Chapter 1: A supernatural police procedural?
Overthinking Lucifer is one of my favorite leisure activities these days. It's a show that rewards repeated viewings. At first glance, the it seems like a goofy supernatural premise crossed with a police procedural-- fluffy, inconsequential and fun. And it is. But it's also a lot more than that-- from the very first episode, it's a multi-layered story of Lucifer's self-discovery, a super-frustrating romance, a spectacular postmodern pop culture deep-dive pastiche, and a commentary on friendship and family. We truly live in the golden age of TV.
I need to cheer for all of the show's influences and predecessors, and these are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head; I'm sure there are far more: Yay, Moonlighting, Remington Steele, Buffy and Angel, CSI, Bones, The Sopranos, The Wire, Black Mirror, Breaking Bad. Yay, John Milton's Bible fanfic, Neil Gaiman's Milton fanfic, and Sam Kieth and Mike Carey. Yay, Dan Clewes and the Hernandez Brothers. Yay, K-Pop and David Bowie. Yay, the female gaze. Yay, Joe and Ildy. Yay, Lauren, Kevin, Leslie Ann, DB, Rachael, Tricia, Aimee, and Scarlett. Yay, of course, Tom Ellis.
Yay Alan Sepinwall, for showing me, with his fantastic recaps of The Wire, that good TV can and does stand up to close reading and analysis, and that you never catch everything the first time through. Like he'd say: I'll be back right after I bribe this policeman.
So, time to splash in the pool a little. The show is about Lucifer's emotional journey, and each of the cases he helps solve bring him a step closer to self-understanding. IMO, it's pretty neat, morphing the BtVS format of "monster of the week" into a similar "case of the week". As the audience, we know that nothing Lucifer says is a metaphor at all -- he's simply telling the truth, and nobody believes him. The joke, and a very cool thing that most viewers (including me) and reviewers of Season 1 didn't pick up on, is that every single case is a metaphor for something going on with Lucifer. The writers are remarkably consistent about this, so the stories work on multiple levels, both as murder mysteries and as commentary, while weaving in foreshadowing of the larger series arc into most of the cases.
It's great fun to pick apart the episodes, connect a few dots, and find a few eggs.
Let's start with the pilot:
Lucifer holds court at Lux, his personal realm on Earth. Delilah, a friend and recipient of Lucifer's favors, comes back to see him when she's in a tough place: she's out of money, her career is on the rocks, she has a drug problem, and has run out of allies. Lucifer, who we don't really know at all at this point, has his first real character moment: "What I'm going to ask will be very difficult for you. Pull yourself together!" He's acting as a concerned mentor, not as the ruthless fixer we might expect the devil to be. Although he appears immoral and hedonistic, it's revealed that this devil has compassion for his friends/supplicants.
Apparently, up to this point, things have gone swimmingly during the first five years of his vacation, but Lucifer's sense of control is abruptly shattered when Delilah is gunned down as she stands on the sidewalk beside him. The gunman is fatally injured when his car crashes immediately after the shooting, but Lucifer wrings some information from him before he dies: He only did it for the money. He also notices that the shooter is wearing a watch that is far too expensive for someone who is shooting people for cash. Cue Beck's "Devil's Haircut" on the soundtrack.
Fun foreshadowing: Most of the music heard in the show has some relevance to the plot, but I think of that particular song as a bit of sly meta. It's a reference to the story of Samson and Delilah -- like Samson, whose strength was in his long hair, and whose wife Delilah betrays him to the Philistines by cutting it off, the devil is losing his invincibility, though the actual mechanism is a bit more complicated than a haircut. It's kinda fun when you find out a couple of episodes later that Lucifer's angelic name, pre-fall, was Samael, so we have a retrospective "Samael and Delilah" joke.
Aside: I have a completely unsubstantiated theory that there may be some convoluted John Milton references going on -- Lucifer's character is based on Paradise Lost via Sandman, so perhaps it's Milton himself who is responsible for this: "Samson Agoniste," a short play about a blinded, imprisoned, bitter Samson, is stuck at the end of Paradise Regained, the sequel to Paradise Lost. I admit it's a reach, but there's a redemption arc, Samson delivers a couple of really good Luciferesque zingers during his time of suffering, and his enemies get theirs in the end.
Also, from intermittently reliable resource, Wikipedia: "Samael (Hebrew: סַמָּאֵל Sammāʾēl, "Venom of God", "Poison of God", or "Blindness of God"; rarely "Smil", "Samil", or "Samiel") is an archangel in Talmudic and post-Talmudic lore, a figure who is the accuser (Ha-Satan), seducer, and destroyer (Mashhit)." So both blindness and poison could be motifs, and we'll discover that they are. Samson in "Agoniste" is blind. While our Lucifer isn't literally blind, he's most certainly alexithymic, i.e., emotion-blind.
I haven't dug that deeply into the metaphors of the murder investigation in the pilot, because it's so full of context it barely has room for subtext; it's mainly about setting up the characters and relationships: the discredited cop Chloe, who is intriguingly immune to the devil's "desire mojo," Dr Linda, a psychiatrist who isn't, Dan, Chloe's estranged husband, Mazikeen, Lucifer's demon protector, and Amenadiel, his brother and current nemesis, who wants him to go back to hell. The pilot does a lot of work to establish all of these characters and to demonstrate Lucifer's considerable abilities, culminating in a shootout with scuzzy record producer Jimmy Barnes, in which Chloe is shot and Lucifer, to her great consternation, isn't.
Chapter 2: A female gaze
The pilot has introduced our dramatis personae. Now we have the show's mission statement. What is the nature of Lucifer's journey?
1.2 "Lucifer Stay, Good Devil"
Jacob Williams: Have you seen the face of the Devil?
Lucifer: Oh, every morning in the mirror, pal.
Chloe: I guess we both have our mysteries.
Lucifer: Ah. Well, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
Wikipedia: "In physics, the observer effect is the theory that the mere observation of a phenomenon inevitably changes that phenomenon. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner."
Lucifer has been a perpetual outsider, both in the celestial realm and on Earth. When humans look at him, they see only what he can give them, what desires he might fulfill. As an invulnerable celestial able to manipulate but not emotionally connect with the humans he meets, Lucifer must have some serious existential ennui.
Even the first time I saw this episode, I knew there was a point to the story about paparazzi, something about being seen candidly, granting permission for people to see you, or being violated by voyeurs who look at you without consent. It took me awhile to parse it out, but once you get it, it's obvious: Lucifer is changing because Chloe can see him. But he has to let her see, and she has to want to see him. That is the whole show, seasons 1-4. (Maybe 5 will be different.)
Now I'm gonna do an actual recap, because almost every scene has at least a nugget of seeing.
