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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Empire, “A Rose by Another Name.”]
Empire has never shied away from death — lest we not forget when Lucious‘ lawyer put a corpse in a prosecutor’s car to scare her off his case. But the latest visit from the Grim Reaper was a particularly tough pill to swallow.
Just two episodes after fan favorite Camilla (Naomi Campbell) made her triumphant return to take control of the Empire board of directors and replace Lucious with Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) as CEO, she was gone. Lucious walked in on Camilla moments after she had killed her wife, Mimi (Marisa Tomei), who was upset over seeing pictures of Camilla and Hakeem together, and Camilla’s control of Empire stock subsequently was put into question.
Camilla poisoned Mimi’s drink and made it look like a suicide-by-drowning, but Lucious filmed it all. He then pointed a gun at Camilla and gave her two options: Go to prison for Mimi’s murder, or ingest the same poison she gave Mimi.
Camilla begged Lucious to shoot her instead, but when he declined, she took a swig, and the credits cut to black (but not before Lucious told Camilla to “go to hell”).
“He does it because he’s twisted and because he can,” showrunner Ilene Chaiken tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh. “Luscious Lyon wants to be able to say, ‘I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill her,’ and he knows it’s much more satisfying to him to make her make that ultimate decision and fix the problem for him.”
But is she really dead? After all, viewers didn’t technically see her bite the dust. But Chaiken says there’s no crazy twist coming. “We can assume she’s dead,” she says. “She drank the poison.”
Although the dramatic scene took out two of the show’s most popular guest stars in one fell swoop — Empire marked a very rare TV turn for Oscar winner Tomei — their deaths make sense given that the second half of the season is meant to focus less on guest stars and outside characters and more on the Lyon family.
“It was definitely hard to say goodbye,” Chaiken says. “It would have been great to be able to continue for longer, but it was time to say goodbye.”
So what does this murder-suicide mean for the Empire board of directors and particularly the ousted Lyon family (minus Hakeem)?
“That’s really a lot of what the ensuing episodes are about,” Chaiken reveals. “Does her death simply make things right, or is it more complicated than that?”
Odds are it will be the latter, with Hakeem unlikely to relinquish the CEO throne so easily.
“Luscious assumed that all he needed to do was get her out of the way, but Hakeem is still CEO,” Chaiken says. “He certainly intends to remain CEO. He knows it’s going to be a challenge, and his hope is that by showing his family that he can fix this, that he did get rid of her and did get her out of their company, that they’re going to respect him and give him a chance to run it. In his view, Luscious was voted out, and Luscious doesn’t deserve it. He’s going to fight for it.”
Empire airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.
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