On Wednesday night (Sept. 21), Empire opened its third season with its usual soap operatic drama. Despite the lingering beef brewing from last season -- Jamal was accidentally shot by Freda Gatz, Lucious married his son Hakeem's baby mother Anika to keep her from testifying against him and ex-gangster buddy Shine made a play to work for Empire -- the premiere episode ("Light in Darkness") found the Lyons banding together to keep Lucious' half-brother/federal agent Tariq's "big badge," as Jamal calls it, from taking down their empire.
As the Lyons prepared for a spectacular launch of Empire Xstream -- their Tidal-style music streaming service -- Tariq was keeping a close eye on Lucious's sham marriage, Andre's mental health issues were peaking and Shine finessed his way to becoming a partner. It was a grand ol' musical mess to say the least, but the storyline foreshadows a winning season.
Here are the wildest highlights from Wednesday night's Empire season opener.
Last season's cliffhanger left audiences wondering who fell off the balcony during Rhonda and Anika's post-wedding struggle. Breaking news: Rhonda caught the L.
Her husband Andre witnessed the fall right before Anika's water broke and he rushed her to the hospital. There, he denounced his faith and went completely dark. "I'm done with God and His plans," Andre told Cookie after she suggested he pray about the loss of his wife.
"We're being punished," Lucious's mother Leah announced as a way to explain the ongoing series of unfortunate family events. "We're all being punished."
Later, Andre's mental health issues best him as he hallucinates and talks to his dead wife in a dark room. "Without me, you're just some Philly thug with mental problems," Rhonda's ghost says. Jamal then finds his brother seemingly screaming into thin air. "I'm OK," Andre lies.
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It's a girl
In the delivery room, Lucious held Anika's hand to keep appearances for cops and give her a solid alibi. "Nobody pushed Rhonda," he whispered to Anika as she pushed. "She jumped. You tried to stop her. She overpowered you trying to take you with her and she grabbed you by the throat, which is what's going to happen if you don't go with the story, okay?"
As Lucious finished up his threat, Anika gave birth to a healthy baby girl, much to Lucious's dismay as he was expecting the next male heir to Empire. That didn't stop him from signing the birth certificate and playing daddy to his son Hakeem's kid. While Lucious plays granddaddy and daddy to the new little Lyon, Hakeem gets lost in a liquor bottle and completely missed his daughter's birth.
French Montana and Birdman put respek on their names
The head Cokeboy and Cash Money millionaire pulled up on a speedboat alongside executive producer Sanaa Hamri for a poker game with Lucious. As they played cards, Lucious tried to recruit them for Empire XStream. "I wanna make an offer for exclusive rights to your music." French Montana and Birdman weren't easily impressed, especially not after the wedding spectacle.
"What we look like selling our catalog to you for your streaming service when Empire is falling to the bottom of the ocean?" Birdman asked minus his infamous hand rub. Lucious assured them that he's not playing a losing hand with Empire or its new streaming service. "I always ride the wave because I am the king."
"How can a king be a king when he lose his queen?" Birdman alluded to Cookie. French chimed in, "We just sat there and watched you married your ex. That's a bad vibe if you ask me."
Though the major music players weren't gung-ho for the deal, Lucious still plots on making "Times Square my bitch" during the Empire Xstream launch.
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Shine inks a deal
Shine crashed Hakeem's recording session to wrangle a deal for his artist Nessa, played my Sierra McClain. After busting up the in-house producer gangster-style, he explained his demands. "You been stunting on me since we was little," Shine told Lucious. "Now I'm getting mines. Or should I call Tariq?" he threatened. "I never stunted on you, man. It's just that talent excels where mediocrity stalls," Lucious clapped back. "God left you behind, not me."
After the two traded words, Lucious finally agreed to give Shine and Nessa a proper studio session and a chance to perform for the Empire XStream launch. However, he had no real intentions of even putting her mic on. Later, as expected, a freshly single Hakeem flirted with Nessa but she's woke. She quickly dodged his well-known appetite for "young, dumb, thirst bucket thots."
Elsewhere, Jamal is on the physical and mental mend after being shot by Freda and struggles to perform "Need Freedom," a timely record about gun violence and police brutality. As Jamal choked, Hakeem helped his brother off stage where the Lyons had yet another fallout. In the meantime, Nessa grabbed the mic and put on an impressive performance of the track, quickly becoming the new face of Empire XStream.
Backstage, Lucious laid into Jamal for blowing the launch and his scheme to keep Shine at bay. Jamal quickly gave his dirty deal-wielding father a reality check. "He's here, like everyone else, because of you. The Feds, everybody," Jamal spit. "This whole family, this empire, we're all gonna continue to go down if we follow you. You know and I know that's true."
Empire airs every Wednesday on FOX at 9 p.m.