Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Cops rock (along with the rest of the Lucifer fam) in “Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam”

Lucifer
Lucifer
Photo: John P. Fleenor/Netflix

At this point, musical episodes of shows are more a matter of “when” than “if.” But as I’ve surely noted before, Lucifer’s gimmick episodes tend to be as integral to the series’ stories and arcs as any other episode. Of course, a musical episode should be even more integral when done right. The purpose of a musical episode is to reveal through song what can’t be revealed simply via dialogue, as the characters refuse to talk about. That’s obviously the key to an episode like “Once More With Feeling” (Buffy The Vampire Slayer); whereas, the failure to do so is one of the reasons I’ve never vibed with “My Musical” (Scrubs). “Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam” falls into the former camp.

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Additionally, another major reason for a musical episode is to dunk on Cop Rock, a failed show that’s become such a joke that people think it was a musical comedy. It was not.

Surprisingly, there is no direct Cop Rock reference in this episode, even after the huge crime scene number (with a dancing corpse, which is… spectacular to witness) or the moment of singing The Police at the police precinct or even Ella/Maze’s precinct duet. Instead, co-showrunner Ildy Modrovich’s script keeps things singularly focused on the story at hand, for all of these characters. Unlike many shows, where I find myself screaming for the characters to get therapy, Lucifer is a show where characters do get therapy—and that’s still not enough to tackle all of their issues. So “Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam” comes at just the right time.

It also comes when there is a logical reason for it to happen: God is on Earth, and God can do whatever He wants. Before the ultimate reveal about why God is doing this happens, it’s so easy to believe and accept that if God were around, He’d want to have as much fun with humans (and His kids) as He could—just because He could. Seeing everyone sing and dance for God’s enjoyment has to be much better up close than it does from the view in the Silver City. Plus, the parameters of the bit are set instantly: It’s only those in God’s vicinity who are getting the whammy, He’s not doing it to the whole world. That suggests control, right? That He ultimately can’t control it then also makes sense as to why it’s only those in God’s vicinity.

Director Sherwin Shilati returns for this episode, which should come as no surprise, as Shilati is the one the show goes to for epic directorial choices, especially in terms of movement. The go-to example is always “God Johnson,” with Lucifer and Earl Johnson’s beautiful escape from the mental facility, but there’s also the bar fight scene in “All About Eve” that always gets me. Both are exceptional, brilliantly-timed, choreographed scenes, which explains putting Shilati at the helm of an episode that ultimately lives and dies on those types of scenes. Even before the song and dance begin, just the choice for the episode to open upsidedown, immediately signaling that everything from this point forward will be topsy-turvy, is so simple but so effective.

In terms of the musical language of the episode, the choice to use covers over original songs isn’t surprising. “Karaoke” is in the title, after all.

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“Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak)

In general, the lyrics to “Wicked Game” are perfect for the Lucifer/Chloe relationship: “The world was on fire and no one could save me but you / It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do / I never dreamed that I’d meet somebody like you / And I never dreamed that I’d lose somebody like you.” Lucifer then tweaks the lyrics in a small but still major way. The original, iconic lyrics to the chorus are “No, I don’t wanna fall in love” (with the backing vocals “this world is only gonna break your heart”). Lucifer changes them to “I wanna fall in love,” as this isn’t a matter of Lucifer trying to deny his feelings for Chloe at this point: All he wants to do is embrace them, but he considers himself absolutely incapable, based on what we learn in “Family Dinner.”

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This opening number could easily be in any “normal” episode of Lucifer, which is why it doesn’t immediately tip its hand that it’s happening because God is there. And speaking of, as Dad then informs Lucifer he’s staying awhile—and that He sent Michael home—Lucifer tells Him that “in the short time [He’s] been here, [He’s] managed to screw up [his] one chance of happiness” and to stay away from him. Obviously, He does not stay away.

“Another One Bites The Dust” (Queen)

This number has mostly been out in the ether for a while, as behind-the-scenes footage has been used to promote the musical almost as soon as 5A ended. But it’s still extremely fun to watch. Where “Wicked Game” is simple, intimate—and arguably no different from any other sad Lucifer piano scene—“Another One Bites The Dust” is big. It’s the kind of thing you’d think Lucifer would be all about—and he would, if not for the reason it’s happening. Tom Ellis’ performance in this number is so fun, as he goes from confused to somewhat annoyed to somewhat into it (because he can’t fight this) and then back to confused (and “kind of dusty”), before finally settling on frustration with Dad as soon as the number ends and he realizes what’s going on.

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In terms of the “rules” of this musical, this number seems to be the only one where anyone (well, Lucifer) reacts as though time was lost, even though nothing changed at all.

