To call the season finale of Empire "eventful" would be the understatement of the season.
So much happened over the course of one hour that I think the show's own writers had forgotten what some of the storylines were by the end.
At least, that's what the presence of so many plot holes and sloppy storytelling techniques signified to me.
It's as though the Empire writers opened the refrigerator and found only a jar of pickles, a freezer-burned carton of chocolate ice cream, and a crusty bottle of ketchup, and decided to throw it all together anyway just to see if they could make something edible out of it.
Doesn't sound very appetizing, does it? Instead, an overall solid season of the show, which nearly redeemed it for the foibles of its sophomore slump, regressed back into the cozy comforts of soap opera cliche.
On Empire Season 3 Episode 18, Lucious and Giuliana were putting the final touches on their contract over Leviticus Vegas, just in time for the Inferno show to launch.
She has no sort of power to get rid of you. You Cookie Lyon, Mom!Jamal [to Cookie]
Despite Cookie being banned from the establishment by Giuliana, Lucious pulled some strings to get her a seat in the VIP box with her sons for the big show.
It turns out, Lucious had his own reasons for wanting Cookie to be there. After hearing Jamal's completed album, the Lyon patriarch had a change of heart, and decided that When Cookie Met Lucious was the right show to launch the club in Vegas.
You were right, as you usually are. As soon as I heard his finished album, I knew that was our show.Lucious [to Cookie]
Cookie was pleasantly surprised when she took her seat in the club to be serenaded by her son's lovely song "Mama" instead of one of Lucious' Inferno tracks, but that was nothing compared to Lucious' big reveal just a few moments prior.
It turns out, Lucious has NOT been in Giuliana's thrall for the better part of the season. Instead, he was manipulating her to get the Vegas deal done.
This included somehow getting this savvy, street-smart and ruthless businesswoman so comfortable in his conference room that she accidentally signed Leviticus Vegas entirely over to Lucious without reading all of her paperwork.
Everything I do is for the woman that I love, and my children. So, Giuliana...it's time for you to kick rocks.Lucious [to Giuliana]
Now, I had suspected that there was more to Lucious and Giuliana's newfound closeness than met the eye. Lucious is not the type of guy to let a woman overpower him so entirely, nor to forgive someone for stealing $10 million from him so quickly.
Even though the idea of Lucious playing Giuliana for a fool wasn't entirely out of left field, the way it came about just rang false. I refuse to believe that Giuliana would have just signed all of those contracts without even looking at them! It seemed entirely out of character.
Both of us made a bunch of sacrifices, baby. You did seventeen years for me. I did all that with Giuliana for you.Lucious [to Cookie]
That wasn't the only subplot whose climax seemed cobbled together at the last minute just to get the season to its predetermined end point.
Apparently, Anika has been working with the Dubois family. Or, she's being blackmailed by them. Or...I don't know.
All I do know is the reason she didn't share Hakeem's raging fury over Bella's continued disappearance is that she knew Bella was safe with Diana.
Hakeem followed Anika to the Dubois house and was able to see his baby girl again, but for a price:
Diana made him promise to obey her orders. He had to get his family to believe that Bella was safe with Anika before awaiting further instructions.
Women have a certain strength when it comes to stuff like that. We have to stay calm, even if we don't want to, for the sake of our children.Cookie [to Hakeem]
Between her manipulation of Hakeem and her use of another Dubois to potentially seduce Jamal, it appears that Diana is not slowing down in her quest for revenge anytime soon.
That does not bode well for the Lyons, but it does bode well for the audience because it means more Phylicia Rashad for Empire Season 4!
The mournful wail that escaped Anika's throat while she watched Bella being taken away by child protective services felt too raw to have been faked. So, the question is: when did the Dubois family loop her in on the plot? And how?
Well, we're not getting any answers until next season. Especially not from Anika, who has been framed by Leah for the murder of Tariq.
Repeat readers of these reviews will know that the storyline involving Tariq and Leah was the bane of my Empire-watching existence this season. Then, just as I thought they were out of our hair, Leah went and brutally murdered Tariq on Empire Season 3 Episode 17.
I'm not having an episode. I put steel in the skull of your enemy!Leah [to Lucious]
But Lucious' mama didn't stop when she thrust that letter opener into Tariq's throat. Instead, she lured Anika over to the house and coerced her into using said letter opener on her mail, so that her fingerprints would be on the murder weapon.
Now, this letter opener in the Lyon family home likely had a lot of fingerprints on it. Even if Leah wiped it down so it would be bare when Anika touched it, wouldn't the cops have questioned that, at all?
And, since Anika had lived there until very recently, it's not that strange that her fingerprints would be on it. She probably used it to open her mail before she moved out.
It's your future ex-mother-in-law. Some more mail came for you.Leah [to Anika]
The case against Anika is pretty weak. It would be even weaker if Lucious were capable of coming forward to say he witnessed the actual murder. Too bad he's been in a coma for three months and only just woke up, with amnesia.
That's right; you read that correctly. Empire has gone full throttle into a realm that daytime soaps only dare to go. And I grew up on daytime soaps, so I feel more nostalgic for their campy thrills than most. But that, that was too much for me to handle.
I'm not hiding anything I've been dancing around in my skivvies for days.Leah [to Anika]
Just as Cookie and Lucious were prepared to hand the literal keys of the kingdom over to Andre (love that Lucious was ready with an actual key, to boot) and ride off into the sunset to enjoy some long-awaited happiness together, their car blew up.
That, of course, was the culmination of Andre's plot with Shyne. Of course, as soon as Andre got his empire, he wanted to call off the plan. But Shyne doesn't play that way. He doesn't play at all.
There's a code. And the code says you can't take it back when the bullet leaves the gun.Shyne [to Andre]
So Lucious ended up in a coma, and when he finally woke up at the prompting of his nurse, played by Demi Moore (I was disappointed that she wasn't playing the mother of her real-life daughter Rumer Willis' character, Tory Ash), he couldn't recognize anyone in his family.
Empire Season 1 focused on Lucious supposedly succumbing to ALS, and it was by far the show's best. Do the writers think they can replicate that success by giving him another medical battle to overcome?
I don't know. I'm pretty worried about next season, both because it seems to have fallen too far down several plot black holes and because it has been moved to an all-new time slot of 8:00 pm EST.
Empire doesn't feel appropriate enough to air that early; will the show tone itself down as a result? I like my Empire sexy and somewhat violent, so I hope not. But, maybe that's what the show needs.
Maybe Empire needs to be forced to rein itself in before it jumps right off the cliff into the television void known as cancelation. Because sadly, it appears to have already jumped the shark.
Wow. I'm not gonna lie. That kind of stirred up my feelings.Lucious [to Cookie]
What did you think of the season finale? How long do you think the show's writers will stretch out this amnesia plotline? Will Jamal fall for the Dubois family's seduction plot? Does Cookie know Andre was partially responsible for the bomb that put Lucious in the coma?
And, seeing that three months have gone by: has Anika been in jail for Tariq's murder this entire time? Or did the Dubois family pull some strings on her behalf? I assumed Lucious would bail her out, but if he can't remember who she is, let alone who murdered Tariq...
Remember, you can watch Empire online via TV Fanatic.
Lee Jutton was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She went into retirement in July of 2017. Follow her on Twitter.