'Empire' Final Season Premiere Explains Jussie Smollett's Absence, and Fans Had Lots to Say

Empire returned for its final season without Jussie Smollett, and fans were not shy about their reaction to his absence. The actor was famously written out of the final episodes of Season 5 after the controversy surrounding him being charged for giving a false report to police after he said he was attacked in Chicago in January. The charges were dropped in March, but the actor is reportedly not set to return for the show's last episodes.

Spoilers ahead for Empire Season 6 Premiere: "What is Love"

The season kicks off some time after Cookie (Taraji P. Henson) and Lucious (Terrence Howard) separated, as he started to run from police after he was officially wanted for questioning by the FBI. Cookie is also revealed to have left the Empire company behind to make it on her own as a talk show host and social media personality.

Talk of Jamal's (Smollett) absence was brief, as the show dealt with other storylines most of the premiere.

The episode first mentions Jamal when Becky (Gabourey Sidibe) arrives wearing silly pajamas to Cookie's house and remembers how she wore the same thing with him when they would do sleepovers growing up.

"No wonder that boy ran off to London," Cookie says.

"I thought he was running away from Lyon drama," Becky says, referring to Lucious's legal troubles, before adding: "I really miss him."

Cookie seems to be avoiding her feelings about her ruptured family and says: "Please don't get me started. I miss him so much."

They then go back to business talking about Becky and Gizelle going to a secret business meeting for their new management agency, Bossy.

Fans took to social media with mixed responses to Smollett's absence. Some wondered if Jamal would ever return to wrap up his storyline.

Others were not as kind, expressing their joy of seeing Jamal still absent after the scandal.


Smollett's contract for the series was extended for Season 6 earlier this year. However, series co-creator Lee Daniels revealed this summer the actor would not be returning for the final season after the scandal. Smollett has not commented publicly about the writers' decision, though some speculate the actor might make an unpublicized appearance at some point during the final season.

Empire airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Fox.