Delightfully overstuffed with plot, characters, and full-out musical numbers, this Lee Daniels drama has everything it takes to please Empire fans. In one episode alone, our main characters move to a new town, find jobs and a place to live, meet a Svengali, win over a party full of Atlanta sports cognestenti, and develop an addiction -- in between two foiled rapes and a murder. It's a lot to take in, and it's pretty improbable. "The next time you see this face," Star announces to a bus ticket clerk, "It's gonna be on the cover of Vanity Fair." And maybe in the bananas world of Star, where a music exec is eager to give his business card to a woman who sings in his ear during a lap dance, that may actually turn out to be the truth.
Star's B-stories are equally bonkers and rich with possibility. Queen Latifah's Carlotta is masquerading as a humble church singer/beauty shop owner, but has some kind of double-crossing music-biz past with Jahil, not to mention her own plans for Star's group. Alexandra pretends to be just another songwriter, but her dad (a guest-starring Lenny Kravitz) is some type of musical bigwig. Carlotta's daughter (born a son) Cotton (Amiyah Scott) spends days working in his mom's salon, but nights accepting cash for her favors. And Star and Simone did something very bad and are trying to leave their past mistakes and lives behind, an ambition surely incompatible with pop stardom. It's all faintly ridiculous, but it's a lot of fun for adults and mature teens.