The secret is out!
And we are sooo glad:
Black Culture is Mainstream Culture
by Lara Zarum
Empire co-creator Danny Strong has likened his show to Game of Thrones, remarking that the two hour-long dramas are both centered on “kingdoms at war.” The comparison feels particularly apt considering the colossal viewership of both series: Game of Thrones has famously become TV’s most pirated show, and HBO’s most-watched ever, while last year Empire knocked The Big Bang Theory off its throne to become broadcast television’s #1 rated series.
The dominance of Empire, the music biz drama that returns to Fox on Wednesday to finish off its second season, feels particularly apt right now. Lately, an important conversation about race and heritage in America has taken place at the cinema, on the Grammy stage, and in Broadway theaters, and it courses through the series like adrenaline. The show’s popularity is a force to be reckoned with, a testament to the mainstreaming of black culture.
Empire is an unabashed soap opera, which means following its narrative strands can make you feel like a TV cop squinting at a “theory board” plastered with mug shots and lines of string. In the December mid-season finale, Hakeem voted Lucious out as Empire Entertainment’s CEO, and Camilla swooped in to replace him as Cookie looked on in horror. Meanwhile, Jamal kissed a woman (his musical hero Skye Summers, played by Alicia Keys), and someone pushed a very pregnant Rhonda down the stairs, a move that was surely meant to take her and Andre’s baby — and Empire’s heir — out of the mix.
Of course, Empire’s soapiness also means that characters appear and then disappear like mirages; you may be wondering what happened to rapper Becky G, who had an arc earlier this season as Valentina, who joins Cookie’s Lyon Dynasty label — before signing a contract with Lucious at Empire. She was replaced by the virginal Laura (Jamila Velazquez), a Mexican-American singer and Hakeem’s new love interest. Alicia Keys’ Skye appears to be gone, at least for now, but Brownsville rapper Freda Gatz (Bre-Z) is still around; in the new episodes, she and Jamal bond over their shared disappointment with Lucious….