Even months later, it’s still fairly impressive just how well Lucifer pulled off its second season. There was no sophomore slump—anything but, in fact—as Lucifer quickly found a groove that would define the series moving forward, one that played to the strengths of its cast and writers.* The humor was fine-tuned, the characterization was on-point, and the show struck a strong balance between its light, breezy tone and the heartbreaking themes and divine concepts it had at its disposal. Comparing the series’ uneven beginnings to the comedic and dramatic heights it achieved in its second season, the difference in quality was staggering at times. Season two created a solid baseline for what Lucifer is and what it can be, quality-wise, and it’s a pleasure to see that said baseline is alive and well as the third season begins.
* In the case of the writers, after “proving” themselves and the show’s ability to succeed with the first season, the second season truly felt like they were given the chance to shake things up and take more risks. Based on showrunners Ildy Modrovich (who penned this episode) and Joe Henderson’s comments on the the four holdover episodes from season two, that risk-taking will only continue.
“They’re Back, Aren’t They?” picks up right where season two ended, with a shirtless Lucifer in the desert... with newly-formed angel’s wings. It also picks up with a a quick reminder of the kind of show Lucifer is, a show that appreciates its loyal audience. Immediately welcoming back said audience with the return of the bank robber (and comedic punching bag) from the season two premiere, this episode works as assurance that while some things will be different this season, there are some things you just can’t change when it comes to Lucifer. And there’s nothing wrong with either approach.
In the case of Dr. Linda, her confrontation with Charlotte at the end of last season was reason enough for her to decide to tread carefully when it comes to Lucifer’s more demanding family and personal issues... but that doesn’t mean she won’t still tell it to him straight when he’s about to possibly do something rash. Just like it doesn’t mean Lucifer’s not going to do something rash anyway (cut off his newly-formed wings) and face the consequences of that (said wings reforming), even after supposedly learning his lesson on a weekly basis.
There’s also the very concept that, in true Lucifer fashion (the show can play just as many cosmic jokes on its audience as God does to Lucifer), the big cliffhanger and disappearance of Lucifer doesn’t end up being a “Where’s Lucifer?” mission quest. Not for the entire episode, not even for the first act. Instead, as soon as the episode confirms Lucifer was gone for two days and no one even considered him missing, it’s another a solid reminder of what this show is. He was gone longer between “A Good Day To Die” and “Candy Morningstar,” so Chloe expects nothing more than a drunk dial turned weekend binge. And of course the show would make Lucifer’s mysterious disappearance less of a big deal in the short run; been there, done that.
“They’re Back, Aren’t They” does its job as a season premiere well, as it’s the type of episode a newbie can come into without prior knowledge and a current fan can appreciate because of their prior knowledge. Oddly enough, it’s the introduction of Lucifer’s newest cast member, Tom Welling as Lieutenant Marcus Pierce, that works as one of the episode’s biggest tools when it comes to working both sides. First of all, there’s the surprise that Pierce’s character exceeds expectations (both as a character type and as a Tom Welling character) from moment one. Look at how the character is described in the episode synopsis: “Newcomer Lieutenant Marcus Pierce (Tom Welling) fails to make a great impression on everyone with his stern demeanor.” He instantly sounds like a wet blanket character who won’t fit with the tone of the show, similar to Dan’s characterization (as far as not fitting into the otherwise fun, over-the-top world of Lucifer goes) in the first season. He sounds like the straight man to every character, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a fully no-nonsense character in a show that thrives on nonsense isn’t exactly something to get excited for. It sounds like an ever sadder version of Smallville’s Clark Kent, if possible.
But then Pierce shows up, and it’s like he’s always been here. Pierce is stern, but Lucifer makes that an entertaining aspect of his character, simply by it accompanying his skill of calling attention to just how absurd these characters and their circumstances are. And he does so without punching down on the series’ concept. Really, Pierce is an extension of the series’ self-awareness: He’s not calling for our heroes’ guns and badges, he’s not intentionally interfering in their work. Ella’s introduction in season two allowed a contrast for these dark characters, and now Pierce’s allows a contrast for these very strange characters. Because they really are all so strange. Even “normal” Chloe. Yes, these characters really did have an investigation which involved questioning 92 of Lucifer’s sexual partners. Even better, the questioning ended up not even being integral to the real investigation. Yes, Dan got off unbelievably easy from all of his time as a dirty cop. Both in the world of the show and, thanks to miracle-working writing, as a character the audience can accept. So as these characters get sucked more into the vortex of weirdness that makes what Lucifer is, it helps to have a character who can acknowledge it all.
Plus, no one’s addressed the fact that the LAPD hasn’t had anyone in charge since Dawn Olivieri’s lieutenant character (who I believe got promoted, thanks to Lucifer) disappeared after her two early season one episodes.
At least this episode features Bones’ Pej Vahdat pointing out something a lot more suspects and witnesses on this show would probably call out in real life: If a cop-consultant duo come up to you, and one of them is an actress from a teen sex comedy while the other goes by the name “Lucifer Morningstar,” you’re going to think you’re being pranked. You probably are being pranked. With that acknowledgment, let it never be said Lucifer doesn’t know what it’s doing. It knows exactly what it’s doing. And in this particular case, it’s teasing its audience about the existence of a Hot Tub High School sequel titled Hot Tub Hotel, which Chloe did not star in.
