If there's one truth that holds across the entire history of Empire so far, it's that Lucious Lyon is totally chill about his reputation and can brush it off easily when someone threatens his dominance. Kidding! He's an egotistical monster, and — make no mistake — that's the primary reason why Frank Gathers is dead on Empire . Lucious had him killed in prison by the men Frank thought were in his own pocket in the Season 2 premiere. And though Empire's early-days bogeyman is finally vanquished, that doesn't mean that the danger he posed to Lucious' family is canceled out. There will be consequences for Frank's murder, and the Lyons will have to deal with them.
Frank's presence has loomed over Empire since Cookie's testimony helped put him behind bars. And while he's usually not a casting director's first choice to play a hardened criminal whose simple gaze can inspire fear, guest star Chris Rock did his best to terrify in the part. His murder of an FBI agent (the one that Cookie witnessed) put him in the same jail as Lucious, leaving the men no choice but to establish which one of them is running the inside. Lucious bested Frank by opening his wallet; he bought off Frank's cronies, appealing mostly to their desire to provide for their families.
The mogul also declared his plans to sign Frank's talented daughter. Rapper-turned-actress Bre-Z is returning later on in the season as the character who shares her name, so it seems Lucious will make good on that promise.
What the Lyon patriarch probably didn't know is that he and his ex-wife had been dealing with a man with unusual tastes all along. In their behind-the-scenes look at the show, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that showrunner Lee Daniels intended for Gathers to be an actual, honest-to-goodness cannibal . The network objected to scenes where the gangster chewed on human flesh; but hints still remain in the final cut. ("I'm hungry. Are you hungry?") Crazy twists are the height of normalcy for Empire, but this one (if it had been blatant) would have raised the bar to heights that would be nearly impossible to top.
So. Drug kingpin, cop-murderer, cannibal. Men like that don't just fade into the background. Lucious took out Frank and has the loyalties of the rest of the cell block, even the ones who previously pledged allegiance to his enemy. But right now, he doesn't have the freedom he needs to take care of the burning embers of Frank's own empire beyond the walls of the prison. Lucious made his own world safe by eliminating the challenger to his power position. But he also leaves Cookie and his sons vulnerable. There are still people who are loyal to Frank, either by choice or by necessity.
Worse still, consider this: who sits above Frank? There's always a bigger fish, and the person or persons who Gathers himself may have been afraid of could be out there and miffed by Lucious' disregard for the power structure they so meticulously constructed.
Wherever the next threat comes from, the demise of Frank Gathers hardly means that the Lyons should cease sleeping with one eye open. Right now they're so focused on their own personal business maneuvering, they might not see what's coming until it's too late.
Forgot what happened last season on Empire? Check out the Season 1 drunk recap video below.
Images: Chuck Hodes/FOX; Giphy (2)