In Linda's office, Lucifer talks about being the devil, reels off a few of his many names. Notice that he skips "Old Nick." The writers are trying to make us think, just a little. Linda allows that she's not afraid of him because she is willing to "work within his metaphor," and posits that he's being jokey and insecure because he doesn't know what or who is the cause of his recent turn toward humanity. Thanks, Linda, I think we can guess.
Chloe is at Lux snapping pictures, trying to figure out what is going with Lucifer. Why didn't he get shot? He stops playing "King of Pain" on the piano to inquire how her investigation into him is going, and asks her essentially the same question she asks him: What is going on with Chloe ? Why is she immune to him? Chloe gets a call from Dan about a case she has a personal interest in.
At the crime scene, we find the notorious paparazzo Nick Hofmeister taking blame for a murder when the son of a celebrity is killed by being run off the road. Lucifer follows Chloe there, saying "I'm trying to solve my mystery." Chloe, who has history with Nick, calls him "a cockroach," and Lucifer amends it to "dung beetle." And hey, look! They are referencing Kafka's Metamorphosis, reflecting Lucifer's pessimistic view, echoed by Maze and Amenadiel, of an involuntary change being foisted upon a hapless scoundrel. Also, "Gregor Samsa" is yet another "Sam" pun.
However, Lucifer's desire mojo quickly reveals that Nick didn't do it. Lucifer wants more info, but Lucifer pushes so hard that Nick begs him to stop. He's crossed a line and is violating Nick's free will. He crosses another line by smoking the weed found in the car, destroying evidence right in front of the cops.
In the next scene we hear Say Hi's "Devils" which fades out on "The Devil got my head and the Devil got my eyes…" Amenadiel comes in to warn Lucifer that saving Chloe's life has changed him, and he's not in control of the change and that should scare him. "You can't see it yet," says Amenadiel. The apple that Lucifer has tossed hangs in midair until Amenadiel leaves, then falls to the floor. The fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, huh? What's it gonna be, Satan?
Now, a scene about stuff we're not supposed to see! At home, Chloe is watching a video of Robbie Russell using the paparazzi to do good by promoting the Red Cross. Trixie asks if she's looking at a "no-no site" because she looks guilty, but it's really because Chloe isn't supposed to be working while on medical leave. Lucifer shows up, makes a vulgar and objectifying comment about Chloe's appearance in Hot Tub High School, and she tells him never to do that again, and also not to talk about the movie around Trixie. He attempts to pry into her history, asking about her mom, and about why she's angry at Nick. She isn't giving anything up. He offers to help her with the case, but she herds him out the door, saying that he would draw unwanted attention to her secret investigation.
Lucifer talks his way into Hofmeister's holding cell to find out about Chloe's history, and Hofmeister tells him about Chloe punching the camera at her father's funeral, and how he's been racked with guilt ever since. He realizes Nick is protecting someone, but won't give up the name. Again, Lucifer goes too far in pressuring Nick, realizes it, and takes off. This is a pattern -- Lucifer almost always saves the harshest treatment for his metaphorical proxy.
Back at Lux, Lucifer mopes over his encounter with Nick. Maze taunts him because he feels bad for invading Chloe's privacy, and agrees with Amenadiel about his unwanted changes, and he flashes the flaming eyes of the Lord of Hell and commands her not to disrespect him.
We know it's not just Chloe's privacy he feels bad about. He's crossed a LOT of lines, including breaking human laws (smoking evidence at a crime scene), offending Chloe (by, among other things, making obnoxious noises while commenting on her boobs) and, likely the worst violation in his eyes, and the most disturbing to viewers: repeatedly violating Nick's free will. In his angry outburst, Maze sees the "old" Lucifer. "There he is!" she says. Then Chloe arrives. "And there he goes," says Maze, disappointed. Obviously, we viewers are rooting for the new Lucifer to stick around. Maze and Amenadiel are counterparts to the paparazzi: they are trying to control the narrative and to perpetuate a very unflattering view of him.
Chloe and Lucifer have independently discovered that someone besides Nick was following Robbie Russell. Searching online, Chloe discovers a party where pictures are being uploaded from Nick's company. Chloe tells Lucifer to come with her, because "I’d rather keep my eye on you."
On the way, Lucifer tells Chloe that Nick is really sorry and seeking redemption for what he did to her, but she isn't terribly receptive and says he's going about it the wrong way. They find Nick's protege at the party, but when they see him, he points out that Chloe Decker is there. They can't get away before the crowd of paparazzi starts snapping photos and hollering at Chloe to show them her boobs. Lucifer instigates a fight to distract them, and the suspect runs off.
Dan finds out the suspect's name, Josh, and they learn he's been setting up lurid photos, some of which have resulted in the deaths of the targets.
At the precinct, Chloe convinces Nick to testify against Josh, Dan calls to say Josh is missing, and Nick goes missing while she's on the phone.
Lucifer and Maze have wordlessly agreed that Josh and Nick deserve punishment on Earth, since they won't be punished in Hell. It's a nice touch that Maze is eating an apple during that scene--we know what side she's on. Lucifer explains his deeply pessimistic thinking to Nick, and we know he's talking about himself: "You’re a necessary evil, something I understand all too well. But the trouble is that you tried to change and you failed spectacularly at it. Because, well, sometimes we are what we are, and we should embrace that." He's ready to give up and go back to being the devil.
Lucifer and Maze stage an elaborate scenario involving guns, telling Nick that Josh tried to trick Nick into taking a fall, and Nick was going to rat Josh out to the police. Josh taunts Nick, "You were almost begging to take the fall" and tries to shoot him, but his gun isn't loaded. I'm reminded of Lucifer losing a battle in Heaven.
Josh is also his proxy, as a rebellious son who doesn't believe in boundaries and falls as a consequence. His motto, "Always be first," has twisted Josh into a murderous manipulator who coerces others into acting out his scenarios.
The first of many, many father/son stories in the show, I see this one as kind of a coded psychotherapeutic message for Lucifer: one of the important goals of therapy is to learn to re-parent yourself, to rewrite your own story. Because he is metaphorically both Nick and Josh, it's his choice whether to prevent this father figure from sending his son to Hell.
When Chloe arrives on the scene, Nick is pointing a loaded gun at Josh. Lucifer, as the devil on his shoulder, rejects the idea of redemption and encourages him to shoot: "Nick, embrace who you really are. Stop fighting it." Chloe, acting as the angel, tries to talk him out of it. "Yeah, you screwed up, but you know what? It’s okay. You tried to change. That’s what’s important."
"Humans," scoffs Maze.
At Chloe's words, a lightbulb practically goes on over Lucifer's head. There is hope. She has taken the same facts he has and reached the opposite conclusion. Maybe redemption is actually possible? "Fascinating, aren’t they? Do you know, perhaps they’re onto something." Or at least this human is onto something.
