It speaks to Lucifer’s entire existence as a procedural (and television series, in general) that, upon seeing the episode cast list and noticing Patrick Fabian’s name, I said to myself, “Oh, he did it.” For that is to be expected of Patrick Fabian, whether “it” is dating his freshman college student or making crash test dummies even scarier. Sure, series like Veronica Mars have used the existence of Patrick Fabian as a way to “subvert” the “assumption” that he did “it.” But in our heart of hearts, we all know that if he (even if you just know him as “That Guy”) pops up on a series, he did something. Now, upon reading that Patrick Fabian was playing Dr. Linda’s ex-husband—and while the episode itself does a good job to save that reveal, episode synopses’ unfortunately don’t treat these types of narrative choices as well—and that character actor John Billingsley was also in the episode, the obvious “Oh, he did it.” came right back around. It’s television science at its finest.
Of course, “Off The Record” is not an episode where “Oh, he did it.” is integral to the plot at all. The audience isn’t trying to solve the case independent of who’s cast in what role. In fact, this episode fast-forwards right through most of the actual case-of-the-week stuff in order to tell another type of story. A story of missed opportunities and self-sabotage. A story of what it takes to end up in hell. As I mentioned in my review of “Welcome Back, Charlotte Richards,” it’s not just about being as unrepentantly evil and irredeemable like season one’s Malcolm was. Instead, the concept of guilt appears to be the driving fuel on the highway to hell. Here, with Patrick Fabian’s Reese Getty, it doesn’t matter how much he tries to blame everyone else for his problems: That guilt is very much there.
Despite this episode being 100 percent from the point of view of a guest character, “Off The Record” is a fascinating and functional entry point into the series at large. It could possibly even be because of the point of view, as Reese—at best—is just an outsider trying to make sense of this world where the Devil is a real dude who solves crimes. This episode even features the show’s greatest hits: Lucifer’s Devil face, him finding out people’s desires, his bisexuality, Maze protecting him, Chloe’s and Dan’s personal opinions on him, and everyone just accepting that Lucifer is “the Devil” because it’s Los Angeles. Plus, it addresses something about the series that outsiders still don’t quite get. Specifically, why is the Devil solving crimes? Reese asks Chloe twice, in one form or another, “What’s Lucifer get out of it?” What does Lucifer get out of working with Chloe? Out of solving murders for the LAPD? Just two weeks into the partnership, Chloe simply tells Reese, “You’ll have to ask him.” But a year into the partnership, there’s a lot more for Chloe to say about it. A lot more that she understands about Lucifer, even though she still pretends she doesn’t quite get him.
I think a long time ago, somebody wronged Lucifer. I think he avoided dealing with it, and he hides behind the partying and the women and the drinking and who knows what else. And with the LAPD, working on each case, it gives him an opportunity to write those wrongs. To fight back.
Chloe’s answer allows for the narrative excuse of her not obsessing over who or what Lucifer really is, because she sees this entire situation as more good for him than anything else. And when you realize that answer really does explain who Lucifer is and why he’s doing this—that this is the core driving force of the character, even when it comes to things like the way he interacts with Chloe one-on-one—it’s a lot easier to accept that the Devil is working as a consultant for the LAPD. Because that “somebody” who wronged Lucifer (in Lucifer’s mind, at least) is God. God made him a monster; he made him the scapegoat for humans who want to blame him for every bad thing they do. Which brings us back to Reese.
Reese Getty is a sad, sad character, and the best thing about it is that this sadness allows Patrick Fabian to play the character with several different motivations and thoughts and rationales. “Scattered” doesn’t even begin to describe this character. In a way, Reese comes across as a man who very much feels like he’s being gaslighted by everyone around him… because of the Devil. Everyone at the LAPD (but Dan) loves Lucifer, but then even Dan comes around when Lucifer proves himself to be competent. Reese’s ex-wife defends Lucifer, even though she knows he’s literally Satan. Even the serial killer he recruits, Billingsley’s Alvin, is won over by Lucifer’s charms. To Reese, in all these scenarios, it obviously must be the Devil doing something, just like it must be the Devil making him do everything he does. In Reese’s mind, he’s the good guy. After all, he does genuinely feel remorse for the woman who ends up dying at Lux. The problem is, however, in a moment (the dead girl) in which a rational person would finally look within themselves and stop what they’re doing, Reese simply can’t believe anything other than “the Devil made me do it” led to this. But he’s the good guy. Sure, he doesn’t stick around to listen to Linda’s explanation about who Lucifer really. But in Reese’s mind, that’s simply because she’s just another person blinded by Lucifer, and he’s the only one who can see it.
