Pilot: A strong pedigree behind Fox's newest musical drama/soap ensured that eyeballs will definitely be turning in for the pilot, but whether they will stay through the series is going to be hard to say just from this exposition-heavy pilot. Like all pilots, lots of time was spent introducing the main players and outlining their relationship. However, the one that is most interesting and riveting is Taraji P Henson's Cookie. Man, she is fierce, determined and a mixed bag of emotional baggage. Terrence Howard is intense but his character feels unoriginal: a mash up of Frank Underwood and King Lear. As for the three sons: they all feel so cookie-cutter. We have the ambitious first-born in a suit, the gay and anti-corporation middle child, and the favourite typical rapper-brat youngest. Yawn. Even their partners are similarly boring: white, equally power-hungry wife, sensitive, pretty latin boyfriend, and lots of sweet young things. Yawn again. Danny Strong and Lee Daniels have such impressive resume behind them, that I feel that given the time, these characters may really be fleshed out a lot more. I hope. One thing for sure, only they can have the balls and audacity to use words like "Negroes" and "Faggot" on primetime TV. Appropriate? I don't think so, but definitely controversy-worthy. And we need more Gabourey Sidibe. Lastly, with Timbaland as the Musical Producer of the show, we are definitely going to get some great tunes - and that was clearly evident in this first episode. However, unlike ABC's Nashville, Empire is unlikely to get mainstream audience tuning into more hip hop.
Episode 2, "The Outspoken King": Taraji P Henson is making a very strong case for a Best Actress nomination. Watch out everybody! Terence Howard too, but not so strong. The three children are such cliches - with cliche problems - especially the youngest. They really need stronger actors! Nashville got that part right, casting actors who can sing rather than the other way round. Lee Daniels and Danny Strong continue to direct and write, respectively, ensuring consistency in the look and feel and sound, but will they be continuing to do so?
Episode 3, "The Devil Quotes Scriptures": This series is slowly becoming the new guilty pleasure, and Taraji P Henson is giving Viola Davis and Julianna Margulies a run for their money. Like Nashville, it is also slowly exploring homosexuality and heteronormativity in a traditionally non-accepting society. The relationship between Lucious and Cookie gets more complicated, as Jamal's storyline finally gets off the ground, whereas the other two's are still cliche-ridden. But, however, all three damn boys really got to act better. And we still need more Gabourey Sidibe. The first episode not written by Danny Strong, and you can hear the difference.