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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

A return to lightness still has Lucifer questioning facade vs. reality

Tom Ellis (Photo: Fox)
Tom Ellis (Photo: Fox)
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In the wake of last week’s phenomenal “Off The Record,” it appeared that Lucifer would just get back to season three as usual. After all, “Off The Record” was a season two holdover and as standalone as it could possibly be. Except for the fact that the one-off character just so happened to be the ex-husband of series regular Dr. Linda. So the question then became one of how Lucifer—and its return to official season three status—would follow-up that particular episode. Especially when you consider that it was arguably the best episode of the series.

The answer is: just as well as one should expect from Lucifer at this point. “Chloe Does Lucifer” functions as a bookend to “Off The Record,” but it’s important to realize that doesn’t mean it’s only in service to the previous episode. While Patrick Fabian did a tremendous job last week as Reese, it would feel almost disingenuous if this episode was exclusively about the aftermath of his death.

So when it comes to Linda, her plot is one that could easily be all about Reese and her guilt over not listening to him, or—even worse—her guilt over not simply acquiescing and reuniting with him. Instead, this episode takes the aftermath of Reese’s death and mixes it with Linda’s very obvious but so far underserved PTSD (from the events of the season finale). In doing so, it returns Amenadiel to the narrative of the season, while also explaining why it was so easy for him to pose as a fellow therapist in the first season: He’s a really good listen. And while he may not be the best at human-ing, his divinity as an angel (or, a former angel) has allowed him to have some insights Linda couldn’t exactly get elsewhere.

The Linda/Amenadiel plot is another terrific and necessary showcase for both Rachael Harris and D.B. Woodside outside of just the comedy aspects of Lucifer. In fact, it’s a plot that even starts off suggesting to the audience it will take on comedic value of some sort—with Linda’s obsessive compulsive desire to make the perfect memorial for Reese, a man we never even knew existed before and then learned wasn’t exactly what you’d call “great”—only to become the character piece that has been missing from Linda this season. She helped Amenadiel realize his path earlier this season, and this week, it’s his turn to return the favor. Only in this case, the beach is the setting instead of a literal dumpster fire.

It makes sense that Linda would only be thinking about herself in the aftermath of Reese’s death, just like it makes sense she would be disappointed in herself for such a thing. In the case of the former, Reese is someone who was out of her life for two years before the series started, finally popped up a couple times in the span of a week to reveal he was basically stalking her patient, then popped up a year later (in the span of another week) to hurt said patient, Linda, and some random woman who ended up dead.

Then he ended up dead. That’s a lot to process, and while it’s one thing for Linda to accept this means Reese is in Hell—because there’s no way Lucifer sugarcoated that one, as much as he cares—it’s another to accept that she might suffer the same fate. We know Linda’s not perfect, but here, she admits that she thinks that means she knows exactly where she’s going in the afterlife. So of course she lashes out, because being “clueless” about everything was so much easier. We even see that in a simpler form in “Vegas With Some Radish,” where Linda has to hide the Hamlet manuscript from Chloe, because of course she has to hide yet another thing. Nothing can ever be easy with the divine ones in your life, especially with the knowledge that they’re in your life. Linda needs Amenadiel, someone who won’t freak her out as he tries to make her feel better, to make her realize that she won’t be going to Hell too. Or at least, that she has no concrete evidence that she will. Because as great as it is that Lucifer ends his therapy session by asking Linda how she’s holding up in all this and then sharing a drink with her, I have no doubt in my mind that if he were to give her the pep talk, it might only terrify her more.


Rachael Harris got a much appreciated showcase in “Off The Record,” but as “Chloe Does Lucifer” works as a true follow-up from her own perspective, that acting muscle continues to be stretched. It should be said that while Linda/Rachael Harris has always been a highlight of the show, she hasn’t always had a chance to show her versatility. That’s good simply for the fact that Lucifer doesn’t just rely on Rachael to do all the heavy lifting work on this show. But it should never be discounted just how talented Harris is, and her portrayal of Linda’s overwhelming pain and anxiety over “knowing” where she’s going is a heartbreaking moment in an episode that’s otherwise dedicated to using its humor to bounce back from (and perhaps even prepare for) the darker sides of the season so far.

