‘Empire’ to End Early Due to Coronavirus Shutdown, Fox Sets Episode 18 as Series Finale (Video)

Hip-hop drama was originally set for 20-episode final season

“Empire” is now ending two episodes early. Fox has set Episode 18 as the hip-hop soap opera’s series finale. Since the final three episodes will run concurrently, doing some easy math on dates, the new series finale is set for April 21.

Originally, “Empire” was set to end with a 20-episode sixth season. Due to coronavirus shutdown, Episode 19 had to stop after partial production had been completed and Episode 20 just isn’t happening at all.

Episode 18 will be recut with some Episode 19 footage in an effort to make what was to be the third-to-last episode feel more like a satisfying finale, a person with knowledge of the plans told TheWrap.

Fox did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on this story.

“Get ready for the shocking final three episodes of ‘Empire,’” a voiceover read in a promo following Episode 615 on Tuesday. That verbiage is what tipped fans — and enterprising reporters — off to the change of plans.

Watch the promo via the video above.

“Empire” Episode 616, titled “We Got Us,” airs next week at 9/8c on Fox. Here is its description, per the network: “After witnessing Andre’s breakdown, Cookie and Lucious have him committed to the same treatment facility as Leah (guest star Leslie Uggams) and the guilt Cookie feels from Andre’s situation causes her to wonder how different life would be if she had not gone to prison. Meanwhile, Becky struggles with balancing her personal and professional relationships and Hakeem and Maya find themselves in a less-than-ideal situation after a drunken night in Vegas in the all-new “We Got Us” milestone 100th episode of ‘Empire’ airing Tuesday, April 7 on Fox.”

“Empire,” once a behemoth in the Nielsen ratings, has since seen its share of setbacks. Most notably, star Jussie Smollett was written out of the drama series late last season after he was arrested and charged with what Chicago authorities still believe was planning, carrying out and reporting a fake hate crime.

Though the charges were dropped about a year ago, in February, Smollett was charged with six more counts. He pled not guilty. Smollett was due in court on March 18, but almost all court appearances in major cities have been put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As for those “Empire” ratings, well, they’re nowhere near where they once were — though that decline began way before the Smollett saga.