“Every Breath You Take” (The Police)

Everyone’s favorite stalker anthem that’s too often misconstrued as romantic gets a new angle. Here, it’s from the perspective of a helicopter parent (played by Debbie Gibson) and Lucifer lashing out against Dad, who manages to simultaneously hover and be absent. In Lucifer’s case, that means changing the lyrics to “every breath I take” (and so on) and “He’ll be watching me” (with Dad literally watching him from behind the interrogation room’s two-way mirror) Like “Wicked Game,” it’s easy to imagine that “Every Breath You Take” was a song the writers had in their head for the show (and God’s presence, even if He weren’t actually here) almost immediately. And like “Another One Bites The Dust,” a highlight is Ellis playing Lucifer’s reaction to realizing he’s in a musical number, even if no one else does.

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“Bad To The Bone” (George Thorogood & The Destroyers) / ”No Scrubs” (TLC)

Naturally, after being told by God that she’s “perfect just the way [she is],” Maze decides to remind everyone that she’s super bad. This is not the first time Maze has tried to do something like this—just earlier this season, she tried to recreate her sexy Season One love-hate relationship with Amenadiel to try to feel something—and as usual, it’s quite transparently performative. Meanwhile, Ella is still reeling from how her taste in bad guys led her to date a serial killer. She’s cracking self-deprecating jokes at crime scenes about how the killer is whoever she’s most attracted to (“Family Dinner”), throwing herself into her work—you know how it is. The frenemy vibe of the Maze/Ella (she stopped calling her “Ellen”) relationship is key to this number, as even separate from her lashing out at God, Maze loves to have fun at Ella’s expense—especially when it comes to this whole bad guy thing.

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And honestly, this number is just sexy as hell. Lesley-Ann Brandt really goes for it here, and Aimee Garcia gets to show off her physical comedy in this number.

“Hell” (Squirrel Nut Zippers)

Admittedly, this is the one song I was unfamiliar with prior to this episode. But this is is a showcase for Kevin Alejandro’s apparent dance skills and also an insight into just how well Dan is doing in a post-Devil reveal. Like Ella, “Family Dinner” showed he was also focusing on work, but now, he has to deal with things. And he’s being thrown right into the deep end by meeting God here. Even though there was quite a break between 5A and 5B, things are still fresh for Dan and his knowledge of the celestial—to the point where this is his first interaction with Amenadiel since, and Amenadiel just wants to talk about that. But, again, since Dan already met God, he is on the fast track. And in his mind, that fast track is straight to Hell (since he slept with God’s wife and that whole Old Testament depiction wasn’t an exaggeration).

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Again, the episode doesn’t tip its hand that this isn’t necessarily something God can control, as He ends up having the time of His life dancing along with His “children” (and seeing Dan suffer).

“Just The Two Of Us” (Bill Withers) / “Just The Two Of Us” (Will Smith)

This number is necessary for both Linda and Amenadiel, as it allows the show not to drag out the “human vs. angel” argument for any longer than it has to. Because the audience has known for a while why Amenadiel is so adamant about Charlie being an angel over a human, and it doesn’t just boil down to him immaturely thinking angels are “better.” (Although it is quite fun to see him “prove” it with a petty show of strength that Maze will have to end up fixing.) “Just The Two Of Us” ultimately ends up becoming “Just The Three Of Us,” and while Linda/Amenadiel’s relationship outside of co-parenting is still quite... undefined, they’re still very much in this together.

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“Smile” (Charlie Chaplin/Nat King Cole)

I feel like it was pretty obvious from “Another One Bites The Dust” that if there were going to be one cast member who wouldn’t be singing, it would be Lauren German. But instead of making a joke out of that, Lucifer decides to pull at the heartstrings instead. While this number obviously shows how much Chloe is hurting—as Chloe remembers the good times of her partnership (both professionally and personally) with Lucifer—it also shows that Trixie is very aware of just how much her mother is hurting.

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As Lucifer has his issues with Dad, Debbie Gibson plays a helicopter parent who doesn’t listen to a word her kid says, and Linda and Amenadiel have a very unique parenting argument, “Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam” also provides a whole other child-parent perspective in this number.

“I Dreamed A Dream” (Les Miserables)

What should be a cathartic final number. Just Lucifer and Dad, singing about how they wished things could be so different. Another minimalist, simplistic set-up for a musical number, bringing the episode full circle. It should be a breakthrough. By the end of it, Lucifer is even sobbing. As Dad (who also ends up crying) says, “My son, the Lightbringer. So full of light that it blinds even you sometimes.” It’s true that Lucifer often can’t see what’s right in front of him. Which is why he just wants his Dad to finally fix him. But much like Dad can’t offer a good enough apology—He apologizes for Lucifer being angry at Him—He also can’t “fix” Lucifer.

