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Lucifer explores self-identity the way only it can: with penis and butt jokes

Illustration for article titled iLucifer/i explores self-identity the way only it can: with penis and butt jokesem/em
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Most television viewers wouldn’t expect an episode of an hour-long, network television, cop show to be dedicated mostly to jokes and discussions about micropenises and itchy butts. They especially wouldn’t expect said episode of that type of show to also be an interesting character exploration about self-worth and identity. It’s not exactly a typical thing to expect, but that’s kind of the Lucifer way: unexpectedly making something out of what should probably be nothing.

The early moments of “The One With The Baby Carrot” feature a barely veiled premature ejaculation joke. Later, there’s a line about “the biggest cock [Lucifer’s] ever seen.” Then once the micropenis of it all enters the story—what a phrase to write—it’s officially arguable that co-showrunner Joe Henderson wrote this episode as a challenge to see just how much juvenile humor he could get from the page to the screen. And given the inevitable excuse for such a thing (“The Devil made me do it.”), can you blame him or anyone involved with Lucifer? If you’ve stumbled upon reading this review without even watching the show, you’re probably not even 100% per cent sure any of this is true.


Because the funny thing about all the juvenile humor in this episode is just how much of it translates into an important message for the show and its characters.

Lucifer’s fixation this week might sound like your standard “me, me, me” Lucifer plot—his problems with the Sinnerman using his schtick—but as it turns out, he has an understandable reason to be upset and frustrated. Lucifer has always had issues with his identity as the devil, but those issues were at least a result of something he absolutely knows he is and has to live with. Now this Sinnerman or God or whoever has shaken that knowledge, “gifting” Lucifer with regenerative wings and taking away his devil face. And while it might sound like a little or inconsequential thing, the very concept of granting favors (to be repaid at a later date) is another part of Lucifer’s identity that—by becoming more synonymous with someone else—has been taken away from him. So what better way to drive that point home than with a case-of-the-week all about identity? Even if that identity involves a micropenis at one point in time.


The Devil’s favor aspect of Lucifer’s character is one of those pilot things that quietly disappear in a show by episode two (sort of like the micropenis in The Bobby Lowe Show), but it’s an interesting concept that makes sense to reintroduce into the story. First of all, it’s a piece of Lucifer’s life that can easily remind us he’s not just all about the LAPD and his family drama. Despite it being a hobby that requires a lot of giving (with eventual taking), it’s something Lucifer appears to genuinely enjoy and something that keeps his name on the tip of people’s tongues, which is exactly what he wants. Secondly, this is a part of Lucifer’s world that doesn’t require much in the way of the show’s budget.

But even with his problems with the Sinnerman, Lucifer’s not the only one struggling with self-identity. Almost everyone here is, though in the case of the B-story (Amenadiel/Dr. Linda on angel wing clean-up duty), it’s more apparent.


With Amenadiel’s side of things, the episode focuses on someone whose identity is so deeply tied to being the good son, with a revitalized faith in God and whatever God’s plan is for him. I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s very clear in this episode: Amenadiel is so desperate to get things back to normal and return to his father’s good graces that he fully ignores his own very real problems with the hoops he has to jump through to do so. All the while, Dr. Linda quietly faces her own identity crisis while she helps Amenadiel and Lucifer through theirs. In fact, the most interesting part of these Linda scenes is just how much the divine beings she’s helping don’t even notice her own problems. Sure, Linda’s not completely broadcasting her own trauma and it’s not like Rachael Harris is overacting, but it’s apparent from the advice she gives to both brothers (and the little ways she touches her bandages, almost involuntarily) that she’s struggling just as much as they are. At least, she’s struggling in a human sense. In Lucifer’s defense, he does ask if she’s fine and she says she is; but it’s a hollow ask, as he’s just as excited to keep talking about himself as you’d expect. It’s episodes like these where you really wish Maze were around, just so Linda could have someone to talk to. Then you realize that Maze shouldn’t be the only one Linda can really talk to, especially given the emotional weight Lucifer and Amenadiel regularly put on her.

While Linda made it clear she’d be a bit more hands off in her approach to Lucifer family issues post-momma drama, she still wants to help them in the way she knows how. More importantly, she wants to prove that she can still help in the way she knows how. The angel wing dumpster fire scene has a lot to unpack, and the most unfortunate part of all of it is probably how short it is. Amenadiel gets all of his frustrations out (the tests, the hurt, the confusion) just as quickly as he accepts Linda’s suggestion that Lucifer is his test from God. D.B. Woodside and Rachael Harris sell this scene just as well as they do their others in this episode—and it’s really comforting to see Amenadiel and Linda interact as actual friends, with no secret agenda or resentment—but if there’s one moment in this episode that feels like it could use room to breathe, it’s this one. Especially since Lucifer existing to test Amenadiel is another example of God’s cruelty, something that Linda’s never fully appeared to grasp until spending time with Amenadiel. Obviously Lucifer has made God’s personality pretty clear in his sessions with Linda, but there’s a different perspective in his case, one of anger and resentment. That isn’t quite there when Amenadiel talks about God, because while Lucifer is more upfront with his problems with their father, Amenadiel tries to hold it all inside. And it’s in the case of the latter that Linda gains a greater understanding of just how hard it is to be the child of the almighty.


