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

In “A Little Harmless Stalking,” Lucifer attempts to stops overthinking

Image of Tom Ellis, Rachael Harris, and Lauren German in Netflix's Lucifer
Tom Ellis, Rachael Harris, and Lauren German star in Lucifer
Image: John P. Fleenor/Netflix

When Lucifer was on network television, it did that thing that a lot of episodic series and procedurals (even those that fuck, such as it is) do: Because of episode orders, it would reiterate things that were seemingly already dealt with and backtrack to maintain a certain status quo. The most glaring examples would come in the form of Lucifer’s therapy sessions with Dr. Linda and Lucifer’s relationship with Chloe. In the case of the latter, one step forward, two steps back. (She’s a gift from God! Lucifer got kidnapped and dumped in the desert... with his wings!) And with the former, yes, the bit about Lucifer taking the absolute wrong thing from therapy every single time (only to eventually get it) is a good one; but it’s also very much a story structure tool that can get frustrating after a while. While Lucifer still paints the Lucifer/Chloe beats with the same brush and it works—because of the amount of baggage that just Lucifer alone has, even past Chloe accepting his Devil status—it’s not done as much with the Lucifer/Dr. Linda beats. Even though, again, he still has a lot of baggage.

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“A Little Harmless Stalking” feels like a retread in a lot of ways, perhaps the most an episode has in all of Lucifer’s Netflix tenure. Maybe it’s because Lucifer discovers the art of distractions once again. Maybe it’s because Lucifer’s decision to end therapy here feels a lot like the time he had a major breakthrough and decided he was fixed. Or the time he tried to end his partnership with Chloe and talked all about “closure.” Maybe it’s because a Lucifer/Chloe/Linda messaround is just so first season—though that’s less of a criticism, as it’s a final season, “returning to our roots” tactic, and Tom Ellis, Lauren German, and Rachael Harris are always so fun together.

It could also be because, when it comes to Lucifer’s stories about its in-the-know characters dreading the possibility of going to Hell, the Linda version of the story has always been the hardest to buy. Even within the show, whenever Linda brings it up, characters like Amenadiel and Maze tell her how ridiculous she’s being. We know that people’s guilt—whether they wear it on their sleeve or not—is what drags them to Hell. But whenever it comes to Linda’s guilt over abandoning her baby when she was a teen, it’s hard to watch it without thinking, “Oh yeah, that’s part of her backstory!” In a sense, it’s such a human thing for the character and the show to dwell on—which is why it’s so easy to not think about it in the grand scheme of Lucifer things.

It really feels like the reason the story works at all (especially here) is because of Rachael Harris’ performance. Obviously, Harris nails the comedy parts of the show, but her ability to do drama too is why Linda has become such a beloved character. In fact, she’s so good that she’s able to pull off the rare good version of a character cutting off someone because they think they know what they’re going to say, only to be completely wrong. (And this is the dramatic version of that, which is so much harder to make work than the comedy version.) When she interrupts Lucifer to tell him that therapy failed, she failed, and he’s just as self-centered now as he was when they met, it works because it’s so much of what his behavior in this episode (up until this very point) suggests. It’s good, in part, because it does play on the retread aspect of this episode and the show over the years.

Usually, when a case is more personal to the characters, that does a great deal of help for the series’ procedural element. But Harris has to do so much heavy lifting here, because while Linda believes her daughter that she doesn’t know isn’t a killer, the audience has absolutely no reason to also believe that. Because we also don’t know this woman, and we don’t even have the added attachment that the Linda character does. Sure, Linda’s projection that if Adriana is a killer, it means that she is to blame (“I’m the reason that she’s broken.”) falls in line with the other “parents and their children” stories that 5B has told so far. At the same time, it opens up a whole other can of worms about what this show is trying to say about adoptive parents (which Linda ignores altogether in her “harmless stalking”) versus biological parents. And considering there’s seemingly no celestial analogy to that particular dynamic, maybe that’s a sign that it shouldn’t be touched at all.

Then again, when Adriana comes over to thank Linda and admits she knows she’s her mom, it ultimately works. Because we want Linda to shed that guilt, we want her to find some closure. But that’s also why the “Linda believes she’s going to Hell” story has never quite hit the way the show wants it to: It’s this easy for her to get closure.

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As I mentioned, the retread nature of the episode also extends to the Lucifer/Chloe part of things, but at least the show lampshades it by having Ella call them “the couple that cried relationship.” With this plot, Chloe finally feels like she’s in the game for 5B, even if so much of the game is pretending that things are just fine. (“Smile though your heart is aching,” etc.) And much like when Lucifer told Chloe he’s “incapable of love,” Chloe stands her ground here. She brings up the fact that their “relationship limbo” is affecting Trixie now, so they need to define things already. This, of course, leads to Lucifer’s coping mechanism/deflection tool of the episode, which is to “just do it.” No more overthinking, just go with your gut. “Crime-solving Devil, it makes sense,” etc.