The audience knows Reese is wrong, because the audience knows Lucifer and Lucifer. But in any other scenario, there’s still the chance that Reese will make things right. Not because he wants to impress Linda but because he’s actually learned from this and understands. Unfortunately for Reese, that’s not what happens. Because this is a tragic story. And like most tragedies, it’s one of the character’s own making.
That’s because Reese Getty is a selfish, controlling man and a hazard to both himself and Linda. That Reese dies at the end of the episode (a “hero”) is for the best, because the only other way this could’ve gone involves Linda getting seriously hurt or worse. It’s about choices, and from what we see here, Reese constantly makes the wrong ones. When he gets far enough to actually approach a serial killer, the fact that Alvin immediately folds and presents himself to be arrested officially makes him more well-adjusted and willing to take responsibility—upon presumed capture—than Reese. (Alvin also admits to being sick and that he wasn’t on his meds when he was killing. He still deserves whatever punishment he gets, but it’s simply worth noting that a serial killer is far more self-aware than Reese.)
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and Reese fully believes that is he is fueled by nothing but good intentions. Of course, the episode confirms that the fuel is really his refusal to move on from Linda—a fact that leads to one of the more disturbing scenes of the episode, as Reese simply cannot grasp that finally opening up to Linda and accepting blame doesn’t mean they’re back together. When Lucifer asks a person what they desire, he asks that question with the intention of uncovering some deeper truth about that person. It’s not always that deep—see: “Vegas With Some Radish”—but it’s something to help Lucifer crack the mystery that is that person and possibly even help them. While Lucifer finds Reese strong-willed when it comes to divulging his answer, the answer itself is not surprising or deeper than anything the audience has already seen in the episode. “I just want Linda to love me,” he says. Reese does everything he possibly (thinks he) can to make Linda love him again, but none of it works. All he does in this episode, he does as though it’s the key to a love spell. So what can Lucifer do to help Reese, when literally all he cares about is Linda loving him again? What can he do to stop the tunnel vision? Reese literally won’t stop until he gets the one thing he desires.
There’s unfortunately no solution on Lucifer’s end, even though he truly tries to help Reese throughout this episode. Lucifer doesn’t even realize he’s the target of Reese’s ire for the majority of the episode—even when he realizes Reese plans to do a hit piece—but he supports the man from the moment he meets him. A lot of that support comes with some judgment, but considering the way Reese’s story goes, he certainly needs some judgment. The problem is that Reese takes nothing Lucifer says or does to heart. You can question if Reese would have even gone down this dark path if not for Lucifer’s adamance that he punish the man sleeping with his wife—and to be fair, Reese looks like he’s going to back off until Lucifer goes on about how he should “destroy him”—but given what we learn about him in this episode, he would’ve still reached a tragic end. He is given plenty of opportunities to stop what he is doing, and he never does. He never would. He never did.
He has a chance when he first meets Lucifer; he has a chance when his editor asks him if his piece is based on “personal reasons”; he has a chance when Linda first tells him to move on; he has a chance when he sees Lucifer only being guilty of very specific kinks; he has a chance when he realizes Lucifer is actually a good detective; he has a chance when he learns Linda knows all about Lucifer and can explain this whole thing; he has a chance when a woman dies as collateral damage; he has a chance when Linda tells him off again. Again, even the episode’s serial killer realizes the error of his ways. But Reese throws away his shot every single time. Even worse, as we learn in this episode, literally all of those openings he has are technically also ways out of hell. All he has to do is legitimately take one of them. Not just because he thinks that will help him get Linda back but because it will let him truly move on.
