Bryshere Y. Gray and Jussie Smollett celebrate a birthday on Empire (Photo: Chuck Hodes/Fox)

Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

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  • My screeners and DVR failed me last week, so my apologies for missing out on the beginning of the Giuliana-Dre alliance. I am caught up to speed, though. Hi, Nia Long!
  • It’s not surprising to see Hakeem worry about his 21st birthday even with everything that’s going on. But for him to not be aware of Anika’s disappearance shows? That’s a new level of self-involvement.
  • D-Major coming out via livestream was… unexpected. But has no one learned from the many fights have erupted every time someone related to Empire goes live online?
  • There’s the contractually obligated reference to Empire Exstream. But at least it tied into the story of Hakeem’s disappointment over the underwhelming response to his big 2-1.
  • Empire is primarily a soap opera, so the moments that everyone gets along will be few and far between. But I find the scenes where the Lyons band together, even if it’s just to trick Hakeem into thinking no one cares about his birthday, as compelling as the backstabbing. This show could use some reminding of the love part in the love-hate relationship.
  • Angelo’s worried about appearances, and about Lucious’ lingering hold over Cookie. Given all the flashbacks these season, he has a right to be worried.
  • “Dr. Freud, we figured this out a long time ago.”
  • Hello, Chekov’s—I mean, Cookie’s—I mean, Lucious’(?) gun.
  • The scene with Anika explaining to her parents how she plans to negotiate for her life and freedom is actually kind of chilling. But it’s also perfectly in keeping with her reliance on rational thinking.
  • Why is “bougie” the default type for an antagonist for Cookie? I’m willing to give Nia Long the benefit of the doubt, but so far, Giuliana isn’t bringing anything we haven’t seen before.
  • Jamal’s vacillation between his two lovers doesn’t seem to be inspired by his being torn between two viable/desirable options, but more like Empire’s writers not knowing what to do next. That is, his uncertainty feels merely incidental.
  • Tiana is the real star of Empire the label. Serayah has so much stage presence.

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