Nick pulls the trigger. Lucifer prays for Amenadiel, who arrives to stop time. And what is a photo but a view of a moment frozen in time? Lucifer plucks the bullet out of the air.
So many things result because Chloe shows up to watch when she does. When Amenadiel stops time, Lucifer changes the story, and saves himself from doing something that would make him irredeemable in Chloe's eyes: allowing Nick to kill Josh. Chloe sees something baffling: the man shooting but the bullet disappearing from her perspective, and Lucifer seeming to teleport from one spot to another. She's completely confused. This is her blindness.
Still, Chloe watches Lucifer, and he changes.
Trixie has already seen Hot Tub High School (because they have the internet) and thinks it's funny. The scene that left an impression on Trixie is NOT Chloe's boobs.
Lucifer tells Dr. Linda that he is exhilarated to be changing, and knows that Chloe is the cause. But with his final,creepily objectifying line, "...it may be a “who” that’s changing me. But now that begs the question. What do I do with her?" we realize how much he still has to learn.
Chloe goes to see Jimmy Barnes, locked behind a glass wall in a mental ward, who shows her just a hint of Lucifer's powers of destruction. He has been driven insane by the knowledge that Lucifer is really the devil, and bangs his head on the glass until he bleeds before being hauled away and sedated. He's another Lucifer proxy: trying to give her a loud, clear, obvious message, but he can't break through the wall.
I was going to talk about 1.3 also, but I'll save it for next time. These episodes are extra crunchy and chewy.
Chapter 3: Poseurs and Divers
The Would-be Prince of Darkness (1.3) has a couple of big themes:
1. Jumping in the deep end
2. Who is a wannabe and who is the real deal?
1.3 The Would-be Prince of Darkness
noun: displacement ; plural noun: displacements
1. The moving of something from its place or position.
- the removal of someone or something by someone or something else which takes their place.
- the amount by which a thing is moved from its normal position.
2. The occupation by a submerged body or part of a body of a volume which would otherwise be occupied by a fluid.
3. In psychoanalysis: the unconscious transfer of an intense emotion from its original object to another one.
Lucifer: Go on. Go ahead, jump. You know you want to.
Mazikeen: Oh, this is so hot. It’s like you’re punishing yourself.
Lucifer: Seems I could be just, um, overreacting a bit. Go. Go on! And never sully my name again.
Two themes here:
- Jumping in the deep end
- Who is the wannabe and who is the real deal?
Lucifer stands with a girl on the roof of a building, and it seems like he's inviting her to commit suicide, but it's quickly revealed she's really jumping into a swimming pool at a party. She's the first person in this episode we see plunge into the deep end, and the only one who doesn't seem out of her depth after going kerplunk . He's also inviting himself to dive into the wider world of humanity, and inviting viewers to keep watching. It's only Episode three; the show is still establishing itself, and being pretty overt about its intentions. I love how this scene contains all of that in less than half a minute.
Pretty, red-haired Ali Thornton tries the same tactic when seducing the virgin football player party host, Ty Huntley, asking, fatefully, "What’s the worst that can happen?" Lucifer concurs, telling Ty to go get laid like he really wants to.
At the party, the girl from the opener accuses Lucifer of being an impostor. He learns there is another "Lucifer Morningstar" frequenting parties and bars, sullying the devil's "brand" by being far less cool than the real deal. The girl is not convinced. "Even your accent is fake," she scoffs. Since the devil is from Hell, not the UK, she's not entirely wrong. He consoles himself with not just one, but three bed partners.
Lucifer learns that his attempt to help Ty with his desires has backfired when Ali turns up murdered the next morning. The obvious conclusion is that Ty did it, but Lucifer knows it wasn't him. He calls Chloe, who is trying to figure out how Lucifer does all the impossible things she's seen him do (oh, honey, your feet are barely wet) and tells her there is an emergency. She comes to Ty's house and discovers she's been summoned to investigate a murder.
Chloe, who is very good at it, launches into an investigation -- she recognizes signs of strangling, ferrets out the victim's identity by deducing which purse in a pile of them belongs to her, then checking the plate of the car whose keys were in the purse. Ty is such a naif that he asks if it's possible that Ali's death was an accident. "No, I think she was murdered," says Chloe, matter-of-factly.
She tells Lucifer, who's trying to help her, to butt out."I don’t need your help color-commentating. I need facts and hard evidence. So, unless you can help me with either, stay." It's the comment he was afraid of hearing from her in 1.2. She sends him to the patio with the other party guests, i.e. "miscreants," where he watches her through sliding glass doors. "This will not do," he says, disappointed.
While the police are looking at Ty's bedroom and finding a fake fingernail that clearly belonged to Ali, Lucifer leaves the rest of the party guests and Chloe finds him watching a sex video on a phone, which turns out to be Ali's. It shows Ty having sex with her, then angrily asking her if she's recording him. Chloe confiscates the phone and arrests Ty, who complains that it's all Lucifer's fault, saying, "I wish I'd never met you!"
Lucifer tells Chloe he has valuable information, but she dismisses him without letting him tell her what it is.
The LAPD calls Lux because they are investigating the antics of Lucifer's impostor, who, among other things, has skipped out on a tab at a chicken wing place:
Lucifer: Do I look like I’d eat a Zany Wing? Someone is clearly masquerading as me! Rap battles and hot wings? You need to find this cheap knockoff and make him suffer, do you understand?
Mazikeen: Why? You said it yourself humans are fascinating, right?
Maze is calling back to his epiphany from the previous episode, when he decided not to carry out the punishment he'd arranged.
Fun foreshadowing: Three episodes later, Lucifer's actual wings are stolen. Get it? Hot wings. When he recovers them, we learn that the ones put up for sale at the illicit auction are actually fake. Four episodes later, he sets the real wings on fire, destroying them.
In therapy, Linda asks Lucifer why he's so furious about the impostor, who's a minor inconvenience at worst, and apparently not angry about the police arresting the wrong person for the murder. "Because I punish the guilty and Ty's not guilty." Linda theorizes there may be some displacement.
Perhaps so, but Chloe finds Lucifer ahead of her in searching for the killer, at the office of Ty's agent, Joe Hansen, whose number had been the last one called on Ali's phone. She tells him he doesn't need to stay, but he has no intention of leaving. "I’m not trying to solve this for you. I’m ensuring that the right person is held responsible," he says.
Lucifer tries to ask the agent about his desires, but Chloe interrupts before he's able to elicit any useful information. Ty's agent tells them to investigate Debra, Ty's ex, because she is the one who murdered Ali.
They find Debra leaving an exercise class. She tries to flee when she sees them. Her car blows up. It was a remotely triggered explosion designed to frighten Debra.
Lucifer: Yes, why did you run, Debra? Awfully guilty-looking.
