What's Worth Watching: Empire on Fox for Wednesday, October 21

Matt Roush
Empire, Ne-Yo, Jussie Smollett
Chuck Hodes/FOX

Empire, "Be True," Wednesday, Oct. 21, 9/8c, Fox

Gotta give it up to a hit show like Empire, whose halo effect is so mighty it has lifted the fortunes of Rosewood, the mediocre crime drama that precedes it, making it the first new Fox show to get a full-season renewal. The blandness of Rosewood is a marked contrast to the insanely entertaining shenanigans of the Lyon family, which reached another fever pitch last week.

Among the unforgettable highlights:

Cookie (the astonishing Taraji P. Henson) shrieking, "If I die in police custody, I did not commit suicide!" as she's hauled off by cops to be pressured by prosecutor Roxanne Ford (Tyra Farell).

Then there's the artist making a portrait of Jamal (Jussie Smollett), who gushes, "I want to be inside you," while boyfriend Michael (Rafael De La Fuentes) seethes. Adding to the fun: the photographer/artist is played by Adam Busch, best remembered as Buffy the Vampire Slayer villain Warren, a nifty in-joke given that the episode was written and directed by executive producer Danny Strong, who once played Warren's partner-in-crime Jonathan in Buffy's glory days.

The most ghoulish subplot went to troubled brother Andre (Trai Byers), who regained father Lucious's (Terrence Howard) respect and love when discovered in the woods exhuming the body of dead Uncle Vernon. Said rotted corpse was later placed in prosecutor Ford's car as a warning, providing a fabulously outrageous final shot.

Such juicy nonsense, although there's actual dramatic meat in the rift between brothers Jamal and Hakeem (Bryshere "Yaa" Gray), who came to blows again while making a post-apocalyptic music video. Clearly it's too soon to expect a peaceful collaboration between Empire (now run by Jamal) and Cookie's upstart Lyon Dynasty. This week, the rivalry intensifies as Dynasty organizes a "Cookie Lyon's Block Party"—who wouldn't want to attend that?—to showcase a new anthem by Hakeem, while Jamal collaborates with guest star Ne-Yo. He's just the latest superstar to jump aboard the Empire bandwagon. If the show can do miracles for something as forgettable as Rosewood (which I keep wanting to refer to as "Driftwood," go figure), who can blame him?