Fox has just renewed “Empire” for next season … while viewers are being hammered by this season’s Vanishing Son Syndrome.
Last week, Jussie Smollett had his final episode as Jamal. Viewers knew he’d been fired …. but weren’t ready for the next blow: Andre, Jamal’s brother, has learned that his heart is failing; with no chance for a donated organ (due to his recent cancer struggle), he wants his dad Lucious to assist his suicide.
Created with a nod to Shakespeare, “Empire” started in the “King Lear” style, with an old patriarch and his three offspring. At this pace, he’ll soon be down to one.
What happens this week (8 p.m. May 1, Fox)? I won’t spill any secrets, except to say:
— There a tad more Shakespeare: Now Lucious is talking to ghosts, Hamlet-style.
— As usual, there are broad soap-opera touches, many of them hard to believe. Back in the days of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, it was logical for someone to say: “Let’s put on a show and save Pop’s farm”; nowadays, a similar plot draws doubts.
— Andre (Trai Byers) has some warm moments with his family. He’s shown here with his mom (Taraji Henson).
— But the ending … well, the final minutes are powerful. You can call the ending operatic or soap-ish or pure melodrama, but it works. And it guarantees that we’ll want to see the May 8 season-finale.