Will the Fox drama return for a sixth season with or without Smollett?
Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Wednesday's episode of Empire, titled "Never Doubt I Love."
How did Empire handle Jussie Smollett's final appearance this season? On a pretty happy note, it turns out.
Smollett bid adieu (for now) to the Fox drama on Wednesday's episode, titled "Never Doubt I Love," which wrapped up his character, Jamal Lyon's, arc with a wedding-sized bow.
After pushing up his nuptials to fiance Kai (Toby Onwumere) following Andre's (Trai Byers) devastating lymphoma diagnosis, Jamal said "I do" to the journalist in an extravagant church wedding attended by close friends and family, with Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Lucious (Terrence Howard) walking him down the aisle.
For a brief moment, it appeared as though Jamal was having cold feet at the altar, stumbling to get his words across after Kai's emotional vows, which worried everyone in attendance. But his hesitance was merely due to a change of heart Jamal had in regards to the pre-written vows he had written that were more "Britney Spears" than "India.Arie."
"I'm sorry, I can't do this," Jamal said, putting everyone on edge. "Everybody calm down. I can't recite some cookie-cutter vows about love and marriage, because I know in my heart love and marriage is messy, more messy than I wanted to admit before. But that's what makes it real. Kai, I don't want a fairy tale with you, I want something real. Something that endures, like what our parents have... maybe a little less drama than the Lyons."
"Here's what I can promise. I promise that I will be 30 percent messy if you will too," he continued. "I promise that I forgive you as much as I ask for forgiveness, if you will too. And most importantly, Kai, I'm going to hold you everyday and I'm going to be with you and I'm going to love you forever, if you will too."
Congratulations to the newlyweds!
The episode seemed to give Jamal's story a positive note to end on for the season, while pivoting to new drama, with Andre's fate up in the air (again) after his aggressive cancer treatments have weakened him to the point where he may only have weeks to live. The prognosis is so dire, in fact, that he shockingly declared to Lucious at the end of the episode that he wanted to take matters into his own hands with the time he had left.
"I want to die the way I should have lived. On my terms. Mine," Andre said, his decision made.
A source tells ET that the culmination of Jamal's storyline in Wednesday's episode was a creative priority for Smollett. "This was an episode that Jussie really championed with the writers and a storyline he is proud of," the source says.
Smollett was dropped from the final two episodes of season five after he was arrested in February for allegedly filing a false police report in which he claimed he was a victim of a hate crime. All charges against Smollett have since been dropped, though the city of Chicago is seeking reimbursement from the actor to cover over $130,000 in investigatory fees, which Smollett has refused to cover.
While it is unclear whether Smollett will retain his job on Empire should the Fox drama be renewed for a sixth season, his TV mom, Henson, seemed confident he'll be reinstated.
"I talk to Jussie all the time. He's doing well. We're all doing well. The show is doing well," she said during an April appearance on The View, sharing that right now, Smollett is still part of the Empire family: "Yes. I haven't heard anything else."
On Wednesday, the cast -- including Howard and Henson -- sent a letter to Fox and Disney urging them to reinstate Smollett should the series be renewed for a sixth season.
Empire airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.