The obvious power struggle on Empire is that of Lucious and his three sons: Jamal (the one who Lucious hates for being gay); Hakeem (the one who Lucious hates for being just like him); and Andre (the one who Lucious hates for being bi-polar). While the men of the show are busy posturing and puffing out their respective chests in a prideful battle of who will actually get to rule supreme over Empire Entertainment, the women of Empire — namely Cookie, Lucious’ ex-wife, and Anika, his ex-fiancée — are fighting too. But what for? Control of Empire? Control of Lucious? Both? Frankly, it should be neither.
When Cookie got out of prison at the beginning of Season 1, she had eyes on reclaiming what was rightfully hers — Empire Entertainment, that is — after spending 17 years in jail for something she didn’t do. Little did she know that she would walk into Empire’s palatial offices and find Anika at Lucious’ right hand. Cookie quickly brushes Anika off, deeming her the pejorative “Boo Boo Kitty” and assuming that she slept her way to the top. Andre says later on that Anika is one of the best A&Rs in the business, so despite Cookie's offensive assumptions, Anika has plenty of merits that have nothing to do with Lucious.
And so the season went on, with Anika and Cookie’s game of chess reaching more and more frenetic heights as Cookie started a sexual relationship with Lucious again (before trying to murder him) and Anika left to join Billy Beretti’s company after she found out. They had a knockdown, drag-out fight in the Season 1 finale, and Empire finally reached its Dynasty apex. At the beginning of Season 2, Cookie, Hakeem, and Andre are looking to start their own label, and Cookie quickly nixes the idea of having Anika on her team. In “Fires Of Heaven,” this twosome finally reaches somewhat of an accord. Barely. So why did it take 13 episodes for it to happen?
People fight over their loved ones — men over women, women over men, men over men, women over women — and it’s completely natural for Cookie to feel slighted and replaced by Anika. Cookie left her family for Lucious and now Anika is sitting on her throne. Who wouldn’t be hurt? But that’s Lucious’ fault — not Anika’s. Cookie’s inability to see this, as well as her single-minded rush to once again “conquer” Lucious and his company even though he is engaged to another woman — is one of the least likable things about her. She is a woman scorned and all that, but Lucious is the one who deserves the fire and brimstone. Not Anika.
Conversely, Anika is not blameless in all of this. Swept up in Lucious’ spell and choked by rage and anger, Anika did go to the business of Lucious’ mortal enemy to trade secrets, and she also slept with his son, Hakeem. Neither Cookie nor Anika are saints in any way, shape, or form.
But the thing about the actions and fighting between both Anika and Cookie are that they are so spawned by emotion. Neither Anika nor Cookie really have it in them to be really, truly evil. They are smart. They are powerful. So why is it that in all of their hastily made decisions, they are both guided by fear and sadness, trying desperately to hold on to the respective life they wish that Lucious had never upended? Between Anika and Cookie, who is the common denominator here? Lucious is the evil one — the one whose machinations screw over both women — and while Empire has hinted at this through Lucious’ dealings with his sons and the murder of Bunkie, it often paints the women as typical soap opera divas, throwing drinks and spouting “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” insults.
While effective in a dramatic sense, Cookie and Anika's feud could be, and hopefully will be, so much more than simply women bickering over their "turf." What today’s viewers need to see are strong, powerful, and sometimes flawed women, like Cookie and Anika, but who don’t need to fight over men like Lucious.
“Fires of Heaven” could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Anika and Cookie. Will Empire tone down the cat fighting in order to take down its kingpin? Here's hoping.
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