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‘Empire’ Boss on Lucious and Cookie’s Dire Midseason Cliffhanger, His Plans for Series Finale

Showrunner Brett Mahoney tells TheWrap he has a ”good idea“ about how the Lyons go out — but it isn’t set in stone yet

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for Tuesday’s midseason finale of the sixth and final season of “Empire.”)

“Empire” ended the first half of its sixth and final season Tuesday with a physical fight between Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Lucious (Terrence Howard) over his unwillingness to sign their divorce papers because he says he still loves her. The fight only came to an end because “White Tracy” (Amanda Detmer) stormed in and pointed a gun at the Lyons.

While the Fox hip-hop drama’s showrunner, Brett Mahoney, wouldn’t tell TheWrap if White Tracy is going to pull the trigger — and who she might hit if she does — when the show returns in the spring, he did tell us the situation with Cookie and Lucious just before Tracy puts their lives in jeopardy does “set up clearly what we’re talking about for the back half of the season.”

“It’s about the couple, about the Lyon family, and yes they may have love for one another — but is that enough to keep them together?” he told us. “And then also, you have these outside factors that impose upon the family. So can they a) stand together to fight these outside factors, which is key to the Empire and Lyon family’s legacy, always? And then also, can they stand together, do they have enough love that will overcome their internal struggles and battles as well? And I think that story, what we’re going to see as we build towards our series finale is, is there enough love to keep this family together? And will they come together to fight outside obstacles?”

There is definitely enough toxic and passionate love between Cookie and Lucious, which has been a central plot point to the entire series, possibly too much, as it comes to a head in this episode, when he refuses to sign those papers.

“I don’t think he’s being selfish, I think he truly loves her,” Mahoney said. “And I think in the last season and a half, he thinks he’s done everything right in terms of, she said that she wants him to be a better man and to correct his path. And he feels he’s been along the ride for that. And he’s had a couple of slip-ups. But he still feels he’s done right by her and he cannot understand why she can’t see that and why she won’t be with him.”

“And then for her, she recognizes that they love each other and she recognizes that she loves him, she just doesn’t know if it’s healthy and she particularly doesn’t know if it’s healthy for her,” he continued. “She’s on this journey with her therapy where she’s trying to make everything right in her life, and she just doesn’t know if he fits into that. So I think they both have a ‘right’ on their side, which makes it even more difficult for both of them.”

Mahoney previously told TheWrap we’d find out the answer in Episode 11 to the “whodunit” regarding the gunman who shoots Lucious in the flash-forward that we first saw in the season premiere, which is the first episode to air when the show returns next spring. And he is still sticking with that story: “That’s true, you can hold me to it, in the midseason premiere you will see who is holding that gun that shoots Lucious and you will see who is responsible for bombing Cookie’s car.”

In terms of where the show ends, Mahoney says he has a “good idea” of how the Lyons go out — but it isn’t set in stone yet.

“It’s something that we’ve been discussing with the network and the studio and also with [co-creators] Lee Daniels and Danny Strong,” he said. “Everyone is weighing in with how they’d like to see the series end. So we have had some great creative workshops in terms of mapping it out. So yeah, I have a good idea of how it all ends.”

Readers can find what Mahoney told TheWrap regarding Jussie Smollett’s possible return as Jamal for the “Empire” series finale here.

“Empire” will return next spring on Fox.