We’re not entirely sure why, but there is something about watching someone enter the afterlife on TV that always gets us; therefore, it’s hardly a surprise that we were closer to tears on Wednesday night’s “Empire” finale that at almost any other point this season watching Rhonda walk away from Andre and step into the ocean, saying farewell forever to her husband.
Of course, this wasn’t so much Rhonda as it was Andre’s own manifestation of her in his head. This was him realizing, as Nessa pointed out to him earlier in the episode, that he couldn’t rely on her anymore for help. She was gone, and he had to let her go however painful it was for him. The performances by Trai Byers and Kaitlin Doubleday in this moment were incredible, and it was somehow very moving even in spite of the darkness of the dialogue. Think about it like this: We were basically seeing Rhonda dressed as an angel, telling her husband that he needed to go and commit an act of revenge on Anika, the woman responsible for killing her and her unborn child.
Maybe this is going to happen, but in the closing minutes we saw Andre actually setting his sights on a different person after he worked to have the Empire assets frozen: Lucious. He’s been working against the family for much of the season so far in order to someday rule it, and to date nobody appears to be altogether for the wiser for it.
Goodbye, Angelo the kind politician – Just as Rhonda (seemingly) was gone forever after this episode, the same can be said for the image of Angelo as the well-intentioned political figure who has few skeletons in his closet. As a matter of fact, he may have caused someone to become a skeleton one night while intoxicated many years ago. After Diane broke off an arrangement that she had with Lucious, knowing that Cookie was actually helping to raise his poll numbers, he got back at her by bringing a journalist to his outdoor campaign event who had claims that Angelo was responsible for letting a woman drown the night he drove his car into the lake.
Judging from the look in Cookie’s eyes, you could see (insert obvious pun) that a part of her heart crumbled. Not only did her ex-husband show himself further to be the obvious monster he is, but she learned that Angelo, if the charges were true, was obviously not a knight. She also may have looked foolish for defending him.
How he gets himself out of this pickle remains to be seen, but we could imagine that keeping this buried, especially with Lucious around, could prove challenging.
Goodbye, Jamal (for now) – Cookie realized how important performing at Angelo’s event was for Jamal’s career, and with that we got another reminder of why she is one of the best characters on television: Hats off to the writers for creating a scene where she basically pulls some of his pills out of the kitchen sink so that he can get up on stage, do his thing, and then immediately be shipped to rehab. She’s not always obeying the letter of the law when it comes to morality, but there is some essence of the spirit still there where she wants to do good for her family in the only way that she knows how.
We’re sure that we will continue to see Jamal in the episodes ahead, but in a different place and a different way. It’ll mark some great material for Jussie Smollett, and a chance to see a very different side to his story. (You can read a little bit more about that over at the link here.)
Overall – The Andre story was moving despite its darkness, and Cookie continued to prove herself to be fabulous. This is the “Empire” that we love, where it emphasizes the characters over the gimmicks, and finds new ways for us to care about all of them. Episode Grade: A-.