Debra Macall: I thought you were going to bust me for violating my restraining order. I went to Ty’s party last night. I-I just I just looked. From outside, through the window. I couldn’t help it, I miss him.
Debra says she and Ty only broke up because his agent told him to. She has a solid, though pathetic alibi for the time of the murder.
Back at the precinct, Dan says Ronnie Hillman, the "Hollywood fixer" was spotted on security footage at the scene of the explosion. This gives the police an opportunity to bring her in. Because she's suspicious of cops, they enlist Lucifer to hire her for a dirty job.
Chloe: And then we’ll have leverage to find out what she knows about Ali’s murder. She has information we need, so let’s just stick to the plan.
Lucifer: Assuming, of course, Ronnie hasn’t run off because our sting suddenly turned into a Michael Bublé concert.
Ronnie offers to help Lucifer track down his impostor, so Instead of arranging a fixing job on Dan's behalf, Lucifer takes her up on the offer.
When Ronnie brings in the fake Lucifer Morningstar, he and Maze interrogate the guy and describe in detail the sorts of punishment they'd like to exact on him. He's terrified and promises never to do it again. But when Maze remarks, "this is so hot. It’s like you’re punishing yourself," Lucifer has another change of heart, and lets him go, then calls the police in to arrest Ronnie.
When they question her, she says she had nothing to do with the murder, and that she cared about and wanted to protect Ali, who was new in town and looking for work as an actress. The blackmail scheme was her first gig for Ronnie. Ty's agent had told Ronnie that Debra killed Ali. Here are two more failed quasi-parental relationships where the parents claim to want to protect their "children," but harm them in the process: Ronnie and Ali, and Joe and Ty.
Back at Joe's office, Lucifer and Chloe interrupt a "re-branding" meeting for Ty, saying they need to take him back to the station for questioning. This lures the agent into admitting that he had been at the party at the same time as Debra, which gives them enough information to arrest him.
Incensed at the agent's scheming and lack of regard for Ali, Lucifer hurls him right through a plate-glass window, which leaves Chloe wide-eyed with shock. Lucifer is forcibly shoving this unethical scheming miscreant to the other side of the window, while he, Lucifer, stays on the same side of the glass as the detective. Perhaps this is a part of himself that Lucifer would like to be rid of, still a stager of damaging photo ops. Both he and Ty have been stuck with bad representation.
Later, Ty and Debra reunite, and Chloe and Lucifer talk over what happened. Lucifer says he helped solve the case, and Chloe says it was solved despite him, reeling off all of the transgressions he's committed. He counters that he helped solved not one, but two crimes, and insists he wanted to prove Ty's innocence to catch the true culprit. Chloe doesn't believe him.
In therapy he tells Linda, "I decided not to punish myself," meaning the impostor, agreeing that his anger had been displacement, but also complaining that LA is full of phonies. Linda points out that people come to LA to reinvent themselves, as perhaps he has done himself, and that he seems to enjoy not just punishing bad people, but seeking justice for good ones. He dismisses her with a crack about therapy being self-indulgent, which Linda points out is, once again, displacing. He denies it. He seems quite committed to his own blindness, doesn't he?
It's interesting to me that this episode continues to examine the ways that people try to control narratives about themselves and others: Like a very intimate paparazzo, Ali films Ty having sex with her, and he objects to being recorded. Joe goes as far as committing murder over the need to control that story. Lucifer finds that word of his impostor has traveled through many social circles unbeknownst to him, the bad press is coming back to haunt him, and he knows he needs to protect his "brand." Joe is in the middle of "re-branding" Ty as the next Tom Brady, and is so terrified of what would happen if Ty was "walked past a few reporters" that he ends up incriminating himself.
I was trying to figure out who the Lucifer proxy was in this episode, but I can see a reflection of him in all of the suspects, and even in the victim. In his unfamiliarity with the ways of humans (especially human detectives), he's like a little kid, or a virgin, or someone new in town, or a new swimmer jumping into the deep end of the pool. He really has no idea of what he's signing up for.
The only proxy Lucifer really wants to punish is the overtly guilty one, the agent, a calculating, paranoid misogynist who destroyed his own career by "squeezing too hard." He claims to be saving the punishment for the one that deserves it, but this is still displacement. Everyone around him has been suggesting he might feel some guilt personally for pushing Ty to sleep with Ali, which he steadfastly denies. As Linda says, he's trying to reinvent re-brand himself, and realizes that he is no longer so ready to mete out extravagant punishments, even, or perhaps especially, to himself.
Is this personal growth, or is it the denial of of his guilty conscience? Does he have a conscience at all, or is the appearance of mercy merely a form of narcissism? Is this all "re-branding the Devil," just for appearances? At this point, we don't really know.
Thanks to Miamat and Miah for letting me talk this one through!
Chapter 4: This little piggie
Manly Whatnots and Sweet Kicks
These episodes continue to set up recurring themes for the show. We examine gender politics, sibling rivalry, and animal metaphors. Lucifer starts to get an inkling of just how vulnerable and inexperienced he is in the human world.
Also, the great foreshadowing pipeline starts to flow.
1.4 Manly Whatnots
Chloe: I want to shoot you.
Lucifer: Tease. Do it. I’m immortal, remember? Uh, do you have any truffle oil?
In a grinning, "up-is-down" kind of way, men show their vulnerability. Only women shoot guns in this episode, and they win all of the fights.
Lucifer, being pushy and presumptuous, lets himself into Chloe's house. In the shower, Chloe senses something amiss and cop-walks her way downstairs, naked, gun drawn. Lucifer is making breakfast. His offhand question,"Do you have any truffle oil?" prefigures the next episode's big metaphor. Stay tuned.
Dan and Trixie show up, looking for her bird report. (Actual bird report: Chloe is not yet interested in Lucifer's eggs). Chloe kicks everyone out.
Lucifer is dumbfounded to have been kicked out again. Linda tells him that we give our power away and we can take it back; Lucifer, ever drawing exactly the wrong conclusion, says he needs to have sex with Chloe to get her out of his system. Yeah, that plan's not gonna work for him on any level.
Dan asks Chloe to take on a kidnapping case related to the founder of the Player's (i.e. PUA) club, Carver Cruz. "What if it was our daughter?" asks Dan. Lucifer, of course, is on the guest list for the conference that the club is holding.
At the registration for the Player's seminar, Lucifer gets his first hint that he's not quite in charge when asking a security guard whom he desires. Answer: "You. I'm gay." Lucifer is the one getting checked out and objectified. His lack of power is underscored by his name tag: "Lucifer Morningstar, Player," calling back to his complaint from the pilot: "I quit Hell because I was sick and tired of playing a part in his play."
There's something worn-out about Carver's Player patter, starting with "Men are the wolves and women are the fluffy bunnies." The rest of the episode demonstrates the sheer wrongness of this statement, as women get the upper hand all around their manly you-know-whats.
