After an exceptional freshman season, Empire‘s second season has been off to somewhat of a bumpy start. Experiencing what creator Lee Daniels calls “growing pains” in the first half of Season 2, the show has seen a decline in its previously unstoppable ratings. But fans can expect to see some changes (hopefully, for the better) when the show returns from its midseason hiatus this month. Here’s what’s coming next on Empire Season 2.
1. It will pull focus away from the guest stars
The first half of Season 2 featured a lot of notable names, including Chris Rock and Alicia Keys. But while it was fun to see a famous face pop up from time to time, the overload of guest stars proved to be too distracting at certain points. This time around, Daniels says he will refocus his attention on the cast that made the show special in the first place.
“Here’s the thing, what I’ve learned on this journey in television, because I had never done television before, is that we’re good enough,” Daniels said at a recent Paleyfest panel of the series regulars. “Look at them. I want to see them every week.”
2. Lucious and Jamal will face major strains in their relationship
The Season 2 fall finale ended with Lucious (Terrence Howard) and Jamal (Jussie Smollett) on shaky ground, following the announcement that the two would be competing against each other in the “Song of the Year” category at the fictional American Sound Awards.
“This clearly is going to put a big strain on that relationship,” Daniels said, per THR. “I think it would have been foolish ever to assume that that relationship would continue unchallenged.”
As Jamal’s success grows, Lucious’s jealousy does too. “Lucious is not ready to be surpassed by any of his children, not the least his gay son. That’s going to create problems,” Daniel stated. “Further to that, Jamal is an artist who will always struggle with telling his truth and living in his truth versus living in a world of fame and living in his celebrity status.”
3. Andre and Rhonda are left to recover after her fall
Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday) had a nasty fall down the stairs in the midseason finale, leaving the lives of both her and her unborn baby in jeopardy. Following the fall, she and Andre (Trai Byers) are left to deal with the potentially tragic consequences. “We hope the baby survives. We hope Rhonda survives. And, depending on the outcome of both those things, how will Rhonda and Andre repair themselves — that’s going to be a big part of the story for the second half of the season,” Daniels told THR.
The couple is also left to figure out whether the fall was truly an accident or a purposeful act. Anika, who is also pregnant with a Lyon baby, is the most obvious suspect in causing Rhonda’s fall, but that doesn’t mean she’s the only possible culprit. “Nobody else knows that Anika is pregnant, and although she clearly has motive and should be a suspect, I wouldn’t assume that she’s the one who did it,” Daniels said.
4. Lucious will seek revenge on Hakeem after losing Empire
Hakeem (Bryshere Y. Gray) took his whole family by surprise when he made an unexpected power play earlier this season and ousted his father, Lucious, as CEO of Empire. That will be a devastating blow to their relationship moving forward.
“It certainly is in for some rocky times. Lucious is certainly pushed to the edge,” he said. “Losing his company is possibly the worst thing that could happen to Lucious Lyon and retribution will be first and foremost for Lucious.”
5. Camilla will stir up plenty more trouble
Naomi Campbell’s Camilla made a memorable return to the show, when it was revealed that she is now married to Mimi (Marisa Tomei). Despite her marriage, she will still find herself pulled toward Hakeem. “Hakeem wasn’t expecting it,” Daniels explained to THR of the character’s return. “It’s a big complication for him and how he reckons with it is going to be a big determiner of his growth, of his manhood.
6. The Lyon family will be forced to fight for Empire
With Lucious out as CEO of Empire, the Lyon family is left to try and protect their territory. “The theme of the second half of the season is really the family coming together to fight for the empire,” Daniels said. “Hakeem, obviously, is the outsider, but still everybody is fighting for the empire against interlopers who have infiltrated the kingdom.”
7. We’ll see a lot more of the relationship between Lucious and Cookie
Daniels also revealed that fans can expect to see a sort of “rekindling” between Lucious and Cookie in the second half of this season. “We’re excited to explore that relationship and these two people who are so intertwined and who will never, ever leave one another as long as they’re in this world; as much as they might go at one another in all kinds of vicious ways. That’s really a big story for us.
Empire‘s Season 2 returns to Fox on March 30 at 9 p.m. Eastern.