Emmy episode analysis: Will Taraji P. Henson make history for iconic ‘Empire’ role?

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One of the year’s biggest success stories is Fox’s “Empire,” and Taraji P. Henson is certainly a major part of that. As Cookie Lyons, the embittered ex-con and ex-wife of a powerful music producer (Terrence Howard), Henson creates a ferocious TV diva worthy of comparison to Joan Collins in “Dynasty.” Oscar nominee Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” 2008) has been rewarded for her efforts with an Emmy nomination for Best Drama Actress. It’s her second notice overall from the TV Academy, having previously competed in the Miniseries/Movie category for her role in “Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story” (2011).

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Diagnosed with ALS, music producer Luscious Lyons must decide which of his three sons will take over his company, Empire Entertainment, once he’s gone. His plans are interrupted by the sudden arrival of his ex-wife Cookie, who’s just been released from prison after serving 17 years on drug charges. Cookie started the company with money earned from dealing, and threatens to make this information known before the company goes public unless she gets what’s hers. Thus begins a tug-of-war between these two mighty figures. Can Henson win her first Emmy for this iconic role? Let’s analyze the pros and cons:

Henson is like a force of nature in this episode: fresh out of prison and ready for a fight, she tears through the scenery as if it were her dinner.

The pilot, which delves into Cookie’s backstory, bestows the actress with several grand dramatic moments as well as intimate ones that serve to humanize the character. It also provides Henson with the first of many signature catchphrases: “Boo Boo Kitty.”

Working in the actress’ favor is the show’s immense popularity. With its second season premiere due out on Fox September 23, momentum has not fallen. Certainly, if Emmy voters want to be relevant, a win for Henson could be the way to go.

Shockingly, an African-American actress has never won the Best Drama Actress category. Either Henson or Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”) could make Emmys history this year.

Despite its popularity, “Empire” didn’t do as well as many expected at the Emmys, amassing a total of three bids (the other two for Best Costume Design). Is this Fox soap simply too over-the-top to win a major Emmy Award?

The over-the-top nature of Henson’s performance may have helped gain her the nomination, but let’s not forget: Collins never won for playing Alexis Carrington.

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