Lucious Lyon is the king of hip-hop. An immensely talented artist, the CEO of Empire Entertainment and a former street thug, his reign has been unchallenged for years. But all that changes, when he learns he has a disease that is going to render him crippled and incapacitated in a matter of three years. The clock is ticking, and he must groom one of his three sons to take over his crowning achievement, without destroying his already fractured family. Lucious' favorite is his youngest son, Hakeem, a gifted musician and a spoiled playboy who values fame over hard work. The middle son, Jamal, is a sensitive soul and a musical prodigy who, unlike Hakeem, shies away from the spotlight. Jamal also happens to be gay, which infuriates and embarrasses his father. Andre, the eldest son, is CFO of Empire Entertainment. Wharton educated with a brilliant business mind, Andre lacks the charisma that Lucious believes is crucial to running the company. But in his quest for power, Andre is assisted by his manipulative and likeminded wife, Rhonda. As Lucious prompts his sons to vie for the empire, his plans are thrown into chaos when his ex-wife, Cookie, mysteriously emerges seven years early from prison, where she's been for almost two decades. Brash and fearless, she sees herself as the sacrificial lamb who built this empire with Lucious and then took the fall for running the drugs that financed Lucious' early career. For now, Lucious remains firmly in control of Empire Entertainment. He is attended to by his hard-working assistant, Becky, and relies on longtime friend and Chairman of the Board Vernon Turner for advice and support. He relies on a whole lot more from Anika Gibbons, the head of A&R for Empire, and his current girlfriend. As the Lyons slug it out, an emotional chess game begins that will either cause the family's destruction or redemption.