Then Lucifer fills Reese in on a little secret about hell: “You humans… You send yourselves, driven down by your own guilt. Forcing yourselves to relive your sins over and over. And the best part: The doors aren’t locked. You can leave any time… I am responsible for a lot of things, Reese, but not your soul. Not your actions.” With this episode, the audience sees that firsthand. The choice Reese makes with his “second chance” over and over again is to continue to do everything he can to blame Lucifer for his own sins. To never choose to truly take responsibility. To never say sorry, because all he can think is that his “death” is totally going to make Linda love him.
To say “Off The Record” is a bleak episode of Lucifer is to ignore what Lucifer is really all about it. It’s absolutely a show that’s about redemption and second chances, but that redemption is something you have to genuinely want for yourself. Lucifer and Maze are two characters who might say they don’t want to change or that they don’t believe they’re worthy of redemption, but their actions say differently. On a human level, Dan is a character who actively worked to grow and better himself—and move on from Chloe—in season two. Reese, on the other hand, is a character who vehemently refuses to change and ends up spending his afterlife in an eternity of suffering for that decision. He will never get the reignited love from Linda that he desires, and for him, that’s a more effective punishment than never-ending hell fire. Like Linda says, Reese is someone who never gives up. Unfortunately for him, that leads to both his downfall and his eternal damnation.
Plus, to call this all too bleak for Lucifer also ignores that this episode does open up the possibility of someone finally, possibly moving past their guilt and simply exiting hell through the gift shop. The possibility for someone to finally make the right decision. It’s a slim chance, but Lucifer is not a show that scoffs at second chances. It just acknowledges how difficult they can actually be to achieve. “I can’t let this guy win.” Reese tells that to his editor as she tries to get him to drop the story after a year. And yet, letting Lucifer win is exactly what Reese does. Though it’s not even so much a win for Lucifer—as he really does want to help Reese—as it is just perpetual loss for Reese. Once again, you can’t say “the Devil made me do it.” Lucifer tried to warn him.
Lucifer is very much a supporting—not secondary—character in this episode, and while it fully worked in “Mr. And Mrs. Mazikeen Smith,” it actually makes “Off The Record” even better. Not just because Fabian does a terrific job as the leading man but because it allows Tom Ellis’ acting to shine through in different ways. Take for example when they think they’ve caught the serial killer (“Scarface”) when Dan is praising Lucifer for how he deduced it: “Good work on the case. Realizing that his scar made him resent all the people around him.” Lucifer’s reaction is small, but it’s clear he’s thinking about his own scarred Devil face—how he uses it as a weapon, how he’s never gotten anyone to look at it and accept him (at this point), how it’s part of his resentment toward his father. Or even take his interrupted therapy session (“He’s a good man. He’s my friend.”) or second penthouse conversation with Reese. In these moments, Lucifer is finally realizing just how highly Linda regards him as a “person” and a friend. It’s not something he’s showboating or gloating about, but it’s something he can genuinely be proud of and make him realize that he has something real there. While Reese is asking Lucifer, “How’d you do that?” like his relationship with Linda is some kind of trick he pulled, it’s important for Lucifer to realize just how genuine that friendship really is.
Rachael Harris is great here as well, especially as Linda has to be the realistic one in her failed relationship with Reese while also struggling when it comes to getting through to him. Because this is all through Reese’s point of view, Linda almost feels too cold in her dealings with him here. But when you separate her words and actions in this episode from how they make Reese feel—just pay attention to her instead of how Reese reacts to her—she is just as insightful and patient as she usually is. For all the frustration Reese causes, Fabian plays him in a way that also highlights the strength of his scene partners and projects certain things that aren’t always projected.
These bonus season two episodes have come with the promise of playing with the series structure. But “Off The Record” truly tears the structure down while also adding more detail to it than expected from a stand-alone episode. Yes, this is one of the four season two holdover episodes, making it even more impressive just how well it fits into the season and series as a whole. This is a phenomenal episode, one that truly shows just how powerful a stand-alone episode can be. Because Lucifer excels when it comes to character, for even a one-episode character to come in and just continue Lucifer’s actor streak of blowing the audience away, that’s impressive. “Off The Record” is impressive.
