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[This story contains spoilers for the April 24 episode of Empire, “Never Doubt I Love.”]
However Jussie Smollett is written out of Empire‘s final episodes of the season, his last appearance onscreen was an upbeat one.
Season five isn’t over, but the show’s producers previously announced that the last two episodes, set to air May 1 and 8, would not include Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon.
The decision came after a whirlwind few weeks following Smollett’s report in late January that he was attacked in Chicago by two men who called him homophobic and racial slurs, yelled pro-Trump remarks, punched him and wrapped a noose around his neck. Smollett was later arrested and indicted on 16 felony counts for allegedly staging the attack and providing false information to Chicago police; all charges against him have since been dropped.
Smollett’s future at Empire is unknown, although he has the support of his co-stars, who have penned a letter to Fox and producer 20th Century Fox TV (now owned by Disney) asking that he return. His character played a big role in Wednesday’s episode, as it focused on him preparing to marry his fiancé, Kai (Toby Onwumere), and the couple’s wedding festivities.
Kai and Jamal were introduced as an item at the beginning of the season, which picked up two years after the end of season four. The couple had just returned to the United States after living in London, and for a while, Jamal’s promise to Kai that they’d only stick around for “a few months” while he helped his family get Empire Records back, seemed genuine. But as the season progressed, Jamal kept finding himself stuck between Kai and his family.
This led to Kai breaking off their engagement and moving back to London. However, he recently reappeared and the two reconciled.
Though Empire‘s writers likely weren’t planning for it at the time the episode was filmed, Jamal and Kai could easily return to their life across the pond as a way to explain Smollett’s absence in the remaining episodes. A less permanent solution — perhaps a honeymoon — may be more likely, since Jamal’s older brother, Andre, is dying.
Most of the second half of season five was filmed before Jan. 29, when Smollett reported being attacked, and was unaffected by the offscreen drama.