Lucifer asks Carver why Chloe won't sleep with him, and calls him a wanker. They are kicked out when he mentions that Chloe is rejecting him despite being a cop, commenting, "Talk about the shallow end of the dating pool!" Lookie, a callback to the previous episode! And, wrong again, Lucifer. Chloe is completely out of his league. He has no "game" at all. Since his "devilish charms" make him sexually irresistible to most humans, he's never learned how to be genuinely appealing to a potential partner.
To continue the now-stalled investigation, Lucifer arranges for Carver's afterparty to be moved to Lux.
Amenadiel picks a fight with Maze, demanding that she help him send Lucifer to Hell. He overpowers her, but she licks his face, which freaks him out in an obviously sexual way, and says no.
Chloe meets Lucifer at the penthouse before the party. In a misguided bid at seduction, he is completely naked. Chloe is understandably offended. He is flirty and obnoxious until she asks him about his wing scars. He grabs her wrist when she tries to touch them, saying, "Don't." He looks haunted and anxious, and immediately goes to get dressed. He doesn't care at all about anyone seeing his junk, but the scars make him feel exposed -- this is the first break we see in his façade, a hint at the vulnerability he's been concealing.
At the party, Carver sees them and, feeling threatened, pulls a gun. They take him back to the penthouse for questioning, where he tells them that the kidnappers have demanded money and insisted that no cops be involved. Lucifer, not a cop, takes Carver's phone, calls the kidnappers, and arranges to pay the ransom.
In the car on the way to the rendezvous, Lucifer tells Chloe that as the devil, he's invulnerable and doesn't feel pain. He'll soon find out he's wrong.
They arrive at a creepy empty factory to meet the kidnapper, and Carver is already there. Lucifer tells Chloe to wait in the car, and she calls in SWAT. The kidnapper takes the money from Lucifer. Carver demands the return of Lindsay and pulls his gun yet again when the kidnapper says no. Lindsay shoots and wounds Carver, and the kidnapper is revealed as Lindsay's brother Kevin.
Lucifer turns on Lindsay and Kevin. Chloe sees his devil eyes in the mirror and says, "What are you?"
He says, not for the first time, that he's the devil, and invites her to shoot him to prove he's invulnerable. She shoots, he bleeds. Bad guys are arrested. Later, at the precinct, he covers for Chloe with her boss about the shooting.
Back at Chloe's, Trixie posits that her mom must really like Lucifer because she shot him. That's how flirting works, right?
Maze tells Lucifer to stop playing because things are getting dangerous. Lucifer wants them to; he finds it exciting.
So. Look at all the vulnerable men! Carver claims to be a wolf, and Lucifer refers to him as a reptile, but he's more like a deer in the headlights. The guy is clearly suffering. He admits to being a hypocrite because he is genuinely in love with Lindsay. He waves his gun around on multiple occasions, but never shoots. Apparently that's his only strategy, and it's ineffective. (We learn a lot about persistent but ineffective strategies in this episode: sad Players using tired lines, Amenadiel trying to beat Maze into submission, Lucifer's uninvited appearances and unadorned offers of sex. The women each reverse the strategies deployed against them.) Lindsay, who had been victimized by Carver's "player" ways, takes out revenge on him by convincing him to love her, then betraying him in the cruelest possible way, and finally, shooting him.
Lucifer thinks he's trying to seduce Chloe, but winds up revealing more of himself than he'd planned, and his bravado cracks when she tries to prod at his scars. His claim of invulnerability is pretty unconvincing. Still, when he's shot, he's very surprised at the blood and pain. This is a not-at-all subtle metaphor for what's about to happen to him emotionally. Think of Chloe's bullet as Cupid's arrow. Now they've both been shot.
Amenadiel can take Maze in a hand-to-hand fight because he's bigger than she is, but she has other weapons available to her, and it appears that he's powerless before them.
Invulnerability is only an act, a story these men tell themselves, and not a very convincing one. By the end of this episode, Lucifer, with his supernatural powers of subconscious emotional processing, is ready to let it go of it, but he doesn't really understand the possible consequences.
1.5 Sweet Kicks
pic: Alex Norris
Lucifer: I was promised a gang war. Instead I get a crybaby. This is boring.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11
In alchemy, a Chrysopoeia is a word that indicates that a base metal had undergone ‘transmutation’ into a noble metal like gold. This concept is directly connected to the pursuit of the philosopher’s stone – a substance associated with immortality and rejuvenation. The alchemist’s main pursuit was liberation from the limitations of the human body – a concept that was embodied by the ouroboros. Geller, Prof. “Ouroboros” Mythology.net, Mythology.net, 30 Sept. 2018, mythology.net/others/concepts/ouroboros/
Having discovered he can actually get hurt, Lucifer is in search of danger and excitement. He's like a child who hasn't learned to keep his hand off a hot stove. Throughout this episode, Lucifer acts and sounds like a kid, hurling juvenile insults and taking really foolish risks. Chloe and Maze both act in loco parentis.
Maze and Lucifer are at a fashion show for Benny Choi, a shoe designer. The models are wearing the shoes and not much else. One flirts with Lucifer by pointing a prop sword at him. Maze intercedes. "You were shot and you bled. No sharp objects until we find out why." Lucifer isn't interested in cooperating with her babysitting measures.
Someone starts shooting during the show, and during the ensuing stampede, a girl is trampled to death.
Lucifer is backstage making out with one of the models. Maze interrupts him mid-tryst to get him out of the line of fire. He is nearly whining in protest as they leave.
At the precinct, Dan is on the case, theorizing the shooting was gang-related. "Gang Unit’s piggybacking Homicide till we can figure out who wanted Benny Choi dead." Who is carrying whom? And whose back is it really? Stay tuned; more pig talk coming up.
Chloe is upset by the killing, and tells Dan she's completely done with Lucifer, who was a mystery she wanted solved, but he is actually at the precinct, sitting on her desk. He's there to ask the Lieutenant if he can be involved in the case because he finds the prospect of a gang war exciting. This is not a compelling argument, and all kinds of creepy, but the idea that he can deliver a PR-ready story to get her promoted to police chief is compelling enough to get him assigned as civilian liaison on the case.
He explains all this to Chloe, who is unimpressed. She asks if he wants to "feel new things," and when he says yes, she slaps him. He's delighted. "Bloody hell! That hurt! Do it again." We're to assume he's never really felt pain before, and is certainly living up to their characterization of him as a "whackjob."
Trying to get rid of him, Chloe takes him home, only to discover that the case is there, because Benny Choi is meeting Lucifer at Lux, accompanied by his assistant, Hector, and his "blinged-out pet pig," Pig Diddy.
