Forget all the hype, rumors and everything else you’ve heard about Season 2 of the biggest show on the Big 4 – here’s the real Empire deal. Debuting on September 23 at 9PM, the series led by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson returns for an 18-episode season with equal parts glamour and grit and full-on force.

As my video review above says, Empire is back badder and ballsier in all the best ways – and if you were among the millions who watched the Fox blockbuster co-created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong last season, you know that is no small achievement on the sophomore track.

No spoilers here, but coming off the massive ratings of its March 18 S1 finale, this round of Empire is a more fully formed world. Which translates into the familiarity of the hip-hop drama allowing the imprisoned Lucious Lyon, the corporate-raiding Cookie and the strong supporting cast bench to become more complex characters – especially as we learn more about who they were before they became who we know. With the pillars in place that made the show a success the first time round, this new season chews into topics including the prison industrial complex, poverty and the politics of the justice system, among others – as Daniels said it would.

Packed but not overwhelmed by guest stars like a hardcore Chris Rock and an investing Marisa Tomei, Empire also has bitten into the topical with new teeth. When Cookie hears former President Clinton is at her Free Lucious concert and quips “he’s needs to be if he wants his wife to get elected,” Empire reveals how effortlessly on-point its writing can be. And, let’s be honest, it puts Hilary Clinton on notice that Daniels, Strong and showrunner Ilene Chaiken have the Democrat and other White House wannabes in their spotlight sights.

So take a look at my review of the new season of Empire and tell us what you think. Will you be watching the one-hour premiere on the 23rd?

Editors Note: This review originally ran September 18.