Lucious Lyon is an unpredictable man. At the beginning of Empire, he just seemed like a CEO with an inflated ego, a man more worried about his money and his legacy than his own family. As the show has progressed into its second season, viewers have learned much more about his past and how much trauma he endured, and though I'm still not sure if that has made me more sympathetic towards him, it explains a lot about his behavior. This was especially true of the April 20 episode, “Time Shall Unfold,” which revealed more about Lucious' relationship with his mother on Empire and how it makes him relate to his own children, particularly Andre.
From the many flashbacks we’ve seen of Lucious and his mother, it’s strongly suggested that she, like Andre, had bipolar disorder or another mental illness. We saw her have manic highs — buying armfuls of presents even though they would no longer be able to pay their rent — and the lowest of lows — playing Russian roulette with a pistol she kept in the home. Though Andre has suffered a breakdown on the series, in general, he is usually shown as managing his bipolar disorder, not experiencing those frequent highs and lows that Lucious' witnessed in his childhood. But it's those memories that seem to explain why, despite the fact that Andre is clearly the most business-minded and responsible of the Lyon brothers, Lucious always kept him at arm’s length and refused outright to make him head of Empire Enterprises (and that’s just the tip of his mistreatment). Though none of this excuses Lucious' behavior or mistreatment of Andre, it does provide insight to his underlying motivations.
Now, we’re nearing the end of Season 2, and, whether it's because Rhonda suffered a miscarriage or because Lucious is turning over a new leaf, Lucious has finally told Andre just how proud he is of his son and how much he cares about him. Yet, Lucious still refuses to say out loud that his mother suffered from something similar to Andre. He’s seen it both in his mother and his son, but he can’t say it out loud, and gets angry when others suggest it. In “Time Shall Unfold,” Lucious brought Andre to his mother’s gravesite, and when Andre said that had she lived longer, his grandmother would have had many more opportunities both in life and in treatment, Lucious mostly stood there.
For his part, Andre has plenty of reasons not to trust his father. Lucious has condemned not only Andre’s bipolar disorder but also his newfound religious faith, and he’s thrown every possible obstacle in Andre and Rhonda’s way to get to the top of Empire Enterprises. Though Lucious has told his eldest son that he is proud of him, I don't think that will be enough to get through to Andre and form a real bond.
By denying his mother’s illness, Lucious in turn denies and vilifies his son. He can say nice things to Andre all he wants, but he’ll never truly connect with Andre because he still cannot accept parts of him. His condition scares Lucious because it is a reminder of his own traumatic childhood, and though it's not fair and only hurting both of them, Lucious will not allow himself to become close to his eldest son.
Though he'd never admit it, it seems to me that Lucious is afraid — afraid of his family, his son, and, most importantly, falling into the uncertainty that marked his childhood. And unfortunately, until he can come to terms with his past, he won't be able to let himself truly bond with Andre.
Images: Chuck Hodes/FOX (3)