As for characters like Chloe and Dan, you have one who wants to be defined by her professionalism and track record and another who wants his own track record to have nothing to do with how people perceive him now. These first two episodes have really pushed the pragmatic skeptic button hard with Chloe, and while that can be frustrating, it’s understandable right now. Chloe wants to be on Lt. Pierce’s good side, because she sees how things are on his bad side (with Dan). At the same time, from her perspective, Lucifer—her partner and the person she trusts with her life—is spiraling. He’s making up more crazy stories, and he’s becoming even more obsessed with them. He’s becoming more impulsive: He threw a man off a balcony last episode, luckily into a pool. Chloe wants no part of that. Meanwhile, Dan realizes all at once he probably won’t get in good with his new boss and he’ll always be considered a joke to Lucifer. And while no one pays attention to the obvious subtext, he’s tired of being insulted.

Pierce of course has perfectly good reasons not to trust Dan—and this week, Dan can’t defend his past actions without stumbling over his words—but it doesn’t help that Dan can’t even win with the people he considers part of his life. Whether it’s Charlotte or Lucifer or Chloe (who finds out about Dan’s improv but does not get to press him on it), people’s perceptions matter to Dan. Season one was an upsetting introduction to the character partly because of that. Neither Chloe nor Dan are dealing with trauma the size of Lucifer’s, Amenadiel’s, or even Linda’s, but they’re still struggling to figure out what their place is right now and how to define themselves. They’re just not agonizing over it as loudly as the angels or as solemnly as the good doctor.


On top of all this, “The One With The Baby Carrot” is more in line with a standard episode of the show, in terms of both the procedural and mythological aspects. The case-of-the-week doesn’t rely on Lucifer making it all about himself, and it also ends up being rather compelling, honing in on what makes a good procedural work. While it’s a part of the show I often consider the weakest, I should acknowledge that I have absolutely no problem with procedurals. In fact, this episode of Lucifer gave me the strong urge to rewatch Life again, which is one of the strongest bits of praise and recommendation I can give either show.

The point of any procedural is to make sense, to make the mystery come together logically. And while Lucifer has always done that, most of the cases-of-the-week have either lacked a compelling spin to them or simply relied way too hard on the Law & Order trope of “the most famous guest actor did it.” This episode relies on that basic logical sense, while doing so in a compelling way from top to bottom. Is it still predictable? Yes, but that’s expected of a procedural—it’s literally in the meaning of the word. But it’s the type of predictable you want, where the audience can put the pieces together either before or alongside the characters and come away satisfied. It’s far more fulfilling to be able to quickly come up with the perp and the motive because of a throwaway line for a seemingly unimportant character (Sheila the warm-up comic calling Bobby Lowe’s role a “dream gig”) than to just realize because of the casting choice.


Plus, the episode’s comedy scene story hits that “Los Angeles as its own character” spot in a way that’s not as over-the-top as the premiere’s prank kidnapping service. Especially Dan’s pretentious improv versus stand-up argument. And then there’s the puppet stuff—which in its short but sweet existence brings back fond memories of “Smile Time”—the guns in puppets stuff, the micropenis stuff, and the itchy butt stuff. That last one, of course, has one of the more poignant A-plot points come out of it:

Sheila: “Jokes don’t make comedians. Everyone has an itchy butt joke. It’s all about what you do with it.”
Lucifer: “What you do with your itchy butt?”
Sheila: “With the joke!”
Lucifer: “So, what you’re saying is, it’s okay to steal someone’s work as long as you do it better?”


And then Lucifer punches her out and we all have a laugh as he flippantly mentions it to Linda in one of their sessions. Lucifer even practices what it preaches in this episode, by taking the Friends episode title structure (based on Lucifer’s own micropenis-based dialogue) to give it that extra oomph.

The “itchy butt” exchange is a ridiculous button to a ridiculous story, but it’s apparently the one thing that convinces Lucifer to keep being himself. Well, the version of himself that does favors and avoids confronting his issues with his angel wings by simply refusing to ever use them. Really, the only one who truly gets something out of this episode’s dive into self-identity and introspection is Amenadiel. Lucifer turns his “be yourself” lesson into a competition with the Sinnerman, Linda keeps her problems close to the surface but not quite there, and Chloe and Dan simply refuse to acknowledge their problems. All in a day’s work, right?