Outside of what’s old and new, it helps that this return episode also features a fairly solid and intriguing case-of-the-week. Although, points are deducted for Mad Men’s Michael Gladis awkwardly appearing at the crime scene, disappearing for the majority of the episode, and then unsurprisingly being a the perp. (The Lancaster PD aspect of the case is also not as integral a part of the plot as it should be, because it would make the reveal that Sam’s not a cop ever quicker.) But the entire concept of the faux kidnapping service Snatched is one of those “Hollyweird” aspects of Lucifer that makes for a large part of the show’s DNA, and the reveal that the type of people who work there aren’t criminal masterminds bounces between stupidly funny (their confusion over Lucifer) and darkly funny (as Lucifer questions and literally prods them).
There’s also a lot left to unpack that the episode doesn’t address, in the reveal that Sam isn’t exactly a murderer. He was simply doing his job, then accidentally left the victim buried alive in the desert because he was so in shock from the sight of Lucifer with wings. He’s not some psychopath, he’s just another dweeb from Snatched (which is a terrible idea for a company but also one that doesn’t expect divine beings to be the hostages) who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. And as a result, he ends up on the run from this Sinnerman character—if anything, Sam’s biggest offense comes from the fact he knew Sinnerman was a bad guy and still worked for him—and killed in a more gruesome way than one would expect or consider reasonable. With this plot, Lucifer combines its darkness and lightness into something more than “just” a case-of-the-week. It also reminds the audience how Lucifer’s constant need to make cases about himself can only lead to more disastrous results.
Lucifer is obviously very shaken up about what happened to him—especially when you factor in that no one at the LAPD realized he was missing and Amenadiel is more concerned with their parents—to the point where it almost feels like there really is no true connection between his kidnapping and the case itself. Until he finally confronts Sam and hears what happened. It still doesn’t answer the question of why this happened to him, and it only provides more questions. But while the humor and characterization in “They’re Back, Aren’t They?” admittedly feels the same for Lucifer, something that’s noticeably different by the end of the episode is the amount of trauma Lucifer will eventually have to is deal with. The combination of the aftermath of sending his mother away, his father’s “celestial spanking” (whether his current angel state is part of that or if there’s something else to come), Dan’s resentment over the Charlotte thing, the Sinnerman, disappointing Chloe again, Amenadiel’s renewed faith—Lucifer has all of that on his plate in this episode. And this premiere episode does a fine job of setting the table, even though it’s missing a few dinner guests.
Welcome back, Lucifer.
- I have greatly missed this show, and while I know the Kinjapocalypse caused some hits to be taken, I hope the commenters have missed it as well. I can also say I greatly missed Charlotte (whatever that will eventually mean for this season), Maze, and Trixie in this episode. Though I’m going to assume that Trixie wasn’t even mentioned in this episode because then they’d have to call attention to how she totally went bounty hunting with Maze. This is my canon.
- As for the four episodes from season two that will make their way into this current season, based just on the power of Wikipedia and production codes, those episodes are: “Mr. And Mrs. Mazikeen Smith,” “City Of Angels,” “Off The Record,” and “Vegas With Some Radish.” So far, the only one with an announced place on the schedule is “Mr. And Mrs. Mazikeen Smith,” and that will be episode three of this season.
- The moment where Lucifer gets serious (again) about telling Chloe the truth, only to reveal Ella has yet to leave the office? Beautiful. During the scene, I assumed the show was just doing one of those things where a character just leaves offscreen and no one addresses it. For levity’s sake, it thankfully did not do that. Of course, the rest of the scene is just mean.
- Let’s all give it up to Ella for being the only who acknowledges the gorgeous men who just stroll into the precinct 24/7. And for treating Leo the squirrel (R.I.P.) with the proper respect. And for momentarily thinking Leo came back to life.
- Lucifer’s rash behavior when it comes to Josh (e.g. throwing him off a balcony and into a pool) makes a lot sense, as Josh is such a caricature of a rich douchebag (right down to the lamest attempted escape ever) in his introduction that you can’t help want something bad to happen to him. It is nice, however, to see his behavior is only the result of thinking he was involved in a prank and that his words and actions weren’t going to have consequence. Though, to be fair, his prank-off with the deceased is still on the privileged manchild side of things.
- Amenadiel throwing himself fully back into being the good son—in a lighter, less judgmental older brother way—is an interesting concept, especially as Lucifer gives him more and more reason to be upset with God. There’s something painfully funny about how he doubles down on having faith once Lucifer explains he no longer has devil face. He has a point: Anyone can can be redeemed if Lucifer can.
- Speaking of Lucifer giving Amenadiel more reasons to be upset with God, it’s actually a pretty big moment for him as a “person” when he stops himself from just tossing out that he has his wings back in the first place. The same goes for him trying to explain to Dan how Charlotte’s current behavior (“pretending” she has no idea who he is) has nothing to do with him.
- In my reviews of the second season, there were times where I was accused of overrating the show. As I’ve pointed out before (and will point out again to start this season), shows covered here at TV Club are graded against themselves, and based on the aforementioned shift in quality between the first two seasons, I argued there was an understandable “inflation,” if you will. But I also think Lucifer is, in a lot of ways, one of television’s best kept secrets. Because it went from the type of uninspired unrelated source material-turned-procedural (especially in the same TV season as Limitless, which pulled off the transition brilliantly in that one-and-done season) television nerds like myself ironically watch to a fine example of network television not truly being a creative wasteland. It knows what it is and it executes it extremely well. So in the future, if I give it an ‘A’, please know I’m not saying it’s the same quality-level or even the same execution as something like an ‘A’ episode of Halt & Catch Fire.