‘Empire’ Season 3 Premiere Recap – Did Rhonda Or Anika Die? Who Is Tariq?

The Empire Season 3 premiere kicked off with a bang tonight, with shocking revelations, dramatic twists, and Cookie Lyon dressed to kill (perhaps literally).

The Season 2 finale left viewers with a lot of questions: did Rhonda or Anika fall off the roof? What will happen to Anika and Lucious’ marriage? What will Hakeem do now that Laura has left him at the altar?

Thankfully, the Empire Season 3 premiere didn’t waste any time in answering these questions – and the Empire Twitter account was sure to make a GIF of anything juicy. Within the first five minutes of the episode, viewers had already been subjected to enough plot twists to sustain an entire season of a Shonda Rhimes show.

Rhonda, Andre’s wife, didn’t survive the fight on the rooftop with Anika. She hurtles off the roof right before Andre’s eyes and lands directly onto Lucious’ car. Rhonda and Andre had already suffered a miscarriage after Anika pushed Rhonda down the stairs; Empire viewers looking for Anika to get her karmic comeuppance will have to wait a little longer.

Of course, Anika isn’t exactly off the hook just yet. The Lyons have made it clear through two seasons of Empire that they aren’t afraid to go above or around the law in order to settle the score. After Andre sees the heavily pregnant Anika kill his wife, he flies into a rage and attempts to choke her to death, only stopping when she realizes that her water has broken.

Anika and Rhonda wrestle during the Empire season three premiere. [Image by Chuck Hodes/FOX]

Anika’s baby was potentially the only thing keeping her safe from the Lyons, but that changed with the delivery of her daughter. She had promised Lucious that she was pregnant with his son, and when he discovered that she lied to him, he made it clear that she was at his mercy, whispering threats into her ear while she was on the delivery table. Since this is Empire, no death must go without being covered up; Lucious informs Anika that the official story is that Rhonda killed herself, despite Anika’s attempts to stop her.

Not one, not two, but three Lyons are out for Anika’s blood on the Empire Season 3 premiere. When Anika moves into Lucious’ house, Lucious’ mother threatens her with a huge kitchen knife, claiming that she knows Anika will try to poison her. Poisoning an elderly woman actually sounds pretty in-character for Anika, so Lucious’ mother might have a point.

Rhonda’s death did more than put a target on Anika’s head – it also shattered Andre’s faith. Andre’s fervent belief in God’s plan has been a plot point throughout the first two seasons of Empire, but he confesses at the hospital after Rhonda’s death that he no longer believes in God.

Not even the Lyons can trust each other during the Empire Season 3 premiere; Cookie’s sister attempts to turn her against Lucious, arguing that she has no loyal to him. Tariq, an FBI agent who knows Cookie from her past, informs Cookie that federal agents can prove that Anika’s marriage to Lucious was a sham intended to prevent her from testifying against him. Tariq fosters the conflict between Cookie and Lucious, reminding Cookie that Lucious married Anika.

The Lyon empire has always been under threat from law enforcement, but this episode hints that they are dealing with much bigger problems.

On a lighter note, Hakeem is still struggling with the ladies. After Laura leaves him at the altar, Hakeem runs back to Tiana, his girlfriend from season one of Empire, who soundly rejects him. And after he tries hitting unsuccessfully on newcomer Nessa, she informs him that he chases “young, dumb thirst-bucket thots.”

The original music of the show, which usually provides the ever-present soundtrack, took a back seat during the Empire Season 3 premiere. The first song to premiere during the episode was Hakeem’s “Factz,” which, to be honest, doesn’t make much of an impression. Later in the episode, Jamal sings “Need Freedom,” a beautiful falsetto ode to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, referencing Mike Brown and other victims of police brutality. Empire has always been a political show, and it’s satisfying for its politics to be incorporated into the music.

The Empire premiere ends on a terrifying note, with Andre descending into hallucinations and madness. He imagines Rhonda blaming him for her death, calling him “just some Philly thug with mental problems.” Without Rhonda or God to anchor him, it’s unknown how much longer Andre can keep himself together during the rest of Empire Season 3.

With all of this drama, it’s clear that the Empire Season 3 premiere was just a small taste of what’s to come.

[Featured Image by FOX/Empire]

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