On spying Hector's heart tattoo, Lucifer asks, in a taunting way, "Ooh. Someone love his mummy?" only to be schooled that it's because Hector was a Marine. We all watch TV, so we know this clue will prove to be relevant. Also: a heart in crosshairs? Likely to be Lucifer's own.
When they press him for info, Benny points them to a young couple who was "married straight out of juvie" and who are associated with the Latin Kings, the arch-enemies of his own gang, the Asian Boyz.
Before investigating their lead, Lucifer suggests they have a drink at the cop bar, where they are heckled by one of Chloe's police detractors, Paolucci, who is salty about her investigation of his partner, Malcolm, the cop who was shot at Palmetto. Annoyed, Lucifer decides to deliver a few choice insults, then punch Paolucci, and they leave.
Mazikeen and Amenadiel meet for coffee. She tells him she wants to go back to hell, and tips him off that Lucifer is confiding in Dr. Linda. Posing as another psychiatrist, Amenadiel introduces himself to Linda.
Maze tells off Lucifer for taking unnecessary risks now that he is no longer invulnerable. He counters that he's excited for the danger, and that Maze is jealous of Chloe. He's chafing at her overprotectiveness.
Mazikeen: Things change, Lucifer.
Lucifer: Yes, but you don’t, Maze. You exist to protect me. To know where I am and who I’m with at all times, whether you want to, or not.
He does not add, "Neener, neener," though he may as well have.
Dan appears and tells Lucifer not to drag Chloe into a dangerous situation, because she is the mother of his child. Lucifer doesn't seem to grasp the significance of this. It becomes clear that Lucifer's is uncomfortable around children is because he expects to be the most important child in the room. He spends the rest of the episode taunting his adversaries like a schoolyard bully.
Chloe tries to get him to stay in the car when they visit their first set of suspects, Dani and Diego, but instead he breaks into their house, scares the crap out of them, and makes fun of Diego for crying. They learn that the dead girl was a cousin. As a possible shooting suspect, the couple points to Yellow Viper, an associate-turned-adversary of Benny's who has recently been released from prison.
As they leave the house, Chloe gets a call from Benny, reporting another death. Alas, it's, Pig Diddy, the poor load-bearing metaphor-cum-barnyard creature, lying in a pool of very foreshadowy, "curiously not human" blood. How very Lord of the Flies. Benny suspects Yellow Viper of being the killer. "We need to get word to Viper’s parole officer," says Chloe.
Cut to… Amenadiel chatting up Linda to talk about a "troubling patient."
Ok. We've got two proxies. In Lucifer's corner: Yellow Viper, an artist who wants to move forward with his life. A golden serpent, hm? Benny stands in for Amenadiel, trying to send his quasi-brother back to prison. Linda isn't Lucifer's parole officer, but the parallel is certainly implied.
We also have another aspect of Lucifer, the "blinged-out" pig on a leash. This is a creature completely under the thumb of its handlers, who seem quite attached to it, although Benny has no compunctions about killing it when trying to eliminate the "real" artist, his competition.
In retrospect, Dan's "piggyback" mention from earlier in the episode now feels awkward and sad. For good or for ill, this pig is doomed. He never even gets his truffle oil.
Chloe and Lucifer confront Viper while he's teaching street art to a class of kids. They are interrupted by Dani and Diego, who are convinced that Viper has killed their cousin.
Lucifer distracts the gangsters long enough for Viper and his students to flee the scene, but the Latin Kings are out for blood. Maze arrives, just in time to avert a massacre, delivering her own "sweet kicks," that break the bones of the assailants. Lucifer appears to take this active babysitting for granted.
Lucifer, narrating Maze's attack, says something like, "Ooh, ouch… orbital fracture. It was first perfected in the hellfires of Tyre. " At the same time you see an actual tire in the frame. I thought this was just a stupid visual joke at first, and it is, but there's a reason the writers like tires so much, which becomes clear once you realize all the "wheels within wheels" plotting that goes on, which could also be alluding to the circle formed by ouroboros, the snake devouring its own tail. Clever bastards. I'll talk a little more about Ezekiel in the next installment. (The book of Ezekiel, for anyone who hasn't read it, is completely batshit bonkers. Check it out.)
Also, I think that's an actual yellow Dodge Viper sitting in Benny's gallery. A golden wheeled chariot. And, for whatever it's worth, Angel (the vampire) replaces his black vintage convertible with a black Viper, although that Viper signifies succumbing to temptation, very different... Still, this show definitely owes a debt to that one.
The police find a gun in Yellow Viper's bag (bing-bing-bing, foreshadow alarm), and he is arrested. In the car, Viper protests his innocence: "Why would I bother to go after him and miss?" Realizing that he's right, Chloe takes a U-turn and heads back to Benny's gallery.
Benny has done a horrific painting in memory of Pig Diddy, all Chaim Soutine-esque blood-and-guts, certainly not representative of the pet pig; more of, we might say, a framed hell-pig. Could this be anyone we know?
Chloe and Lucifer confront Benny with their evidence, and he pulls a gun on Viper, shouting, "You were never good as me, man!" Lucifer gives Benny the devil face and chucks him through the canvas.
Benny confesses; they arrest him and Hector. Lucifer: "Whilst all dogs go to Heaven, you’d be surprised how many pigs are waiting for you in Hell." You, perhaps? The Lieutenant gets her publicity, and Lucifer gets his official gig as a civilian consultant to the LAPD. Chloe ditches him and drives away.
Back at Lux, Lucifer toasts Maze for saving his "mortalized arse," and admits he should be careful after he almost got their "pet detective" killed. Haha. Another pet pig.
Later, Maze, who's definitely jealous, creeps on Chloe in her home. In a mirror, we see a glimpse of her monstrous reflection.
Thus ends the first part of Season 1, laying out themes of storytelling, vulnerability, growing up, birds, pigs, and sibling rivalry, and setting up lots of juicy foreshadowing. The stakes are about to get much higher.
Chapter 5: Wheels within wheels
Favorite Son marks the end of the seemingly disconnected cases-of-the-week in favor of more ongoing plotlines that involve Lucifer directly. When I rewatched it to dig for metaphors, I sat there at the end of it, thinking, what's beneath this surface? It's a good action-packed yarn, full of chases, jokes, drama, angst, and suspense. Isn't that enough?
1.6 Favorite Son
Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. Ezekiel 1:15-16
Chloe: It sucks not getting what you want. Now you have to deal with it like the rest of us.
I had to let it percolate for awhile before it dawned on me how in-your-face the metaphors in this episode actually are. The more I thought about it, the more I impressed I was by the episode's density and economy. There's a lot going on! Jason Ning, a producer, has written several of my favorite episodes of the show, including this one. I apologize for the scene-by-scene recap, but it was so fun!
Favorite Son is all about plotting and cross-purposes. Everyone's machinations end up achieving nearly the opposite of their intent. Nobody except Trixie gets what they want.