- Script coordinator Jen Graham Imada is credited for this episode’s story, and it’s written by Chris Rafferty and Mike Costa. Not bad for a first episode, Jen. Not bad at all.
- The nurse’s “just a little brush with death” line feels oddly flippant at the beginning of the episode. It takes on a whole new, darker interpretation once you realize it’s just one of the many parts of Reese’s torture, reliving that “little brush with death” for eternity.
- Reese: “Who the hell does he think he is?”
Lux waitress: “Lucifer Morningstar.”
Reese: “You’re serious? That’s his name? What kind of idiot calls himself that?”
Lux waitress: “The kind who owns this place.” Love her.
- Reese looks pretty rough over the course of this episode, but how dare Lucifer tell him he’s not attractive? Come on now: In another life and time, Patrick Fabian would be playing Lucifer Morningstar. It’s pretty against type for Fabian to play such a pathetic, desperate man, but he knocks it out of the park here.
- When Reese introduces himself to Chloe and Lucifer refers to him as “the owner of the pieces,” the delight that Lucifer takes in saying that joke for literally no one but himself is sublime. It’s not as groan-worthy as his “roosters of award-winning size” joke. It’s just a sweet (no pun intended) reference for a man who unfortunately doesn’t live up to the standard set by Reese’s Pieces. Also, thank you Lucifer for not saying “Pee-sees.”
- Oh, season-one Dan. If only you knew that Lucifer stealing your pudding was a blessing in disguise. Speaking of pudding, this episode is so good that said pudding tangent happening with season one Dan is acceptable. But we can never forget just how humorless Dan “Detective Douche” Espinoza was in the first season. I’m fine forgetting all the Palmetto stuff though.
- Reese: “Separated is not divorced. There’s still time.” You know what? He’s right. Unless there are no actual steps being made to fix the marriage. And while Reese thinks he’s making steps, after two years of not changing at all and not understanding the problem, you can see why things didn’t work out.
- Reese: “I get it: You don’t like the press.”
Chloe: “I don’t have time for this. I have work to do—that actually contributes to society.” Wow, Chloe. Wow. I mean, I get that she’s anti-paparazzi, but Reese is a Pulitzer Prize winner. It’s a little different.
- Reese: “So you just started showing up at crime scenes, and eventually, she let you work with her?”
Lucifer: “Ah, more or less.” There you go, new viewers. That’s all you need to know.
- Chloe’s attempt to pretend Lucifer always wears gloves at crime scenes (then saying it’s fine he’s not wearing them because the evidence has already been processed) is another dose of Uncool Chloe Decker. It’s great.
- Dan: “Why would he do this to someone who values natural beauty?”
Me: “Because ‘BEAUTY IS A CURSE ON THE WORLD,’ Daniel.” I can’t help that Dan’s line gave me an excuse to quote back a ridiculous Nip/Tuck line. I can’t.
- While Reese is the type of a person who learns the Devil is real and then reacts to the fact no one else sees how “wrong” that is with bewilderment, that still doesn’t excuse his behavior. Because even after the initial shock, he cares more about the fact that the Devil is making time with Linda than he really does the fact that the Devil is real.
- Reese also finds some common ground with Dan early on in this episode, because neither of them can let go of the “my wife” thing—and with Reese, that’s even after he signs the divorce papers—but the difference between the two men is obvious. Even Dan can accept when Lucifer does something right on a case. Everyone around Reese can see the truth but him; but to Reese, they’re all the ones who are blind.
- Maze is only in one scene this episode, but as it keeps in line with her season-one status as Lucifer’s bodyguard first and foremost, it’s acceptable.
- Reese refuses to do any true introspection, but he also refuses to let Linda analyze him. He should’ve just let her analyze him.
- I’m curious to see if we’ll ever get anything about Linda no longer feeling like her office is a safe space. It’s not exactly a happy place these days.
- “ELLA LOPEZ | WHAT’S HER SECRET?” That’s what I want to know.
- Given Reese’s very in-depth research on all things Lucifer and company, I need to address that while he did quite a lot of work, he can’t be the mystery person at the end of “Mr. And Mrs. Mazikeen Smith.” It might be possible that the Sinnerman took his research though, because it is very in-depth.