“The One With The Baby Carrot” offers a lot of good stuff for Lucifer, both on a character and a procedural level, but as good as this episode is, it isn’t perfect. As I mentioned before, the angel wing dumpster fire is a moment that feels like it could be so much more, and while the episode zooms in on these characters’ problems, there’s still quite a way to go before the show reaches any of their solutions or even full acknowledgment. Plus, we’re still 0-2 when it comes to Maze and Trixie (and Charlotte) episode appearances; phone calls and desk pictures don’t count. This is is a better Lucifer episode than premiere episode “They’re Back, Aren’t They?,” but that particular episode’s quality was deeply connected to its role as just that—a premiere episode. This is a strong episode, but as evidenced by the conclusion, its strongest part is the potential it creates for future episodes.

These first two episodes are very much about season three’s potential, setting the table for Lucifer’s now standard heartbreak and heartache. (Dick and ass jokes are still acceptable in this standard, just so you know.) The message is here, even the pain is here, but when you look back at just how painful Lucifer’s second season could be (in a good way), this episode doesn’t even scratch the surface. This is an episode where Linda frames Lucifer’s wing removal in the very dark context of it actually being “self-mutilation,” but nothing more is really made of such a big deal. Yet. So while there’s a lot of realization and introspection here, it’s not fully explored. But I can’t wait until it is.


Stray observations

  • Three seasons in, and it’s still fascinating how Lucifer has absolutely no problem with humans knowing who he is or just how real the divine is. Part of that boldness stems from the fact that no really believes him anyway, but this episode’s opening teaser is an even better example. His wings popping out in a “premature unfurling” is more of a mild annoyance to him than anything else; it’s the idea of devil cos-play that turns him off completely. And his companion is into it too, despite it being the type of thing similar shows would make Lucifer stress out about or the woman run away screaming. There’s also something like Amenadiel complaining about how Lucifer just leaves his wing around. Again, it’s not so much fear of humans discovering the divine as it is annoyance by the messy possibility. Plus, everyone in Los Angeles is too self-absorbed to really care. It checks out.
  • Next week’s the first season two episode to sneak its way into this season, as well as our first bit of Maze. It’s honestly refreshing to know the writers (and scheduling) are working to keep Maze part of the story—Linda saying Maze is avoiding her because of too much emotional realness, phone calls where Maze mocks Lucifer’s pronunciation of Sinnerman—as they work through the episodes where Lesley-Ann Brandt was on maternity leave.
  • “Avocado? How about avoca-DON’T?” 1. Lucifer is right about how bad of a joke that is. 2. That being said, I’m partial to Black-ish’s “Erykah Ba-DON’T” joke myself.
  • In this episode, Pierce reveals that his backstory involves someone close to him (check) having been murdered (check) by the show’s current criminal mastermind (check) back when he was working in a different big city (check). It’s a very straightforward by-the-numbers backstory for a character that has brought some fun to how ridiculously by-the-numbers he is in every other aspect, but it’s also the type of thing that’ll probably keep him from being too cartoonish. Time will tell. However, it is a nice touch that Pierce snooping on Lucifer is only the result of walking in on that poorly excused Sinnerman conversation and not some already planned investigation. They can save the latter for season four.
  • Pierce: “Are you hiding something from me, Detective?”
    Chloe: “...No.”
    Pierce: “I don’t care, I was just asking.” One of the reasons Chloe tells Lucifer to chill with the Sinnerman stuff is because she claims she’s starting to get a rhythm with Pierce. She is not starting to get a rhythm with Pierce.)
  • Timeline question: So did Pierce recently leave Chicago and transfer to Los Angeles? Because if that’s the case, is safe to assume the Sinnerman followed him? Is it safe to assume anything? Could this possibly mean the Sinnerman is more than one person? “Person”?
  • It’s unexpected yet... unsurprising that Ella is so obsessed with a television show featuring puppets, isn’t it? Her starstruck nature a nice reminder that Ella is not a Los Angelino, though it’s impressively frustrating that it lasts as long as it does when she first meets him. The better part of this particular beat is when she turns on Bobby Lowe (Kevin Christy, who I always remember from Happy Endings “Of Mice and Jazz-Kwon-Do”) for his admitted joke thievery.
  • In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I always refer to Amenadiel as “Amen” in my notes, Luci-fans (or do you prefer “Devil Bunnies”?). It might not work for Linda, but it works for me, I swear.
  • I should also acknowledge that “itchy butt” thing isn’t just some Lucifer juvenile humor: It’s the basis of the Louis CK/Dane Cook joke theft feud (confirmed by Joe Henderson) and the Louie season two episode “Oh Louie/Tickets.”
  • As we see from his desk, not only does Dan have one of those little hand stress relievers, he has two of them. Also, he sounds so deflated when he learns Lucifer doesn’t have his number saved. Come on, Luci.
  • Pierce wants Lucifer to keep their Sinnerman investigation from Chloe. This should totally end well.
  • Episode director Louis Milito would probably know better than I, but I can’t help but think the directing in the rafters scene—where the light only hits the eye area of Lucifer’s face and nothing else—is a choice based on the eyes being the window to the soul. It feels appropriate for this episode, at least:
Illustration for article titled iLucifer/i explores self-identity the way only it can: with penis and butt jokesem/em

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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