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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

In “¡Diablo!,” Lucifer yearns for meta goodness

Illustration for article titled In “¡Diablo!,” iLucifer/i yearns for meta goodness
Graphic: John P. Fleenor/Netflix
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Lucifer has proven over the years that, despite the idea of the Devil solving crimes sounding dumb as heck, it’s actually a pretty smart show. A smart show that loves to laugh at dirty jokes but still a smart show. It also loves to laugh at itself, so a meta episode like “¡Diablo!” should be the perfect episode of Lucifer, the culmination of all the series’ previous cases-of-the-week about the film & TV side of Los Angeles and the ultimate reminder of just how unafraid to laugh at itself that it is. After all, this is the series that gave us glorious lyrics to an otherwise-generic opening theme: Crime-solving Devil / It makes sense / Don’t overthink it.” It truly does make sense.

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But in the pantheon of heavy meta episodes of television—especially in fun procedurals—while Lucifer makes a strong effort, ¡Diablo!” is not quite in that upper echelon. For comparison, Supernatural has reached that level, and while a “The French Mistake”-style episode would arguably be too far of a direction for Lucifer to go in, “Hollywood Babylon” is certainly more in line with what “¡Diablo!” is. But in both episodes, a large part of the fun stems from how little Sam and Dean Winchester know about making TV. Lucifer, on the other hand, is a series that has navigated that world a number of times and even has a detective who used to be an actress; so the outside-looking-in perspective is never even really part of “¡Diablo!” save for the initial scene of Chloe reacting to the awful series Lucifer has inspired and Maze and Linda watching their new guilty pleasure.

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While it’s fun to watch the sets we’ve been familiar with for, now, five seasons be seen in this new, pulling-back-the-curtain context, this is the type of episode that somewhat suffers from the shorter episode-count (especially with the eight-and-eight season split) and from having to exist while some major things are going on. Because it’s just so light, while Chloe is dealing with a world-shattering revelation, Michael is waiting in the wings, and Lucifer made the decision to leave Hell. That last part is important: After refusing to do so in the premiere, Lucifer leaves Hell in this episode to deal with the Michael problem… and the meat of the episode is ¡Lieutenant Diablo!

Plus, since ¡Lieutenant Diablo! has apparently only been on the air for seven episodes—surely a deliberate choice from writer Mike Costa so Lucifer could’ve easily missed out on this show due to his absence—there’s not even an established connection between any of these characters—despite at least someone usually being a fan in these types of cases—and the show. Though Maze and Linda’s eventual reaction to watching the show is worth it. Shame it’s definitely getting canceled now.

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But “¡Diablo!” does succeed in Lucifer’s continued ability to laugh at itself. At its very premise even, with Lieutenant Diablo (aka “Devil Cop,” played Alex Quijano) being a crime-solving savant while the actual detective is a fool. A sexy fool, as ¡Lieutenant Diablo!’s Detective Dancer used to be a sexy dancer at Hades, its version of LUX. By the way, “Dancer” was Chloe’s last name in the original pilot script for Lucifer. Want to know her initial character description? “Beautiful, but downplays it on purpose.” ¡Lieutenant Diablo! is pretty much the show people thought Lucifer would be and, thankfully, is not. Especially with that hair and that accent.

While Chloe relates to the actress who plays Dancer (Brianne Davis) for plot-related reasons, it feels like there has to be a kernel of truth to this over-the-top character past the last name—like this character can’t just be Lucifer’s terrible description of the Detective come to life. In rewatching the series (especially Season Three) recently, I’ve thought a lot more about FOX Lucifer versus Netlfix Lucifer, especially in terms of network notes and expectations. In watching this episode, it kind of clicked into place for me how much FOX possibly saw Lucifer as Tom Ellis’ show… with Lauren German also being there as a love interest who also helps. The show is named after him, after all. The Netflix seasons, however, have put German on more equal footing with Ellis—even in terms of promotional materials—and she’s gotten such good material to work with as a result. So while our Detective Chloe Decker has always been shown as a competent professional, considering the way this episode depicts Dancer and considering how Season Three was for Chloe in the Pierce arc, I can imagine it was an uphill battle to get to this point.

