The great saga of Jussie Smollett could possibly have a dramatic plot twist right on the Fox network.
The 37-year-old actor made headlines at the top of the year when he claimed he was the victim of a homophobic and racist attack in Chicago. Following some skepticism, things turned ugly when what started out as support for the actor quickly turned into legal troubles for Smollett. Not too long after a Cook County jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report, charges were later dropped and the actor’s record was expunged.
Despite the outcome, the ordeal certainly affected Smollett’s professional career, particularly his role as Jamal Lyon on Empire. Back in April, network and studio executives confirmed Smollett’s contract was extended into the sixth season, but there were no definite plans for him to appear on the show.
Still, showrunner Brett Mahoney has to admit how bizarre it would be to close the curtain on the show without Jamal.
“It would be weird in my mind to end this family show and this family drama of which he was such a significant part of without seeing him,” Mahoney told TVLine ahead of Empire’s fall finale on Tuesday night. “It’s fair to say it’s being discussed, but there’s no plan as of yet to bring him back. There’s been no decision made.”
It seems like show co-creator Lee Daniels made his decision in June when he tweeted emphatically, “Jussie will NOT be returning to Empire.” Of course, it is Daniels’ prerogative to change his mind so we’ll see what happens.
While we all speculate on whether or not Smollett will make an appearance in the show’s final season, I want to focus more on what would actually happen to Jamal’s character arc should the actor return.
Now, Jamal’s exit wasn’t as abrupt as Judy Winslow going to her room and never returning, but there certainly wasn’t much pomp and circumstance.
Vanity Fair recapped the episode where it all went down:
It all took place in one blink-and-you-miss-it conversation—a strategy that’s more common than one might think for writing off major characters. In the scene, Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) tells Jamal’s friend Becky Williams (Gabourey Sidibe) that Jamal “ran off to London.”
“I thought he was running away from Lyon drama,” Becky replies. “I really miss him.”
“Please don’t get me started,” Cookie says. “I miss him so much.” And...that’s it!
See, I’m hoping Jamal stopped in France during his European excursion and returned with the new name, Juicy Smoulé Lyon France. Get it?! Because Lyon is a city in Fra—okay, I’ll go now.
Empire will return with the final 10 episodes of its sixth and final season in spring 2020.