Lucifer is actually the only one who uses that thought process here—as Linda’s belief that Adriana is innocent is because of the overthinking she’s done about this all—but even his version of going with his gut is super performative.

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Speaking of performative, Eve is back in this episode! (This is not a slam on Eve but instead pointing out that she returns as a rogue bounty hunter, trying to impress Maze.) She and Maze admit they both have feelings for each other! Eve almost dies! Maze tries to get her to take Lillith’s immortality but she refuses! They break up! It’s all... much better than I just made it sound. Because it’s the culmination of Maze getting what she wants (a soul, thanks to God’s “self-actualization bullshit”) and realizing the new, added weight that comes with that (especially once you’ve found your soulmate). Yes, Maze gets the soul and gets the girl, but now that means she has to deal with everything that entails.

Or not, as Maze refuses to deal with that here.

After “It Never Ends Well For The Chicken,” there was some discussion over what exactly Lillith’s immortality being in Lucifer’s ring meant—acknowledging that, obviously, Lucifer didn’t need it. Here, according to Maze, as long as Eve wears the ring, that renders her immortal. That’s immediately where Maze’s mind goes once Eve nearly dies, and honestly, who can blame her? But Eve rejects it, as she saw what immortality did to her son, Cain. (As did we. Season three.) Maze essentially takes that as a rejection of being with her, but that’s not what it is. While Eve left Heaven to be on Earth again, it was never about evading death; it was about finally living a meaningful life for herself. And with meaningful life ultimately comes meaningful death. At least, that’s the hope. Maze just doesn’t get that. She’s learning, okay?

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Like “Resting Devil Face,” this is an overstuffed episode. (“A Little Harmless Stalking” just edges out “Resting Devil Face” because of the personal component of the case-of-the-week and Harris’ performance.) Because this isn’t just the episode where Linda tries to take the fall for her long-lost daughter: This is the episode that deals with Lucifer and Chloe returning to coupledom, Amenadiel grappling with the idea of becoming God, Maze’s soul, Eve’s return, and Lucifer eventually deciding to be God. Julia Fontana and Jen Graham Imada were not given an easy task in writing this episode, as it has the plot of a two-part episode crammed into one.

The more I think about it, the more I think that season five possibly should’ve been longer. We’ve seen before what a Lucifer season can look like when it’s too long, but that was within the confines and demands of network television. This was intended and filmed as a final season, and so much is crammed into these episodes as a result. It would be one thing if Amenadiel thinking about becoming God came with the impressive pacing of peak Vampire Diaries, as that would excuse it being a one-and-done plot. Instead, it feels more like a missed opportunity when it comes to giving the character and D.B. Woodside more to do. It could easily be its own A-plot, as could the rest of the subplots here.

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Stray observations

  • Lucifer apparently got something of value from the boxing gym owner in “Resting Devil Face”: making ships in a bottle as a distraction!
  • Amenadiel heard about Lucifer’s prank on “poor Dan,” and he is not amused. Speaking of Amenadiel and poor Dan, even before Dan knew the celestial truth, I always really appreciated how supportive their friendship was. Yes, Dan would often be confused by what Amenadiel was really talking about, but he was always there for him (and vice versa). So, Dan believing that Amenadiel would be “perfect” for the job of God absolutely warms my heart.
  • Maze: “Of course I was mad. You broke my heart.”
    Eve: “I did? … That’s awesome. I mean, that’s awful. Awful.” In my review of “Save Lucifer,” I wrote about how the Maze/Eve plot was essentially that of a very good romcom. (I’m sure Lesley-Ann Brandt and Inbar Lavi would be down, Netflix.) That romcom continues here, so imagine the pit in my stomach when I started to worry that this show would pull a “Bury Your Gays” and kill Eve. On the one hand, I trust this show and its writers to be aware enough not to do that... but I also know how TV works and how a number of showrunners who say they “didn’t know” what “Bury Your Gays” was are actually lying, because someone always brings it up in the room.
  • I hope Ella’s “darkness” manifests itself as, like, Candlemaker from Doom Patrol at this point. Otherwise, it still feels like a “[footage not found]” affectation of her character, no matter how many times she says it.
  • I don’t have much to say about Alexandra Grossi’s performance as Adriana, because I think a lot of it relies on wearing glasses. She plays off Harris well, but I don’t know how much the character brings outside of that bubble. Or how much of that is just because Harris rules.
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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.