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Chloe relates to the actress who plays Dancer—this episode doesn’t give the ¡Lieutenant DIablo! actors anything but their character names—due to the powerlessness she felt from her now-deceased showrunner. (An obvious creep of showrunner, which is this episode brings up but isn’t concerned with addressing.) That’s how Chloe feels now, after learning that she was literally “made for” Lucifer: powerless. So as Lucifer “learns” from Dr. Linda that he needs to listen to people, he attempts to listen to Chloe about what she needs now, but she’s still processing what any of it even means. So Lucifer’s “listening” only frustrates her even more. That’s par for the course with Lucifer, of course, but in this case: Lucifer already had a whole arc where he reacted to and processed the news about Chloe being put in his path. It’s understandable that he’s frustrated because he doesn’t know what to say or how to help Chloe move past it, but it’s also maddening that he doesn’t think to just give her her space. On the other hand, since all of this is happening during their reunion—after declarations of love two months ago—it’s also understandable that Lucifer would want to know where they stand before he returns to Hell.

Chloe’s angel and confusion already make sense throughout this episode, but it’s in the final discussion about it that it all really click, when she explains to Lucifer that while he’s an angel who’s dealt with celestial stuff all his life, she’s just a person trying to wrap her head around it. Keep in mind, since Mom revealing the truth to Lucifer was apparently about a year ago, Chloe really hasn’t had much time to process the new celestial normal in her life. Back when he was a buzzkill, Amenadiel would talk about how humans can’t be made aware of celestials, and clearly, it’s because of the gravity of things like God creating you for his exiled son or falling in love with said son, the literal Devil. These aren’t small things Chloe is dealing with, and she reacts accordingly.

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It kind of hurts “¡Diablo!” that, after Amenadiel comes to Hell to tell Lucifer he has to come back to Earth, there’s all this lightness. While Maze and Linda make for some good substance in the meantime, things don’t even really get going for this episode until the case is closed and Lucifer and Michael have their confrontation. A confrontation, where we again see the mirror images concept at play, from wardrobe (Michael dresses like a professor at a small liberal arts college on the East coast) to fighting style (as they essentially reach a stalemate... until they don’t). A confrontation where Michael reveals that he was the one who planted the idea of Lucifer’s rebellion against God into his head. And his seduction of Eve in the Garden of Eden. And his decision to come to Earth. Of course, unlike Lucifer, Michael lies, so he could be lying about all that. But now he’s put that fear that this is all true in Lucifer’s head, now hasn’t he? But it’s him calling Lucifer “unworthy” that kicks off the fight, and the choreography is thrilling. It’s definitely a brotherly, familiar fight—only with more obvious intent for murder. (Lucifer didn’t want to kill Uriel back in Season Two, but I can’t say the same for his feelings on Michael.) It’s angry and sloppy-yet-polished—meaning, it’s as “sloppy” as a fight between two angels can be—and the back and forth ends with Michael suplexing Lucifer.

But the fight itself ends with Lucifer disfiguring Michael’s face, making it so no one can ever mistake one for the other again. It’s gnarly, as well as a tip of the hat to Lucifer’s face scar in the comics. It’s also fuel for Michael to make another play for Maze, just as she’d realized she wasn’t really mad at Lucifer.

