Empire had been moving at breakneck speed before its four-month hiatus, but the mid-season premiere on Tuesday slows down just enough for us to catch our breath and figure out where the Lyons and their empire stand. Fret not, it's still ridiculous in the best way.
Before you watch, here's a quick primer on what happened before the break.
Lucious lost his company.
This had been brewing for the entire first half of the second season. In the mid-season finale, Lucious found out that his "business partner in crime" Mimi Whiteman had double-crossed him after they signed a deal for Empire to acquire a streaming network called Swiftstream.
Mimi, the shady Texas billionaire who initially was brought on to help orchestrate a hostile takeover of Empire while Lucious was in prison, shocked Lucious at the Swiftstream announcement when she called her wife up to the stage. Her wife turned out to be none other than Hakeem's ex-girlfriend, Camilla Marks (Naomi Campbell), whose trademark phrase is basically some variation of "I can take you to the next level, Hakeem".
It had been a while since we'd seen Camilla. Lucious forced her out of town in the first season, alienating Hakeem, who was falsely led to believe that Camilla had taken money from Lucious in exchange for her departure. Hakeem and Lucious had been on particularly bad terms following Camilla's exile.
Hakeem founded a duelling record company, Lyon Dynasty, with Cookie. Over a series of episodes, punches were thrown, artists were stolen and surnames were denounced.
All of that bad blood between Hakeem and his father led to Hakeem voting (against his mother's wishes) to remove Lucious as CEO and chairman of Empire. Of course, that was the "aye" that sealed the deal. Mimi, the de facto chair in lieu of the vote, announced that she was handing over her proxy to Camilla. Back at his mansion, a teary Lucious grabbed a gun and shot bullets through portions of his home office. Despite their fighting during much of the the second season's first episodes, Cookie calmed him down and then held him as he sobbed.
Jamal's star rose.
After finding out his fate at Empire, Lucious did get a bit of good news. His song Boom Boom Boom Boom would be up for song of the year at the fictional American Sound Awards. Of course, the Lyon who really won out at the nominations was Jamal, who got a nod for song of the year (for Heavy), in addition to best R&B star and a slew of other nominations.
Now that Jamal is doubling down on his music he's emerged as the most level-headed Lyon son. The story to watch here is how he will handle his rising fame and the efforts of others to control his image. One of these would-be influencers is Jameson, the consultant who has a complicated history with Lucious, and who announced that he was thrilled to discover that Lucious has a gay son.
Jamal shocked some viewers when he grew close to a pop star named Skye (Alicia Keys). The two shared an unexpected hookup, but Jamal and Skye agreed it was just the result of a really intense connection.
Hakeem got really confused.
When it comes to Empire love interests, Hakeem has the highest count by far. In addition to his longtime love Camilla, Hakeem has wooed Empire artist Tiana, Lyon-Dynasty-turned-Empire artist Valentina and his father's ex-fiance, Anika. But Keem found something special in Laura, the doe-eyed lead singer of his girl group Mirage a Trois.
Camilla's arrival, and the revelation that she hadn't taken a dime from Lucious, threw Hakeem for a loop and will certainly make his love life more complicated. Though Camilla is married to Mimi, she swore to Hakeem that it was all for show - and all part of her plan to take Hakeem to the next, well, you know.
Anika (also known as Boo Boo Kitty) also made it clear that she wanted to be with Hakeem, who rejected her.
Anika has been acting strange these last few episodes - posing as a limo driver to take Laura home and scribbling angry notes on tabloid covers, and then there's that mysterious pregnancy test.
Rhonda was attacked.
As Dre was at his father's house reeling from Hakeem's vote, a pregnant Rhonda was home alone. An intruder tripped the alarm, but Rhonda assumed it was just the new system acting up and went to turn it off. As she stood at the top of the steps, a cloaked figure pushed her down the staircase.
This was the biggest cliffhanger of the mid-season finale. We were left wondering whether she and the baby would make it, knowing that Dre's mental health hangs in the balance. The baby news had also united Dre and his father in a way we've never seen before.
The obvious culprit is Anika. She's obviously been up to something, but is Boo Boo Kitty capable of that? We'll soon see.
What: Empire, mid-season premiere
When and where: Tuesday TV2, 9.30pm