Movie Reviews

Four Years Later, I Still Can't Believe How Empire's Series Finale Was Handled

Summary

  • Empire’s finale was rushed, leaving loose ends and a confusing plot due to poor editing decisions by Fox.
  • The show had the potential for a more satisfying conclusion, but a last-minute re-edit marred its legacy.
  • Despite the disappointment, a spinoff centered around Cookie remains a possibility, as Taraji P. Henson’s return to the franchise is still a fan wish.



After four years, I still can’t believe how Fox handled the Empire series finale. At one point, the hip-hop drama towered above the competition on broadcast TV. It attracted guest stars like Courtney Love, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and Snoop Dog. Even though Empire reached success, it ended up with a terrible climax due to various factors. Empire‘s final season aired during the 2019-2020 TV season, meaning it was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was stunned the network ended Empire with 18 of its 20-episode order. Instead of delaying filming or announcing a TV movie to conclude the drama series, Fox had the creatives re-edit Empire season 6, episode 18, to include scenes from an unfinished installment. It resulted in a disjointed series finale that made no sense and made me question why such a successful series wasn’t allowed to have a more conclusive ending.



Empire Messed Up Its Final Season

I was thankful Empire managed a return to form early into its sixth season. The series had been treading water for several years thanks to frustrating developments. The compelling tactic of revealing that Lucious and Cookie could perish early in the season added much-needed stakes to the last chapter. However, the final episode didn’t even catch up to the flashforwards, leaving many plot threads dangling despite the show’s best attempt to make people think it was a planned finale.

That said, having the Lyons together in the shoddily edited
Empire
season 6, episode 18, was a choice.


Killing off Lucious was an interesting development since he was earmarked for death as far back as Empire season 1. I often wonder how the series would have progressed if it had gone through with killing him back then. If the show took that route, Cookie certainly would have been able to break free from him sooner. While the flashforwards seemingly sealed Lucious’ fate, I want to believe Cookie miraculously survived the car bomb, especially since Cookie quickly became one of the best characters on TV due to her dedication to family.

Finishing with Cookie’s shocking death wouldn’t have been enjoyable, so the makeshift series ending did something right by keeping one of TV’s best scene-stealers alive. That said, having the Lyons together in the shoddily edited Empire season 6, episode 18, was a choice. I felt no emotion because what needed to be answered hadn’t been filmed.


Empire Cast Member

Character

Terrence Howard

Lucious Lyon

Taraji P. Henson

Cookie Lyon

Bryshere Y. Gray

Hakeem Lyon

Jussie Smollett

Jamal Lyon

Trai Byers

Andre Lyon

Ta’Rhonda Jones

Porsha Taylor

Gabourey Sidibe

Rebecca “Becky” Williams

Serayah

Tiana Brown

Nicole Ari Parker

Giselle Sims-Barker

Rhyon Nicole Brown

Maya Landry-Lyon

A.Z. Kelsey

Jeff Kingsley

Vivica A. Fox

Candace Holloway Mason

Mario

Devon

Meta Golding

Teri Brooks-Lyon

Kaitlynn Simone

Treasure

Wood Harris

Damon Cross


Empire’s Popularity Should Have Allowed For A Satisfying Conclusion

Empire Deserved To Air Its Final Season Intact

Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon on Empire

For a show with such a significant impact on pop culture, Empire never reached its full potential. The showrunners were understandably desperate to craft an ending befitting of the characters, so it’s a shame the original conclusion never got filmed or aired. It could have been shopped to other outlets if Fox didn’t want to assemble the cast to shoot the additional episodes. Investing over four years of my life in a popular show meant I had certain expectations for the series finale.

Empire
is the type of drama that will likely resurface as a reboot or a spinoff.


A series finale like Empire‘s should tarnish the legacy of such a beloved project, but given the circumstances, I know this was not the ending executives envisioned. In the TV industry, things can change on a dime, as evidenced by some controversial cancellations in the last few years. But Empire deserved the opportunity to return for another handful of episodes during the following season to give the show the last hurrah it deserved.

Empire is the type of drama that will likely resurface as a reboot or a spinoff. Many franchises return after a lengthy hiatus. Unfortunately, the horrible conclusion’s backlash could have derailed any plans for the show, no matter how much time passes. If there is scope to continue, one character should be front and center.

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Taraji P. Henson Needs To Return

Despite the lack of resolution for Empire, Taraji P. Henson was in talks to reprise the role of Cookie in a spinoff in 2020. The news seemingly confirms my suspicion that Cookie survived the original Empire season 6 finale. While no plot details were revealed, the series failed to get off the ground, and Empire‘s Cookie spinoff was cancelled. Henson was Empire‘s biggest draw. She easily brought Cookie’s fashion, wit, and tenacity to life.


Enough time has passed for the Cookie spinoff to happen and for it to pick up long after Empire’s timeline. The original show’s soapy elements could allow for a reveal that certain aspects of Empire season 6 were a dream. Taking Cookie to a new location where she is immersed in the world of music would be my favorite way to continue her arc. It would allow the character to break free from the conflicts of Empire and give Henson the platform she deserves after single-handedly keeping the original series talked about for so many years.

Empire poster

Empire

Cast
Ta’Rhonda Jones , Trai Byers , Taraji P. Henson , Jussie Smollett , Gabourey Sidibe , Kaitlin Doubleday , Bryshere Y. Gray , Terrence Howard , Grace Gealey

Release Date
January 7, 2015

Seasons
6

Network
FOX

Showrunner
Danny Strong

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