'Empire' Final Season Cut Short by Coronavirus Pandemic

Empire's final season will be ending sooner than anticipated due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Fox series revealed at the end of Tuesday's "Love Me Still" episode. Following the drama-filled 17th episode, a voiceover revealed that episode 18 of Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard-led drama will serve as the new series finale on April 21.

"Get ready for the shocking final three episodes of Empire,” the voiceover said over a promo for the next episode of the show, titled “We Got Us," as per CinemaBlend.

Episode 18 reportedly was the last completed episode before the coronavirus pandemic shut down production across Hollywood, and will feature footage from episode 19, which was midway through filming before production shuttered. Episode 20, which was originally set to be the finale, will not air.

This is the second time Empire has had to make a sudden pivot, with original cast member Jussie Smollett abruptly being cut from the previous season in the aftermath of his arrest for an allegedly staged hate crime.

Showrunner Brett Mahoney told TVLine in December that discussions were underway for the actor to reprise his role as Jamal before the show's end, saying ahead of the fall finale, "It would be weird in my mind to end this family show and this family drama of which he was such a significant part of without seeing him. It's fair to say it's being discussed, but there's no plan as of yet to bring him back. There's been no decision made."

That interview was given before Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on six new charges in relation to the attack in February, in which he was indicted for allegedly making four separate false reports to Chicago Police Department officers "related to his false claims that he was the victim of a hate crime, knowing that he was not the victim of a crime."

Smollett's attorney, Tina Glandian, cast doubt on the "integrity of the investigation" in a statement to Entertainment Tonight soon after the indictment was returned.

"This indictment raises serious questions about the integrity of the investigation that led to the renewed charges against Mr. Smollett, not the least of which is the use of the same CPD detectives who were part of the original investigation into the attack on Mr. Smollett to conduct the current investigation, despite Mr. Smollett's pending civil claims against the City of Chicago and CPD officers for malicious prosecution," the statement read. "One of the two witnesses who testified before the grand jury is the very same detective Mr. Smollett is currently suing for his role in the initial prosecution of him."

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"After more than five months of investigation, the Office of the Special Prosecutor has not found any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever related to the dismissal of the charges against Mr. Smollett," she continued. "Rather, the charges were appropriately dismissed the first time because they were not supported by the evidence. The attempt to re-prosecute Mr. Smollett one year later on the eve of the Cook County State's Attorney election is clearly all about politics not justice."

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