There are many ways to interpret the American Dream. What seems to be common amongst many of them is an “any means necessary” mentality. Fox’s Empire perfectly embodies that idea.

Revenge is the driving-element of Episode 2 "The Outspoken King." Hakeem, the youngest son and heir-apparent to the Empire, and Jamal, Cookie’s pick, are slatted to make simultaneous musical debuts. Cookie and Lucious, both with vested interest in different children, are willing to do anything to ensure their success, including sabotaging performances. Thankfully, the brothers not only maintain their friendship throughout this faux battle, but the episode concludes with them sharing the stage in a song of triumph. Television magic!

Hakeem, while drinking with his friends, is prompted to address Empire’s female artist, Teyana, on camera. He then whips out his man-piece and begins to taunt the camera about how President Obama is a “sellout” the middle of an upscale restaurant. Lucious has to call the President to apologize for his son, on a first name basis. This is on top of the music for Empire Records’ high-grossing artist, Kid 44, being credited for inspiring a shooting rampage. Lucious uses this opportunity to defend himself on grounds of 1st amendment rights and delves into the harsh roots of hip-hop.

There are many powerful women in the Lyon’s Den but that does not seem to stop them from wearing freak ‘em dresses to the staff meeting or trying to fight each other in the elevator. Teyana ends the episode with her and Hakeem even after he publicly humiliates himself in her name. Lucious tells Cookie she “needed to stop acting like a hood rat and be more like a professional.” Yet Cookie’s rebuke is one filled with market expertise and strategy; showing her dynamism.

The CEO commits a murder in Episode 1. Cookie, the matriarch, is fresh out of jail and is currently cooperating with federal authorities. Hakeem is spoiled with little verbal censor. Jamal fails to show up to a performance of a lifetime for fear of being financially cut-off by his father. These characters seem to be suffocating in their own glitzy bubble; money does not exempt them from the ailments shared by many fellow Black Americans.

Fake gold ropes, silly ascots and resentment. American dreamin’.Abrea Armstrong