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Lucifer has always become a petulant child when it comes to Dad, but his reaction here is different. His “But you’re God.” is a fair point. But it’s also a point that isn’t addressed, which is why Lucifer moves back to his default setting, which is to tell Dad not to control him if he can’t fix him. As God asks how He controls Lucifer, that leads to the escalation of an already emotionally charged scene, with Lucifer’s heartbreaking “You just made me sing again!” It’s a dynamic “God Johnson” even introduced: Dad’s aloofness always seems to deflect any blame. He always seems to have no idea why Lucifer would be upset, even though it tends to be pretty clear. It’s the cryptic, “mysterious way” aspect of God that Lucifer can’t stand. So here, as He makes Lucifer sing again (despite Lucifer telling Him multiple times to stop)—to be even more emotionally vulnerable—of course Lucifer is fed up. But then, none of that matters once Dad reveals to Lucifer that He’s losing control of His powers. Back to just being His Father’s kid Lucifer goes in that moment. The musical number plus the final confrontation makes for the perfect cap to this episode, especially when you think of it in terms of the opening number and Lucifer/Dad scene.

As for the full plot of the episode, it’s strong, even separate from the musical itself. “Bloody Celestial Karaoke Jam” becomes “Bring Your Dad To Work Day,” as Dad decides that since he’s staying on Earth for the time being, He should become more invested in what Lucifer does every day as a police “assistant.” After years of Lucifer telling everyone he’s the Devil and talking about his daddy issues with God, to finally have his colleagues react to the real deal being in front of them… That’s cathartic. Chloe “respectfully” going off on God for his crappy parenting is a moment we should all be proud we got to see; as is Dan’s slow realization of who Lucifer’s Dad is and subsequent bow.

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The case-of-the-week also works largely because God is also around the whole time, being an embarrassing (and then too supportive) dad. With every scene, it’s clear: Dennis Haysbert just belongs on this show. And even though Lucifer doesn’t realize the motive was all about “control” until the end, “control” is actually the throughline of the whole case and episode. This is why, even though Lucifer’s furious with Dad for controlling him (throughout the years and now), the reveal that He has no control over this at all hits so hard. Especially after Lucifer was so adamant that “people don’t change.” Because, apparently, even God does.


Stray observations

  • I did not tell my mother that this would be a musical because I wanted her raw, honest reactions. She didn’t flinch when the episode opened with Lucifer sadly singing at his piano because Lucifer sadly sings at his piano all the time; she just wanted to make sure he didn’t screw up the song. Now, when “Another One Bites The Dust” hit, her reaction was, and I quote: “What the hell?” She was then very excited for Debbie Gibson and said, “Netflix gave them so much money” when “No Scrubs” kicked in.
  • It’s been quite the sight gag, but now we must say farewell to the bubble wrap in Linda’s house.
  • As we’ve seen in just these two episodes, God/Dad is a calm, soothing presence… but again, He’s still the God from the Bible. Both testaments. While Dennis Haysbert definitely brings levity to the character, I would not say that He has a sense of humor—which means He’s not joking when He interacts with Dan.
  • A refresher course: It was in Season Two when Dan had his relationship with Mom. She then went to her own universe, and the real Charlotte Richards’ soul was returned to her body (from Hell) for Season Three. He and the real Charlotte then fell in love. While Mom enjoyed Dan and vice versa, the actual love story was between Dan and the real Charlotte. Still: Dan slept with God’s wife. A lot!
  • Lucifer: “Dad, what are you doing? You’re embarrassing me!”. The Lucifer/Dad coffee scene is almost too close to home, in terms of even the littlest thing not being good enough for a parent. But you know what is good? The cut from the precinct (after Lucifer has tried to get poor Chloe to drink the terrible police coffee) to Dr. Linda’s office, with Lucifer still holding the full coffee mug. The fact that the show has Dad come to therapy with Lucifer this soon is also a case of not dragging things out.
  • Dad (being too supportive): “Speaking of, go deep, son.
    Lucifer (bounces a football off his chest)
    Dad: “Nice… block!
  • At the end of the case, when the chemistry teacher uses the flamethrower and it doesn’t affect Lucifer, both he and Chloe both seem to have an issue with that. The issue is clearly that Lucifer is still no longer (physically) vulnerable around her. The (emotional) wall is still up. While Chloe tells Lucifer up top that she refuses to believe he’s incapable of love—and thank you to the show for not having her wallow in that—this is still a major problem for them.
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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.