It ain't easy being a Lyon. Sure, there's plenty of fame and fortune to go around, but in watching all of the trials and tribulations that Jamal, Hakeem, and Andre are forced to go through on Empire , I don't know if I would trade places with them. At the end of “Be True,” Hakeem was abducted and thrown into a van. In “A High Hope For A Low Heaven,” we see him pistol whipped and held for ransom. Of course, his parents, Cookie and Lucious, are able to get him back, going through the correct machinations to get Hakeem home safe. What they can't help with, though, are the feelings Hakeem has in the post-mortem.
Cookie just wants Hakeem to get his girl group together and sing at Big Apple Bash, and Lucious is swinging what Lucious swings around, telling Hakeem that he wrote him a song and he should come back to Empire. Cookie and Lucious are pulling Hakeem in their respective directions, even though Hakeem blames them both for what happened to him. The kidnapping, he says, never would have taken place if he weren’t the son of Cookie and Lucious Lyon. I would tend to agree— Hakeem is the target of many things, kidnapping and ridicule included, that he wouldn't normally be subjected to if he weren't a notable person.
The problem here is that neither Cookie nor Lucious even bother to ask Hakeem if he's OK after the abduction. No one wants to listen to him or try to interpret his general saltiness — they just want to get back to their business, because in the business that Cookie and Lucious came of age in, this shaking down was just a normal part of it all.
Flash to Jamal and Andre. Things have been tenuous at best between the Lyon brothers this season, due mostly to their parents' need to consistently pit them against each other, but things seemed to cool down when they all showed up for Andre's baptism in "Be True." Jamal and Andre know that Hakeem is having difficulties post-kidnapping, and they barely even have to ask him what's wrong before he spills the beans. Hakeem says that he’s ashamed that he didn’t fight back when he was kidnapped, and he didn’t try to escape. Jamal and Andre assure him that he didn’t fight back because he’s smart — who knows if he would have made it out alive if he had? — and that he’s plenty tough, because he used to beat up on everybody to defend his brothers. Andre even adds that he, Hakeem, and Jamal have already beaten the odds, because they’re the children of Cookie and Lucious Lyon, and they should be way more screwed up.
It’s nice to see Jamal, Andre, and Hakeem band together like this, and it shows that the bond between the three of them is unbreakable. Sure, they do and say bad things to each other — what group of siblings hasn’t had a fight? — but when the going gets tough, they are ultimately there for each other, whether it’s being with Andre through his bipolar disorder and religious conversion, standing next to Jamal when he came out, or helping Hakeem navigate the days after his abduction.
From an early age, the Lyon brothers knew that they only had one another to rely on. Cookie was in jail, sent away when the boys were young, and Lucious was as hands-off as a parent can be. Jamal, Andre, and Hakeem all represent to Lucious things that he hates — homosexuality, religion/mental illness, and Cookie — and it’s because of this that he frequently abandons his children.
In “A High Hope For A Low Heaven,” Lucious tells new rapper Freda Gatz that he identifies with her more than he ever could with his sons, because he is incapable of feeling anything towards anyone other than himself. He embraces Freda because she is just like him, and eschews his own children because they are thankfully anything but. In fact, most of the problems in the Lyon family start when Lucious tries to put a square peg in a round hole. He is learning that he cannot, at this point, force his sons to do anything, and he is leaving them behind.
It’s hard to blame Cookie here — she sacrificed 17 years of her life for Lucious in jail, and she’s still trying to get herself out from under his shadow. She doesn’t think to nurture her sons a bit more because she really didn’t see how they grew up. Cookie doesn’t truly know the damage that Lucious has done.
So where does that leave Jamal, Andre, and Hakeem? With each other, frankly, and not much else. That’s why their relationships are so raw. With an emotionally manipulative father and an absent mother, each brother was judge and jury, mother and father, savior and executioner. The Lyon brothers continuously fight against and rescue each other because that’s what siblings do. Their collective relationship may seem like Empire’s most volatile, but really, it’s the most important.
Images: Chuck Hodes/FOX; Giphy (4)