At the beginning, the killing of a security guard is intercut with Lucifer singing a gorgeous rendition (and lovely homage to Nina Simone) of "Sinnerman". Pay attention to the lyrics because they are relevant. And there's that name, one that comes to mean a lot more later in the series, for better or for worse.
We continue with Trixie and some purloined chocolate cake. Her parents are trying very hard to teach her to be honest, and she finally owns up to the fact that she has eaten the cake, but Lucifer said it was okay because it was something she really wanted. On hearing Lucifer's name, Dan's good cop act breaks down.
Maze brings the unforgettable Brittanies to Lux for playtime, but her plans are foiled when Lucifer takes off. Chloe has called about a murder at the docks in Long Beach. I'm starting to wonder if the number of potential bed partners in each episode matches the number of Lucifer stand-ins. I doubt that could be sustainable...
Lucifer arrives at the crime scene, pronounces it boring, and complains that he's missing the "epic foursome" back at Lux. (Like the four "living creatures" of Ezekiel, perhaps?) But it's not boring to us! Almost anything could be inside that unguarded container, couldn't it?
Lucifer insists he's not that fussed about the contents of the stolen container. Maze has to convince him to care about the theft because of the possible damage to his reputation. He returns to the crime scene and tells Chloe the container was his. He's evasive about what's inside it, and she notices. However, he's got a lead for her.
After beating information out of Frankie Costa about the motorcycle gang that is likely responsible for the theft:
Lucifer: Under what rock will we find Los Diablos? It's a very on-the-nose name, if you ask me.
We're not being coy at all anymore. It's a giant, blinking metaphor with arrows and spotlights. And there's the song again. Let's run to that rock.
At Chloe's request, Dan visits Lux to look into the books. Another callback to last episode:
Maze: You're Chloe's ex, right?
Dan: And you're Lucifer's pet on a leash. Now answer the question.
It's implied that Amenadiel holds Lucifer's leash in Sweet Kicks, but Lucifer holds Maze's, and, as we saw previously, it's likely that she holds Amenadiel's. And this snake eats its tail, too.
Dan's investigation is foiled when Maze clocks him on the head and deposits him, unconscious and in the buff, in Chloe's bed. Trixie finds her dad undressed and prevaricating in her bedroom. Her parents have been trying their best to teach her about honesty, but in the face of her entrapped father's blatant lies, blackmail gets her the goods. Devil's food cake for a whole year? Yes, please!
We'll soon learn that Dan is awfully susceptible to blackmail, for reasons.
Linda, trying to get some insight into Lucifer, asks him, "Who are you trying so hard to become?" and "I want you to tell me who you believe is the real you." She's struck a nerve, but he's not ready to open up, and he questions her skills and storms out.
Amenadiel sweeps in right afterward, offering biblical knowledge and working to advance his own, as-yet undisclosed scheme.
Dan wants to arrest Maze for assaulting him, but she taunts him into giving up the idea. The books from Lux show no irregularities. Maze is hoping that Dan and Chloe will get back together so she can have Lucifer to herself again. Nope. "You can't just smash two people together like Barbies," says Dan. It's not a coincidence that he's (hilariously) wearing Chloe's tiny pink clothes when he says it. He's also calling out Lucifer's audience, doubtless already agitating for Deckerstar. Not gonna happen anytime soon.
Lucifer intercepts Chloe as she's going to interview Los Diablos. Motorcycles; machinations; more wheels within wheels.
In his typically confrontational way, Lucifer marches into the biker club, shuts off the music, and demands to know who stole his property. A gang member named Renny confronts him. Renny's "Harry Potter" taunt is pretty sly (If you're interested, I stuck a relevant quote at the top of the essay on Sweet Kicks, where it belongs). He looks like he's about to start a physical confrontation with Lucifer, which we all know he'd lose, so Chloe takes him down. She's not going to let Lucifer rough up anyone else on her watch.
The boss, Hank Cutter, appears and calms everybody down. He takes Lucifer and Chloe into his office to talk. There are some impressive gears hung up as decorations on the wall there. And what a cool casting choice Tom Sizemore is for playing Cutter! Talk about a guy who fell from grace.
In keeping with Lucifer's personal MO, Ning is sooo not going for subtlety. Los Diablos: "Cutter" is a bit "on the nose", too, and let's assume that Renny is short for "renegade." So we have two Lucifer aspects here: the one that cut off his wings and wants to make a fresh start--we hear the term "re-branding" again--and the one who doesn't want to cooperate and rebels, leading to his own literal downfall.
(Aside: the goofy, clipped way Tom Ellis delivers " Legit " in response to Cutter is priceless. It's clear that to Lucifer, it's nothing but a meaningless series of sounds.)
Aside from the info that Cutter wants to go legit , they don't get much information from him. Certainly nothing on the murder.
Chloe knows that Cutter will immediately try to take care of the issue because it's a challenge to his authority. In the car, Lucifer tells her that his container has Russian dolls in it. She is skeptical, but he promises he will never lie to her. But sometimes he might not tell the whole truth.
They tail Cutter until he leads them to Renny, who argues with, then shoots Cutter. Chloe stays to call in medics, but Lucifer takes off with her car after Renny. This chase isn't in the service of the LAPD, it's the pursuit of a transgressor by an avenging angel. Chloe is out of the loop.
Lucifer scares the crap out of Renny, follows him to the roof of a building, where he threatens him and demands to know who stole his property, showing his devil face, and scaring him so much that he jumps to his death.
So you have the renegade disobeying his boss, trying to take him down, getting chased by Lucifer, yelling, "oh God, oh God" and then falling from the building. That's gotta be a mindfuck for Lucifer. How does it feel to watch someone fall? Power to the Lord, indeed.
Chloe: Renny was pissed about the direction of the club--he thought they were selling out. So he went out on his own, robbed the warehouse and killed the security guard.
I'm going to say that "killing the security guard" represents Lucifer's dropping of his defenses: his new-found vulnerability. He's no longer safe. There's nothing left that protects him from feeling loss, and his personal losses are deep and profound. He has an awful lot of baggage to unpack, and now it's out in the world somewhere. That has to be distressing.
The container is recovered, Lucifer and Chloe open it together, and find the promised Russian dolls, but the hidden compartment that Lucifer really cared about has been looted. I think this is where I initially noticed how ambitious this show was. Even the first time I watched this episode, I knew that Russian dolls were TV writer code for "C'mon people, look deeper! Here be Easter eggs." Wheels in wheels; dolls in dolls. Chloe and Lucifer open the case with the nesting dolls, and even open up some of the dolls themselves, but unbeknownst to Chloe, Lucifer is concealing a mysterious and painful absence.
