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This past week a number of new and returning series premiered on the broadcast networks.  Two of those series EMPIRE and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER returned for their highly anticipated second seasons. Each show stayed true to form and made the most out of their sophomore debuts.

EMPIRE came roaring back, picking up a few months after last year’s finale which left family patriarch Lucious Lyon behind bars after being charged with the murder of a longtime friend. His sons Andre and Hakeem along with their mother Cookie were planning a hostile takeover of the family business after Lucious named middle son Jamal as the heir to the Empire. A lot happened in the premiere at a quick pace, tying up some storylines, presenting the core characters with new challenges and introducing Marissa Tomei in what could turn out to be an Emmy-winning guest starring performance.  I won’t spoil any plot points for those of you who still need to catch up but it was a satisfying hour.  There will be 18 episodes this season up from the 12 produced for season one.  With the increased episode order, I hope the writers will flesh out stories a bit more and not rush to pack so many story points into each episode. That aside, the season two premiere of EMPIRE was compelling, fun and full of energy and emotion. It looks like there’s a lot in store for the Lyon family this season. EMPIRE airs on FOX Mondays at 9pm EST.

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER also used its season two premiere to wrap of its season one cliffhanger, which was a smart storytelling move.  It’s good that the writers chose not to prolong the reveal of Rebecca’s murderer, allowing the show to introduce a more compelling season-long mystery by the end of the hour. It looks as though HTGAWM will keep the fast forward/flashback storytelling structure this season.  It worked well in season one, although it was sometimes difficult to keep track of where they were in story. Because we are now used to this storytelling device it should be easier to follow the story.  Again, I won’t spoil any of the episode’s big reveals, but the show certainly delivered a fast-paced and well performed premiere. If there was any doubt that Viola Davis deserved her recent and historic Best Actress Emmy win, this episode serves as a great example of the strong, nuanced performance Davis delivers as Annalise Keating. HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER airs on ABC Thursdays at 10pm EST.

Check back as the season progresses for more of my thoughts on the second seasons of EMPIRE and HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER.

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