An Old Friend Has Leverage On The 'Empire'

It's been a long, cold summer without decadent Lyon family soirees, A-List music industry guest stars double-crossing each other, or even Queen Cookie calling other women "sister-girl." Thank goodness Empire is back to bring the heat and the soap to my Wednesday nights. Season 3 of the musical-drama premieres Sept. 21 on Fox, and I can only hope that none of these characters have mellowed. As it is, the Lyons and their associates will definitely be dealing with the resolution and the fall-out of a handful of Season 2 finale cliffhangers. The domino effect that resulted in Hakeem and Laura's trashed wedding; Lucious marrying Anika out of convenience and necessity; Cookie (hopefully) giving up on her garbage ex forever; and one, possibly two deaths-by-fall can be traced back to one person: aspiring producer Shyne Johnson. Rapper and former Pimp My Ride host Xzibit showed up in that wild ride of a finale to play a character who's been a known piece of Lucious's mogul origins since the pilot. But who is Shyne Johnson exactly and what does he need from the Lyons?

TV Line announced in June that Xzibit's role would be beefed up to series regular for this coming season of Empire. In the site's post-Season 2 finale interview with co-showrunner Ilene Chaiken, she flat-out stated that Lucious's half-brother Tariq (surprise!) would be the patriarch's "big adversary" in the next set of episodes, but that Shyne would also "be a really central character in that same story." Those loose ends from Cookie and Lucious's past are inches away from being on display to the whole world. Their sons, at least, know a lot more than they used to about what their parents did to get from their Philly beginnings to the ASAs.

And, like I said, Lucious and Shyne go way back. Shyne's attempt to get a piece of the Lyon pie is what got Bunkie killed in the very first episode of the series. The Bunk asked Lucious for money on Shyne's behalf, but Lucious refused to be blackmailed and the boys lost a godfather. Skip ahead to Season 2, and the feds are sniffing all around Lucious's forcefully charmed life. The Cristal hits the fan in the finale, when Anika informs her former lover and his ex-wife that that she was questioned about a hit job that Lucious worked back in the day. Shyne is working with the cops to gain leverage on his former associate Lucious to force him into making good on a past deal. Shyne believes Lucious used him and then left him behind. He's come back to collect with information that could bring the Empire down for good.

To keep Shyne happy, Cookie invites him to Hakeem's wedding. Laura's parents aren't pleased with what they deem a low-class, "thug" element besmirching their beloved daughter's nuptials. And they're even less pleased when an ambush summons on Anika turns the cocktail hour into a brawl. Laura bolts, and Lucious weds Anika so they can call on spousal privilege to allow her to legally stay quiet. Of course, spousal privilege will make no difference if Anika is dead is when the season starts. Someone went off that balcony; and Anika's storyline felt much more like a final lap than Rhonda's to me.

So with Anika protected from testifying either by a sham marriage or her own funeral and Shyne bribed with a record deal for one of his artists, will Lucious's murderous secret stay in the family? Chaiken's comments indicate a big arc for his friend from the old neighborhood, who will probably be there to block the way if Lucious tries again to run from his past.

Image: Chuck Hodes/FOX