, especially being someone of color! However, are we focusing too much on what looks good and sacrificing who acts well? One scene in particular stands out to me from this weeks episode.
Rafael De La Fuente, who plays Michael (Jamal's, now, Ex lover), had, what could have been, a very powerful scene with fellow actor Jussie Smollett. The two find themselves outside of their city loft as Fuente is leaving Smollett for having been kept a secret from the media as Smollett's lover.
"I love you you," says Smolletts character.
"You don't love me! I love you," shot back Fuente's character.
The tension of a homosexual romance kept secret for fear of destroying (or at very least delaying) a successful music career for Jamal had all the makings of a scene that should have left you breathless and holding on to your heartstrings for two lovers you really hope can make it work. Not only would it have been a phenomenal scene but it would have given Fuente's character something more than the 'Dora the Explorer' complex of uselessness. Alas, the chemical fire of that scene was nothing more than a slight sizzle (which mostly came from Smollett) and kept Fuente's character in the 'eye candy' catagory. Disappointing, right? I know!
With the caliber of talent in this show, where is the FIRE that Taraji P. Henson brings into every scene? Is it the writing? The directing? Or is it a ploy to keep us watching as they slowly (and hopefully) unfold a more twisted plot that will allow these other actors to really shine along side Miss Cookie herself?
I don't have answers unfortunately, but I can say that I'm enjoying Miss Lyon (Cookie of course not Anika) every step of the way! Four more episodes to go and I'm interested to see where they end this first season. What do you think is going to happen with Lucious and Cookie? Will Cookie find out that Anika was the one who drugged Elle? How long do we have to watch Anika be so WEAK! Will Hakeem and Jamal make up? Will Michael be back? Is this little girl REALLY Jamal's kid? What is Andre going to do about the company? Will they give Gabourey better hair (cause the blonde curly do mop is NOT working)? SO many questions....make sure you watch to find out if we get some answers!!!
Photo courtesy of Independent.co.uk