The Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson-led new Fox series Empire is already getting pretty stellar reviews. The show is one part revamped King Lear and two parts hip hop drama, with the kind of soap opera madness that creates a dedicated fandom. Personally, I'm just excited to have Taraji P. Henson back on television after losing her on Person of Interest. Empire follows Terrence Howard as the hilariously named Jay Z-esque mogul Luscious Lyon, who is diagnosed with a debilitating illness giving him three years to live. This means he's going to have to work fast to decide which of his wildly different sons will inherent the throne. It won't be easy since Cookie, his ex-wife and mother of his kids, is just out of prison after taking the fall to protect Luscious. Crazy, right? Thankfully, Empire will have 13 episodes in its first season to really go all out with its brand of soap opera drama.
Director Lee Daniels is a major player behind the scenes of Empire as an executive producer, co-writer, and director of the pilot episode. Daniels is best known for the melodramatic films like The Paperboy, The Butler, and Precious. Knowing Daniels, what can we expect from Empire's first 13-episode season?
Lots of Soap Opera Goodness
When I think of Lee Daniels as a director, I think of a melodramatic, soap opera style that is bright, bonkers, and sometimes lacks any real sense of human interaction. That doesn't mean these films don't bring their joys. They're the equivalent of a Reese's peanut butter cup. Sure it's tasty, but should be eaten in moderation. The best way to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of Daniels' sensibilities that we can expect on Empire is to check out his 2012 film The Paperboy, starring Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, and a constantly shirtless Zac Efron.
The film has such gems as:
Will the Lack of Subtlety Be Too Much for All 13 Episodes?
Subtlety is not in Daniels' vocabulary as a director. Sometimes this can work for film, but it can also result in a swampy, overheated mess. However, reviews of Empire suggest that the pilot shows the right mix of crazy, heartfelt, and dramatic. Maybe since Empire has 13 episodes to play around with things this season, Daniels' usual flair of the dramatic will be a bit tempered.
A review from Flavorwire describes Empire as having "the potential to be the juiciest soap opera of the year, a musical that succeeds where Nashville failed, a thrilling serial that could become as addictive as Scandal." So the series is definitely following in the footsteps of Daniels' cinematic output, and I can't wait.
Gender & Sexual Politics Inform the Plot
While Daniels can be melodramatic as a director, he is interested in the ways gender and sexual politics affect the lives of his characters, which is especially evident in Precious. I'm hoping Empire surprises audiences in its handling of these topics, much like Jane the Virgin did while drawing on telenovelas for inspiration.
Images: Chuck Hodes/Fox (3); Giphy