Lucious Lyon, the head of a music empire whose reign has been unchallenged for years. But all that changes when he learns he has a disease and must choose one of his three sons to take over: Andre, Jamal or Hakeem. Complicating matters is their mother and Lucious' ex-wife, Cookie, who emerges from prison to claim her share.
Lucious must defend Empire's IPO launch after controversies arise around one of his artists being involved in a shooting, and Cookie proves to be invaluable by helping Lucious turn a crisis into a triumph. Competition between Lucious and Cookie heats up when Cookie hears of Lucious's plan to stage a huge performance for Hakeem - but not Jamal. Meanwhile, the police begin to investigate Bunkie's hug.
The Lyons head to Philadelphia and get a taste of what their life could have been if Lucious hadn't made it big. Lucious promotes Hakeem's new relationship with hip-hop star Tianna, but tensions rise when another woman tries to catch Hakeem's eye.
Lucious attempts to steal a super-hot, chart-topping artist from his rival at Safe House Records. Meanwhile, Jamal struggles to compose original music and Cookie tries to forge a relationship with her estranged son, Hakeem.
Cookie receives an anonymous gift from an admirer that she believes might be a veiled threat from a person from her prison past. Meanwhile, Lucious takes charge of Hakeem's first video shoot.
Vernon is caught in the middle of a very sticky situation. Meanwhile, Jamal is rising to stardom, but his newfound drive and ambition might stir up trouble in his relationships. To make matters worse, a mystery woman from the family's past shows up with a huge surprise.
Tension mounts between Hakeem and Jamal, as Lucious attempts to brand Empire Entertainment as a tight-knit, "family-run" company. Meanwhile, Cookie and Anika don't hold anything back when it comes to taking over the company.
It's time for the Lyon family to come together and record a legacy album with Lucious, Hakeem and Jamal. Cookie and Camilla finally come face-to-face, Andre struggles with some inner demons and Jamal steps into the spotlight with news that surprises everyone.
It's an all-out war when Cookie uncovers Anika's big backstabbing secret, and Lucious must come face-to-face with his longtime rival, Billy Beretti. As the Lyon family rallies to save Empire Entertainment, all three sons take drastic measures: Jamal gets close with famous artist Delphine, Hakeem works hand-in-hand with Cookie and Andre is pushed way beyond his limits.
Andre forms a new musical relationship with Michelle, and a woman from Lucious' past, Angie, comes into the picture. Meanwhile, Lucious invites the whole family over to his home. However, everyone arrives with their own agendas. Hakeem, under the influence of Camilla, sets out to show his father that he's a true artist and a good businessman. Then, Cookie prepares to state her own agenda for Empire and for her family, when Olivia arrives.
Jamal and Lucious are on their way to forming a music-centered relationship, but once again, Lucious has a secret that's about to change everything.
Hakeem decides to flirt with the enemy, while trying to figure out what the best move is for his career. Meanwhile, Cookie is cooking up a plan of her own.