The Last Lyon: Empire Forced to Air an Abrupt Series Finale; Lee Daniels Hopes to Have Proper Ending One Day

Taraji P. Henson (l) and Terrence Howard (r) in Empire (2015-2020)
Taraji P. Henson (l) and Terrence Howard (r) in Empire (2015-2020)
Photo: 20th Century Fox Television

The Lyon King known as Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard) is ending his reign much sooner than expected and even Lee Daniels couldn’t have drummed up this kind of drama.

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As we previously reported, several television shows have halted production due to the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent stay-at-home orders. Fox’s Empire has gone through enough of a rollercoaster ride (for one, the show has not been as popular as when it first started, especially when you add a legal scandal involving one of its stars, Jussie Smollett) and it looks like the drama is going to follow the soap-operatic series all the way until its end.

Though the story arcs were expected to actually be completed by Episode 20, it looks like Episode 18 (airing April 21) will serve as the series finale of Empire. That’s right; this Tuesday, you’ll likely see Cookie Lyon (Taraji P. Henson) don one of her beloved gaudy outfits for the last time.

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“The success of Empire and bringing the Lyon family to broadcast television will always be one of the proudest achievements of my career,” co-creator Daniels said in a statement via a press release obtained by The Root. “This show is the definition of breaking barriers. Thank you to our incredible cast, especially Terrence and Taraji, along with our amazing writers and tireless crew, for all of their hard work and bringing this story to life. I think there’s more to do with these characters, and I’m heartbroken we aren’t getting to shoot the finale we wanted—at least not yet. But you know what they say in television? Stay tuned! To the Empire!”

Deadline reports:

Episode 18, which is scheduled to air on April 21, is the last completed episode before the coronavirus-imposed production shutdown. To help create a more satisfying overall ending, I hear the newly minted finale features footage from Episode 19, which was halfway through filming when the COVID-19 crisis paused all Hollywood production.

The Empire creative team already had to change plans for the series’ final chapter when key original cast member Jussie Smollett abruptly exited last season in the legal aftermath of an allegedly staged hate crime incident. Now the show’s producers had to pivot again and craft a new finale.

“We’re so proud of this show and of everything this incredible cast—led by Taraji and Terrence—and crew accomplished over six seasons,” co-creator Danny Strong added in his statement. “The episode airing on April 21 was never meant to be the series finale, but due to current events it will likely be the last one our fans will see for a while. We had an ending for the series planned that we all loved, and hopefully someday we’ll be able to film it and give the series its proper conclusion. But we hope everyone tunes in to our last original episode, because the work done by our cast and crew deserves to be seen by the widest audience possible. Big thank you to Fox for being our home for these many years. And here’s hoping this isn’t the end!”

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The 18th episode titled, “Home is on the Way,” synopsis is as follows:

In the midst of the Bossyfest launch and the fight to regain control of Empire, Cookie reflects on her life and the woman she has become. Lucious finds it impossible to deny his feelings for Cookie, while continuing to support Yana (guest star Kiandra Richardson) and her rise to stardom. When the Lyons face their biggest threat yet, Lucious prepares for the battle of his life and realizes that in the end, family is what matters the most.

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The series finale of Empire airs Tuesday, April 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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Cookie, we hardly knew ye(sus)