As EMPIRE series ends, here’s our Top 10 favorite episodes


Golden Globe-nominated EMPIRE is now in its sixth and final season as one of television’s most popular and groundbreaking shows. A powerful drama about a family dynasty set within the glamorous and often dangerous world of hip-hop music, the show revolves around the Lyons and their media company, Empire Entertainment.

Tuesday is the EMPIRE Season Finale, as the series ends its 6 year run in Chicago. Reel Chicago’s Film & TV geek, Brian Soszynski guides us through his Top 10 favorite episodes.

For the past six seasons EMPIRE has been a powerhouse of a show. With phenomenal music, excellent performances, and engaging writing, it’s going to be a sad day when the show ends its series run this week.

Wrapping early, due to the coronavirus, Fox announced that the show’s sixth and final season will conclude on April 21, with Episode 18 now serving as the show’s bittersweet farewell.

There are so many great episodes, but after some careful deliberation I put together my Top 10 favorite episodes, in no particular rank. Fair warning, if you have not seen the show there are some MAJOR SPOILERS ahead.

Season 1, Episode 1 (Pilot):
This episode is great because it introduces us to the Lyon family. The tension between Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Lucious (Terrence Howard) is insanely entertaining displaying the acting talents of both leads. Every family conflict is on display here, including Lucious’ struggles with ALS, Jamal’s (Jussie Smollett) sexuality, and the three sons adjusting to their absent mother. It says a lot when a pilot episode locks in viewers as well as this one did.

Season 1, Episode 8:
This episode explores how left out Andre (Trai Byers) feels in his family and the business. This episode does a fantastic job of building tension between Cookie, Lucious, and Anika (Grace Byers). The three characters are so wrapped up in their own drama that they’re oblivious to Andre’s internal struggles. A powerfully directed scene at the end of the episode shows Andre attempting suicide when the gun jams. 

ALSO READ: EMPIRE airs 100th episode tonight on Fox

Season 1, Episode 12:
Another season one gem, this episode is when Lucious names Jamal CEO of Empire. A lot of things going on here including Lucious’ suspicion of Cookie’s attempted murder on him and the authorities going after Lucious for Bunkie’s (Antoine McKay) murder. The best part of the episode is the confrontation between Andre, Vernon (Malik Yoba), and Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday). Ending with Vernon’s murder we find out that Vernon was actually a witness for the authorities. 

Season 2, Episode 10:
In this season two episode we get more tension between Jamal and Lucious over Jamal’s sexuality. Tension rises when both Jamal and Lucious are nominated for song of the year. That same night, Rhonda is severely injured when she is pushed down the stairs by an unknown assailant in her and Andre’s new house. This episode begins the slow downfall of Anika’s character.

Season 2, Episode 17:
In this episode Cookie tells Jamal the truth about what happened to Freda’s (Bre-Z) father, Frank Gathers (Chris Rock). This pushes Jamal to warn Freda about Lucious’ motives. At an awards show, Freda tries to shoot Lucious as revenge for killing her father, but Jamal is shot by accident instead. Not only is this a turning point in Freda’s character, but a realization for Jamal that his father is more that what he claims to be.

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Season 2, Episode 18:
Another great season finale, this episode finds Jamal recovering from his gunshot wound and refusing to perform until his family reconcile. Lucious and Anika get married leading to a fight between Anika and Rhonda. The fight leads to a brutal confrontation as Andre witnesses the moment Rhonda falls to her death. This episode is yet another precursor to Andre’s declining mental state in the show.

Season 3, Episode 18:
This episode centers around the DuBois families kidnapping of baby Bella. Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) tails Anika to the DuBois household and offers to provide a favor in return for Bella’s safety. At this time Andre has set up a hit for his father Lucious to be carried out by Shyne (Xzibit). Lucious persuades Cookie to turn over control of Empire to Andre so they can retire. When Andre finds out about Lucious and Cookie’s plan he attempts to call off the hit, but Shine carries it out anyway, leaving Lucious in a coma. When Lucious awakes he has amnesia and lost a leg. This episode is the precursor to arguably one of the best turning points in the series. After this episode, leading into season four, Lucious has a completely different personality giving the viewers a side of him we’ve never seen.

Season 4, Episode 8:
This is, hands down, my FAVORITE episode of the series. It centers around the unfolding of the DuBois’ master plan, Jamal’s sobriety, and Andre’s fall into madness. The last few minutes of this episode reveal that Andre’s girlfriend, Pamela (Teyonah Parris), was a hallucination caused by pills prescribed to him by Diana’s (Phylicia Rashad) therapist. The way the reveal is executed is top rate filmmaking. The acting, editing, and writing will have you clenching your hands so tight they’ll bleed.

Season 4, Episode 18:
This season finale follows Cookie and Anika as they struggle to retrieve compromising evidence against Lucious. Andre calls a fake truce with Anika as he slips powdered pills in Anika’s drink. During a press conference, Anika starts feeling sick and suffers from hallucinations of Rhonda causing her to fall from a balcony, killing her. This revenge conclusion was a morbid, yet satisfying ending to a woman that took the life of Andre’s wife.

Season 5, Episode 18:
This amazing season finale centers around the conflict between Kingsley (A.Z. Kelsey) and Lucious as well as Andre’s need for a new heart to survive.

Kingsley is a very well written and performed character, making the viewer love and hate him at the same time. This is where Kingsley confronts Lucious ultimately killing himself and leaving behind a heart for Andre to survive. The scene between Lucious and Kingsley is acting and writing at its finest. An insanely tense scene that unravels the weight Kingsley has had on his shoulders his entire life.

EMPIRE’s music is absolutely amazing and for a little more fun, here’s my Top 5 Favorite songs from the series. There are many more great songs (too many to name here) that you can pick up now on iTunes!

  1. Ain’t About the Money (feat. Jussie Smollett & Yazz).
  2. Boom Boom Boom Boom (feat. Terrence Howard & Bre-Z).
  3. Keep Your Money (feat. Jussie Smollett).
  4. No Apologies (feat. Jussie Smollett & Yazz).
  5. Dynasty (feat. Yazz & Timbaland).

There you have it!  I Hope you enjoyed my Top 10 Favorite EMPIRE episodes. EMPIRE 6th and final season is currently airing on FOX Tuesdays 9/8c with the Series Finale premiering on April 21st.

Brian Soszynski
Screenwriter / Actor / Film Critic