6 Things to Watch for on “Empire” Season 2

Empire Season 2 cast Christopher Fragapane/FOX; Cr: Chuck Hodes/FOX

Season 2 of Empire is heading back to the our screens. With full force. The saga of the Lyon family and the music empire that drives the lives of patriarch Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), his ex-wife, Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and their assorted offspring became a big hit for FOX last season. And hopes are high that Empire Season 2 — which returns to FOX Wednesdays, beginning Sept. 23 — will be even bigger.  There are a number of things that will help drive the series this year. Here are six things to look for when the season begins:

1. A New Pepsi Challenge … And The Day Lincoln Was Shot
FOX recently cut a deal to make Pepsi and The Lincoln Motor Company official sponsors of Empire’s second season. The challenge isn’t a new one for Lincoln. The company was the first season’s official automotive sponsor both on and off the air, which accounted for the occasional prominent shot of a Lincoln Navigator on the show. The new deal will make Pepsi the official beverage sponsor on and off the air, with “in-show integrations” as part of the pact, too. In other words, watch for the members of the Lyon family to be sipping on Pepsi products as they ride around in their Lincolns.

2. The (Next) Voice
FOX has spent much of the summer staging a singing competition to find new voices for the show. The search for “FOX’s Next Empire Artist” encompasses a 15-city bus tour, running from July 16 to Sept. 16, which has been letting fans from across the country record their own versions of Empire’s biggest music hits. The winner will get to appear on the show — and showoff his or her voice — during the upcoming season.

Empire Season 2
Christopher Fragapane/FOX; Cr: Chuck Hodes/FOX

3. Orange Is Definitely The New Black
As the first season ended, Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard, pictured) got busted for the murder of Bunkie (Antoine McKay), just as that splashy tribute show was about to get underway. The new season does a fast-forward, with Lucious now behind bars, donning orange prison garb rather than those natty dark suits we saw him in during the first season.

4. Aiming For The Stars
There’s a huge roster of big-name guests on tap for the coming season. Among the stars already slated to be on board for noteworthy appearances: Pitbull, Chris Rock, Kelly Rowland, Marisa Tomei, Chris “Lucacris” Bridges, Adam Rodriguez, Mariah Carey … and (rumor has it) maybe/possibly even Oprah Winfrey.

5. Family Feuds
Executive producer Lee Daniels always insists that “the family” is what the story is all about on Empire. And that, of course, will mean some more heavy feuding in the upcoming season. Among the things that will spark some of the tension: Lucious’ son, Andre (Trai Byers), will try to get his dad bounced from his position as CEO of Empire Entertainment.

Christopher Fragapane/FOX; Cr: Chuck Hodes/FOX

6. More Cookie Crumbs
No doubt about it, there will be plenty more sassy stuff coming out of the mouth of Cookie Lyon. “We can’t say certain words,” Henson admitted in early August to reporters at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Los Angeles. “But, you know, Cookie can certainly say it with a look — and you know what she means.” We sure do. In fact, if you want to remind yourself of some of the best Cookie crumbs from last season, have another look at Channel Guide‘s picks for the 10 Sassiest Lines Delivered by Cookie Lyon on “Empire.”