With last week’s “Mr. And Mrs. Mazikeen Smith,” Lucifer played with the structure of an atypical episode of the show while still managing to keep the general concept of the show’s procedural element alive. And while technically being a season two episode in a season three world. This week’s true season three episode is right back to the typical case-of-the-week structure as well as the Lucifer Morningstar focus. But funnily enough, it’s also back to the former with a much weaker approach, to the point where it’s a detriment to the latter.
It certainly doesn’t help that the transition from “Mr. And Mrs. Mazikeen Smith” to “What Would Lucifer Do?” highlights just how jarring the placement of the season two episode was, specifically when it comes to Lucifer the character. As I pointed out in last week’s review, the Lucifer powers that be did as fine a job as they possibly could in making that placement kind of fit. But moving back to the natural order of things, “What Would Lucifer Do?” brings back the identity crisis and recklessness from Lucifer that were present in the first two episodes of this season. And going from an episode of practically giddy Lucifer to full-fledged downward spiral Lucifer makes for a strange brand of emotional whiplash.
But the whiplash between episodes shouldn’t be held against “What Would Lucifer Do?” as a whole. Instead, the biggest problem with the episode stems more from things solely within the episode itself—specifically a weak case-of-the-week. While it’s of course easy to get a good episode of Lucifer without a good case-of-the-week, when the themes of the episode and Lucifer’s emotional connection are so deeply tied to the case and what it says, that procedural element’s quality truly does matter. And as Lucifer’s downward spiral and identity crisis reach a new low here, the fact that the connecting threads of the episode aren’t all that connected is a knock to the episode and the larger story it’s telling.
As is Lucifer’s way, this case-of-the-week exists to help inform Lucifer’s character as it currently stands and provide more insight into his frame of mind. Here, that comes in the form of Lucifer’s thoughts on changing and specifically his belief that “people can’t be changed.” This is the result of his desire to push against his own changes—his new wings, his lack of devil face, no long being synonymous with favors in Los Angeles, generally caring about people—and the episode focuses on that throughout. Eventually the argument becomes one of what exactly it means to change and if Lucifer has done that or not. Of course Lucifer has changed, and despite his protestations, it’s for the better.
However, the thing about Lucifer’s experiences with the kids and world of Fire Hawk Transformation Center is that the episode ends up siding with him that people don’t change. Sure, the importance is in the final scene, where Amenadiel explains to him how he has actually changed, but that’s not the story or “lesson” from this case-of-the-week. (Lucifer’s “realization” that he’s the same doesn’t even come from that; it simply comes from his reminder of being a punisher.) There’s a bleakness in the entire Fire Hawk concept that the episode doesn’t focus on, but really, that’s because there’s barely any focus on the center. A one scene concierge in last week’s episode left more of an impression as a character than anyone at Fire Hawk, and in an episode all about the possibility of change, character is the most important part. Even Tyson, the first suspect in this case, is proven innocent not because he’s changed—it’s simply because he’s innocent of this particular crime.
By the way, in an episode where Chloe is very determined to show her worth as a detective—that leads to Pierce praising her competence and ability as such—this case doesn’t allow Chloe to actually do that. I’m not talking about how Pierce takes the bullet for her: This case is solved not because of police capability or Lucifer stumbling upon the key but because of the combination of a spoiled rich juvenile delinquent volunteering information without an ounce of pressure (see: the reveal of the “drug empire”) and her adult co-conspirator/the actual murderer going trigger happy before any fingers are truly pointed at him.
“What Would Lucifer Do?” feels more like a set of loosely connected scenes than it does a tightly compacted episode of television. The scenes at Fire Hawk don’t so much tell the story of a crime at a high-end juvenile reform program as they provide a backdrop for Lucifer to do some funny things and Chloe and Pierce’s relationship to evolve. Those are both necessary character moments for the show, but for them to exist over such a weak canvas is a bit of a disservice to the show and its strength when it comes to character development and general humor. Taken simply as separate parts, “What Would Lucifer Do?” is a fun, solid episode. You have Lucifer teaching reformed (well, mostly attempted reformed) juvenile delinquents how to be better criminals; you have Lucifer getting high while riding a horse (not to be confused with a Pegasus); you have Lucifer’s favor and match making. You also have things like Amenadiel walking in Lucifer’s shoes—literally—and Dan bailing him out of jail as a result of said walking. On a more substantial level, you also have Lucifer’s continued commitment to avoid truly handling his current circumstances.
But as a cohesive episode at this level of quality, from top to bottom, “What Would Lucifer Do?” is unfortunately lacking. It’s the definition of uneven and a reminder of how the show’s procedural elements absolutely need to work in concert with its serialized elements to succeed.
Then there’s the final scene, which is the culmination of Lucifer’s behavior as well as Tom Ellis’ work throughout this episode. It’s the moment where Lucifer and Lucifer finally admit to the audience (even if the character refuses to admit to Amenadiel and himself) just how broken he is right now. And while he’s this far down, he’s also shutting out Amenadiel, he’s driving away Chloe, and Maze is presumably off bounty hunting some more in the process, unable to call him out. All he’s stuck with are duds like Lexie (the judge’s soon-to-be ex-wife) and his flask. But even that’s clearly all wearing thin for him, especially as he keeps behaving more and more recklessly on the job. (He scares a kid into thinking he’s going to kill him and almost kills the murderer.) When Amenadiel comments on Lucifer’s existence being a sad one, it’s treated as a joke on Dan’s part; but it is really clear in this episode that in his attempt to prove he hasn’t changed, Lucifer’s only returning to said sad existence.
And while Lucifer is very visibily struggling in this episode—note just how much he’s drinking on the job here—the one character who would be integral to this type plot is suddenly nowhere to be found. That would be Dr. Linda, whose absence is quite notable in an episode where Lucifer very much needs someone to talk to, whether he believes that to be true or not. Amenadiel tries to be that figure in Lucifer’s life at the end of the episode, but that… doesn’t go well. This is a necessary episode for a look into Lucifer’s current state of mind, but so much of the episode isn’t on the same level of quality as the actual character stuff that it informs or plays with.
At least the episode gave us this:
- Lucifer: “So, tell me: What’s your deepest, darkest fantasy?”
Lexie: “To have sex in the ball pit at a Chuck E Cheese.” Lucifer really has the worst taste when it comes to his trysts.
- If Lucifer’s actions in this episode don’t provide proper evidence of a downward spiral, then hopefully the end music cue does the trick. That and “Chocolate” with Amenadiel-as-Lucifer were both just perfect music cues.
- D.B. Woodside shouldn’t be as good as he is at playing such an awkward dweeb, but he really is. And it never gets old. It’s a shame there’s only one scene of Amenandiel-as-Lucifer in this episode though. Maybe he should’ve tried to do an accent. That could’ve helped.
- The Chloe/Pierce plot in this episode is more an inevitability than anything else, as most of the information about his character leading up to this season was focused on his relationship with Chloe. The important parts, however, are him taking a bullet for her and then saying stuff like this: “I can see why Lucifer’s so affected by you. It’s because you’re special, Decker.” Does this mean Pierce is something more than he seems? Does this mean the show is going to tease us into thinking there is? It’s a line that sticks out either way—both because it’s a weird line and it seemingly doesn’t quite fall in line with anything that occurs in this episode itself—but given Chloe’s threshold for ridiculous sentences (thanks to Lucifer and Maze), this is barely a blip on that radar.