Speaking of the darkness, the Ella/Charlotte plot in this episode is fascinating for that very reason. While it is so obviously a comedic plot, the score (always tense, until near the end of the plot—even during the ridiculous elevator scene) and direction (always from Ella’s perspective) plays it like a thriller from Ella’s POV. That’s both an interesting and smart choice, considering how Ella speaks of the darkness she sees in Charlotte. Like the A-plot (which I promise I will get into), this plot is somewhat frustrating; the audience knows how much Charlotte wants and even needs redemption after her unexpected stint in Hell. But all Ella knows is this cold-blooded woman who broke her friend’s heart, has a weird relationship with Lucifer, is a shark lawyer to the stars of crime, and is genuinely imposing in a way no one else in her life is. This episode works to make you want Ella to help Charlotte (and get excited when she finally agrees), but it’s understandable why Ella isn’t jumping at the chance. And also why Dan is awkwardly avoiding Charlotte, since their last interaction involved her saying yes to a future meet-up… then immediately leaving with Lucifer, making Dan question everything about all things Charlotte Richards, yet again.


Now on to the A-plot.

Tom Ellis truly is a treasure, as he makes Lucifer’s immaturity at times forgivable, which is a trait that’s quite necessary with this week’s plot. Because boy is he immature here. It’s not even so much that he finds the beautiful, “exciting” people to be without flaws as it is how he condemns the “boring” murder victim Kim for not being in that exclusive club. Of course, Lucifer is projecting and taking his own inner frustrations out on the deceased, but at a certain point (say, around the time Benji tells Lucifer and Chloe how much he actually liked Kim), Lucifer’s… Lucifer-ness becomes the type of thing where you hope he just takes step back. And he does, right to douche central in the form of Top Meet CEO and murderer Mack Slater (Michael Rady, surprisingly playing a character who’s not supposed to be the boring choice). That Lucifer never plays “Return Of The Mack” shows a lot of restraint on the writers’ parts. Restraint that DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow definitely did not have earlier this season. What perhaps doesn’t work (as well) about this episode though is how adamant Lucifer is about the “interesting” people he meets—he considers Mack a “kindred spirit” even—in this episode, despite how obviously fake they are.


Again, this is where Lucifer not being an actual human comes in, as he misses obvious nuances that aren’t even really nuances at this point. In Los Angeles, of all places. One would assume that, upon making the glamorous city of Los Angeles part of his world, Lucifer would also accept all of the superficiality that comes with that. And he certainly does when it comes to his sexual partners. But just like he was surprised that all of his past sexual conquests saw him as just that—merely a sexual conquest—Lucifer doesn’t realize how empty all of this is until he’s faced with the reality. He assumes Chloe’s description of him as “shallow” and “frivolous” is just a misunderstanding of the world in which he exists. The thing is, for humans, living like Lucifer is actually a job of work. Acting like him—not working out because of a natural body, the sophisticated bachelor lifestyle, traveling just because—isn’t as effortless for actual people as it is for Lucifer.

Correction: as it was for Lucifer. That’s the whole reason it becomes an existential crisis for Lucifer, after all. The things he once found effortless now require quite a bit of effort. Whether it’s his granting of favors or being The Most Interesting Man In The World, Lucifer’s once natural demeanor is actually now somewhat of a facade he puts on to maintain that he hasn’t become “boring” or “normal.” (Though, to be honest, it would take a lot more for Lucifer to truly become either of those things. And at that point, is this really even Lucifer anymore?) The opening teaser is proof of exactly that, as what sounds like sexy times for Lucifer (and Chloe, so what sounds like a dream sequence) actually ends up being trash talk during family game night between Lucifer, Chloe, and Trixie. With face paint, courtesy of the little one.


“Luci, I’m liking the new you. Boring suits you, brother,” muses Amenadiel, despite the fact that Lucifer makes clear he’s still not on speaking terms with him. But in that moment, Amenadiel brings on the latest obsessive Lucifer topic. (Please note Lucifer’s offended face over the comment.) Dan following up with a, “You have become a bit more normal” definitely adds to Lucifer’s troubles. Only these comments lead Lucifer to go almost above and beyond the call of most of his obsessions. Especially as, three seasons in, while there is obviously still a lot for Lucifer to learn and process—because, keep in mind, this is all the result of an eternity of father and family issues—sometimes it can really get annoying to watch Lucifer struggle with realizing something everyone around him understands.

The fact that this particular case focuses on a lot of Los Angeles (and dating app) based shallowness makes it even more frustrating that Lucifer is so obtuse here. Considering how much time Lucifer spends with superficial people—and please know this isn’t a judgment on that—you’d think he’d have an understanding and/or realization about “fake” people. But it sort of speaks to Lucifer’s inherent belief in people. The same Lucifer who could tell when Candy Fletcher was full of crap could also tell that that crap came from a real place re: her father’s club. He constantly makes clear that he’s not the villain that everyone wants to paint him as, and he tries to give the benefit of the doubt to the people he chooses to surround himself with full-time. In the case of perhaps everyone but Maze, Charlotte, and Linda, he pretends he only surrounds himself with them out of pity (though the Charlotte thing is now also guilt), but an episode like this proves that can’t be any further from the truth, try as he might.


