Empire returned last night for Season 2 with some gigantic ratings. And to up the ante this sophomore season (and prevent a dreaded slump), the series pulled out all the stops to get people talking.
Exhibit A: Cookie making her grand entrance dressed as a gorilla in a cage.
Exhibit B: Not one, but two slaps in the face.
And finally Exhibit C: The barrage of guest stars.
In last night’s premiere, not only did we meet Marisa Tomei’s Mimi Whiteman, a lesbian investor who Cookie brought in to oust Lucious from his CEO spot, but we also met Frank Gathers, a scary (possibly cannibal) convict who Cookie and Lucious used to work with, played by. . .Chris Rock.
It was hard to see Rock in prison and not think of his role as Caretaker in 2005’s The Longest Yard. (Strangely enough, both of them meet similar fates.) In true Empire fashion, instead of having a season-long story arc for Gathers, his story is tied up in one episode. Empire is to TV seasons the way dogs are to dog years.
Other notable guest stars include Al Sharpton (who Cookie quickly dismisses), Swizz Beatz, Andre Leon Talley, and finally, my personal favorite, Don Freakin’ Lemon.
Of all the guest stars, this one was the most surprising (although Don Lemon is a self-professed Empire fan).
In the opening moments of the premiere, Cookie is holding a #FreeLucious rally to attract Whiteman as a potential buyer. Cookie and Porsha run into Don Lemon, and Porsha asks him about his coverage of “Patterson” (or “Ferguson,” Cookie corrects). Just as quickly as they thank him for being at the rally, Cookie mutters behind his back that he really shouldn’t have used the N word on TV.
Hilarious. Who knew Chris Rock wouldn’t be the funniest cameo last night?