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As I wrote in my previous review, if Lucifer had given Maze the option to go to Hell with him, she probably wouldn’t have taken him up on it. Here, she’s finally able to beat the crap out of him like she wanted to, and then Lucifer makes the valid point that if she’d wanted to be down in Hell, she could have just asked Amenadiel to fly her down. (He also makes the point that she’s not his servant anymore, so of course he’d let her live her life.) At that moment, Maze gives up on her mission, because now she can’t even use the “Lucifer left me” excuse anymore. From here, she and Linda end up talking about her fear of abandonment, which Linda claims stems from someone important from her youth. According to Maze, “I didn’t have anyone important in my youth, Linda. Just my blades. They have never let me down.” Unlike Lucifer, Chloe, and Eve, who all—in her mind, with those first two—left her, without a reason. Actually, while Linda draws the Eve conclusion, again, Maze doesn’t say “Eve”; Maze specifically asks why “she” left her.

The thing about “¡Diablo!” is that after such a powerful start—with Amenadiel revealing how Michael has become “untouchable” in Heaven, God’s right-hand man—it only really gets going in the last 13 minutes. In those last 13 minutes, after the case is solved, Maze and Linda talk abandonment and Hell, Lucifer and Michael come to blows, Chloe explains to Lucifer why this is so hard for her to process, and Michael moves on to his next plan. The novelty of all things ¡Lieutenant Diablo! is something that’s been seen in plenty of shows before—though the opening title card change is a great touch—and is enjoyable for what it is. But it also just feels like a misplaced distraction considering everything else that’s happening or building in this episode.

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Stray observations

  • Lucifer: “Don’t you remember growing up? He’d get under your skin with one of his schemes, then you’d give him one of your atomic wedgies, and that’d be that.”
    Amenadiel: “I don’t think a wedgie’s gonna do it this time.” You never know...
  • Lucifer: “And, I figured out how to fix things between us.”
    Chloe: “Oh. How’s that?”
    Lucifer: “Well, you’re going to tell me what to do.”
    Chloe: “Ah. Well I’m sure that makes sense to someone.”
  • Lucifer has no problem with Lieutenant Diablo, except for its use of “yearning” over “desire” and the actor who plays Diablo noting that the character comes from a place of self-loathing. Yes, Lucifer plays up his obliviousness, but considering he dealt with that whole self-loathing thing last season, the joke doesn’t quite land.
  • Linda: “Maze, you know I’m not going anywhere, right?”
    Maze: “Maybe not on purpose, but you’re gonna drop dead in, what, five years?”
    Linda: “How old do you think I am?”
    Maze: “I don’t know, 30?” A reminder that Maze is like a child in many ways.
  • The network executive’s idea to recast Diablo as Ice Cube is too specific to be random, right? Is there a chance Ice Cube was a name thrown around for the Lucifer role at one point?
  • Again, Linda brings up the idea that she’s going to Hell. Maze, enthralled by ¡Lieutenant Diablo!, doesn’t even acknowledge it. Until they’re drunk enough, and then she asks Linda why she continues to think she’s going to Hell. Linda just say it’s just something people say and changes the subject to Maze’s abandonment issues.
  • Dan admits he doesn’t care if all this self-improvement stuff is “bullshit”—and that it probably is—but it keeps him positive, because he needs a win. He says they all need a win, actually. So while Dan is still not okay, there is a self-awareness there that makes me less worried for him than I was in the season premiere. And this self-awareness even gets Lucifer to wear the matching amethyst bracelet Dan got him.
  • If the episode had featured more Maze and Linda watching their proxies make out—throwing a bone to anyone who still might think Maze is in love with Linda—and Lucifer, Dan, and Ella reciting lines from ¡Lieutenant Diablo!, now that would’ve really helped that plot float.
  • “Keri Belwood,” the deceased showrunner’s #2, is a shoutout to former Lucifer writer/executive producer Sheri Elwood. This TV Line article goes into more detail about all the Easter Eggs.
  • As I mentioned in my previous review, Michael’s portrayal of Lucifer is as the “Prince of Lies.” But honestly, Michael as a character is more like “the Devil” than Lucifer. Only, “Michael made me do it.” or even “The angel made me do it.” isn’t as catchy.
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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.

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