Empire ended on Tuesday night with a series finale in which, as usual, crazy things happened that I’ll never understand. That’s partly because I haven’t watched the show regularly since Season 3 when a character fell off a building to her death. Since then, Jussie Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, was written off the show after tossing himself into a scandal as stunningly inexplicable as the show itself; and it appears that Hakeem, the Lyon family’s chosen son, has gotten married. Everything is the same, and yet nothing is the same, and as one of the greatest soap operas of our generation expires after six seasons, I find myself revisiting a classic. Five years later, what of “Drip Drop”?
When “Drip Drop” entered the lexicon in 2015, it was a new era of television. It was an era of blowjob bibs and Scandal appointment-viewing, a burgeoning time when Twitter offered a landing place for obsessive viewers like myself who wanted to watch TV with other people, except remotely. What was once unprecedented—sitting in front of a TV and sharing thoughts about a show with millions across the country—became a tradition.
Empire, as a concept, was excellent in its first season. And when I say “excellent,” it means something different in Empire-speak. For such a critically lauded show, it was also seen as a joke, a trashy low-stakes drama that gained the highest ratings in all the land. The story began as a saga about a family in the music business, led by a lying-ass father Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a cunning matriarch (Cookie, played by Taraji P. Henson), and their three troubled sons. Early King Lear and Dynasty comparisons gave Empire an air of eliteness, though its brilliance never sustained past Seasons 1 and 2. Its quality was dependent on a tricky execution of camp, which increasingly failed as the show clung on. Still, Empire was astonishingly adept at placing its audience in dizzying throes of confusion and enchantment. There were secret pregnancies, absurd twists of logic, and an enviable sense of obliviousness in its characters, not to mention a catalog of unlistenable songs, none more thrilling than “Drip Drop.”
Upon hearing “Drip Drop” in Season 1, the eldest Lyon son, Andre, responds, “‘Drip Drop’ is good. I guess.” It is good. Or rather, it is a bad song that tried so desperately to be good and, as a result of its effort, became good. If that doesn’t make sense, don’t think about it further.
Fittingly, Empire’s final five episodes were never shot since production was cut short amid a pandemic shutdown. Season 6 teased a flash-forward throughout that foreshadowed Cookie and Lucious’s deaths, but that part of the story was left in limbo and thus will never make sense. Instead—Spoiler—The Wire’s Wood Harris, who plays the father of a singer with whom Lucious is in love, tries to kill Lucious but ends up shooting and killing his daughter. Lucious later kills Damon. What a way to go out.
Producers say a proper finale is still a possibility, but I say it’s okay to end here, prematurely, with Empire being remembered as a tragedy. It would be great if “Drip Drop” got a second life, though. Say, if the kids brought the song to TikTok for a “Drip Drop” challenge. For now, let’s remember “Drip Drop” for what it was, and let’s remember Empire for what it never could be. It was good. I guess.