By the way, this episode is also the second time this season that Lucifer’s advice for someone to be more like him or pretend to be like him has not worked even a little for that person. Don’t mess with the original.

Procedural-wise, “Chloe Does Lucifer” continues the trend of Lucifer getting better about its cases-of-the-week, but this one is still in basic territory. Not just because it has the mixer fill-in for the typical speed dating episode but also because of the combination of the victim’s computer engineer status (and since she was arguing with the CEO of an app, you can guess where that goes) and the way Mack talks about her (the misogynistic buzzwords about her being “nuts” and “psycho” scream “culprit”). That right there tells you the full story before the episode even fully gets into the investigation. It’s in these times that Lucifer’s procedural elements don’t quite need to be brilliant to work: Because in examining the shallow nature of how non-boring things can be, we’re treated to a quite shallow story. Of course Mack stole the app from programmer Kim. Of course he eventually killed her as a result of that. But the rest of the episode—as well as Mikaela Hoover’s role as Esther the selfie-obsessed roomie—is strong enough that it works. Plus, the case is basic enough without being either lacking or boring, It’s very much in service of Lucifer’s current identity crisis that it neither takes over nor gets lost in that, which is the least one can ask of a Lucifer case-of-the-week.


This episode also continues the trend of Chloe being the dirt worst at undercover work. As well as Lucifer being the dirt worst at not blowing their cover. Dan is great in the van, as usual, though.

This season keeps coming back to the concept of being a fraud versus the idea of being the “real” you, and even though this episode begins with Lucifer having an aggressively mundane night in—and continues itself with Lucifer making a never-ending Monopoly analogy that only Chloe even vaguely understands—he tries his hardest to prove that’s not the real him. It’s not to say that the Lucifer he believes himself to be is a fraud exactly, but he still has quite a way to go to realize he can be all these things. He can have a quiet night in and still be down for a one-night stand every once in awhile. The final Lucifer scene of this episode kind of suggests that, as he’s on his piano, stolen Monopoly shoe in view, with a sexy woman in a top hat. But at the same time time, Lucifer doesn’t look exactly content or even happy when he’s on the piano. He’s got his “boring” shoe, which he has learned can actually be worthwhile—though he’s still not learned it’s wrong to steal from a child’s Monopoly game—but he’s also got his obligations to his “interesting” top hat lady. For Lucifer, it’s supposed to be a triumph, proof that he can have it all. But he just looks sad. He looks empty. Momentary bliss aside, what else is there?


So even a fun plot like this continues this season’s depressing streak. Bring on the Sinnerman?

Stray observations

  • Watching the previouslies, it really is fascinating to see them parse all these season two and season three episodes together to actually make a cohesive story.
  • It shows a great maturity on Dan’s end that he has no jealous or machismo-fueled reaction to the fact that Lucifer was playing Monopoly with Chloe and Trixie. After all, Monopoly is a very intimate game, one you don’t just play with anyone... because you don’t want just anyone to see how aggressively competitive you can become with that demonic game. At the same time, it might just be another example of Dan barely being a factor in Trixie’s life all of a sudden. Hopefully we get an episode with Daddy Daniel soon.
  • Esther: “You guys mind if I post that I’m totes helping a police investigation?” Esther the roommate will always be Jackie, Dave’s teenage rebound girlfriend from the pilot of Happy Endings, to me.
  • So, Linda believed in reincarnation and hoped to come back as a chameleon. I believe we’ve stumbled upon the dictionary definition of a “Karma Chameleon,” y’all.
  • It’s honestly kind of appalling just how bad Chloe is at undercover work. I’d say she should know better because she was an actress, but I think we all know Hot Tub High School wasn’t the peak of cinema. Actually, now it kind of makes sense how she’s so bad at undercover work.
  • The height disparity between Tricia Helfer and Aimee Garcia will never not be hilarious.
  • Charlotte: “Good news, Ella: I’ve been admitted to the Forensic Shadow Program.”
    Ella: “What is that?”
    Charlotte: “A mentorship program. Which means, I will be your student. I’m going to stick to you like glue. So I can learn how to be good. At forensics. Stuff comes up constantly in court.” Ella is so opposed to this entire situation with Charlotte that Charlotte might as well just watch The Good Place on Hulu. It would be easier and more enjoyable for her.
  • There’s something beautiful about Lucifer saying he needs a drink, Trixie instantly offering him a juice box, and him reacting with disgust once he realizes it really is just a juice box.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.