After saying he couldn't make it, Dan actually shows up for Taco Tuesday. It's a sweet family-bonding scene, isn't it? Is Dan there to get back in Chloe's good graces? Is he afraid Lucifer might show up? Is he feeling guilty about what he might have taught Trixie? Or is he just paying her off?
In therapy, Linda springs Amenadiel's insider info on Lucifer. The poor guy is already super-triggered before she lays a bunch of heavenly propaganda on him, suggesting that being sent to hell was a gift, dropping the name "Samael".
Lucifer gets gradually more and more upset, outraged, grief-stricken, frustrated. Finally, he punches a hole in the wall and leaves. He's done a 180 from his initial indifference to the theft, and is now beside himself that his property has been stolen.
Linda: You are his fallen angel. But here's the thing: When angels fall, they also rise. All you have to do is embrace all that you are.
Lucifer: I can't.
Linda: Yes, you can. You just have to be open to the process.
Lucifer: You don't understand. I can't!
Linda: But why?
Lucifer: Because they stole them from me!
Tom's performance in this scene is heartrending. By the end of it, I wanted to hit Linda's wall too. Is this the start of tearing down Lucifer's walls?
Then: the reveal that Lucifer has been investigating the theft of his wings.
So many foiled plots! Chloe (getting Trixie to admit to cake theft), Linda (getting background from Lucifer), Dan (seeing Lux's books; teaching Trixie to be honest), Maze (getting Dan back with Chloe), Lucifer (getting information out of Renny; retrieving his stuff), Renny (defying his boss; escaping the devil). Amenadiel? Well, we don't know yet, but stay tuned. And Trixie? She wins.
Other thoughts: It's significant that Renny jumps--Lucifer doesn't push him. Are they saying it was Lucifer's choice to fall? Are we looking at the beginning of self-actualization? Is this the meaning of Linda's gobbledygook "When angels fall, they also rise," or is she making a reference to reigning in hell instead of serving in heaven?
In the next episode: Not quite done with Ezekiel yet, and what is authenticity, and what's it worth? Or: please don't make me read Baudrillard. Please.
Thanks again to Maimat and Miah for listening to my headsplodey.
Chapter 6: A procession of simulacra
I said a prayer today.
"Are you there, Lucifer? It's me, Fleem. Your writers are telling me I should read Baudrillard. Please make them stop."
To my great surprise, Lucifer answered my prayer. He said, "There, there. I warned you about overthinking things. Go have a drink, darling, you know you want to." So I did, because of course he has this mortal's number. A shot of good whiskey was relaxing, but not all that productive.
The Devil was about to recommend that I have another, but his partner, Chloe, interrupted.
"Look at the evidence in front of your face," she said, with an edge of steel in her voice. In rapid succession, she pointed at a set of phony angel wings, at a fake "chains of Saint Paul," and then at Lucifer's many impostors, analogs, and reflections who appear in the first seven episodes of their show. "You've got leads. Follow them."
I don't know how the Detective was able to police my prayers, but there you have it.
I scowled, contemplating what a time-suck this was about to become, poured the last dregs of Dickel Rye into a jelly glass, and muttered, "I guess I'd better go read the simulacra guy."
This chapter is still something of a WIP. I'm working on edits to make it friendlier. (updated 12/14/2019)
The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth—it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true. "-Ecclesiastes" (actually Jean Baudrillard, The Precession of Simulacra)
Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. - Ecclesiastes 1:2
I'm no academic, and have already mentioned (check out the comments) that I'm definitely not the person to do a serious analysis of Lucifer grounded in critical theory, although I do think that would be a very cool thing to read. What follows instead is my scrawled-in-crayon attempt at tying a few ideas together. If you are hoping for well-informed discourse, you should stop reading now. I apologize in advance.
You might know that The Matrix helped put Jean Baudrillard on the map for commentary on stuff like virtual reality and phony media narrative, but this show , man. This show. In its winking, sneaky, pop-culture-y way, Lucifer has gone deeper. In some places, it seems like the creators of the show are deliberately invoking Baudrillardian ideas, and in other places, Lucifer is actually paraphrasing Baudrillard. Most of what I've seen is circumstantial evidence, but I found it pretty compelling.
He may also have been an arrogant grumpy 80s-style sexist asshole (check out his memoir series Cool Memories if you want evidence), but Baudrillard had some super-interesting things to say about realness and fakeness. He argued that, in modern civilization, absolutely everything everywhere is fake, but that it would be a good thing if we tried, somehow, to get back to interacting with something real.
In the show, humans interact with Lucifer based on what he calls his "charms," the irresistible mystique that allows him to exert influence on almost any human. He frequently says and does some pretty dodgy and problematic things, but they don't seem to affect people's overwhelmingly positive reactions to him. Because they're so enthralled, they only interact with the charismatic image he projects.
The fakeness goes in both directions. Since Lucifer never sees a genuine reaction to anything he does, all he can do is respond to what he actually does see. No wonder he views every case as somehow being about him, and gets both dismissive and salty when the parallel isn't immediately evident at the beginning of "Favorite Son." If it's all fake, why take anything seriously unless it's personally relevant? He is the simulacrum. The simulacrum is true.
Chloe is the only human who actually sees and calls out Lucifer's bad behavior, but she can't (and he won't let her) see the entirety of him: She doesn't believe he's the Devil, and until episode 7, he hasn't been able to produce any evidence that would prove it. She's not convinced by his wing scars, or even by the reflection of his devil face that she saw in episode 4. In "Wingman," because Carmen Grant has substituted phony wings for the real ones at the auction, she is again spared any unmediated exposure to real divinity. It's a lucky accident, and a very close call. Afterward, Lucifer decides to eliminate the risk that the wings pose. Does this make him more of a liar? Does it matter?
Sometimes Lucifer seems simply to be channeling Baudrillard. From Simulacra and Simulation :
The only weapon of power...is to reinject realness and referentiality everywhere, in order to convince us of the reality of the social, of the gravity of the economy and the finalities of production. For that purpose it prefers the discourse of crisis, but also - why not? - the discourse of desire. "Take your desires for reality!" can be understood as the ultimate slogan of power , for in a nonreferential world even the confusion of the reality principle with the desire principle is less dangerous than contagious hyperreality. One remains among principles, and there power is always right. (emphasis mine)
This rather opaque pronouncement is saying that in order to get people to interact with the real world instead of simulated images, those in power (like Lucifer, or a parent, or the police) need to create some urgency, which can be in the form of a crisis they might react to (like your kid obviously lying to you, or, perhaps, having your friend gunned down right next to you), or a desire they might pursue (like cake). It's better to be dealing with real things than to live in fantasy-land, so we should encourage people to go after what they want.
From Episode 6:
Trixie: I ate it.
Trixie: But Lucifer said it was okay.
Dan: Oh, really?
Trixie: He said, if you really want to do something, you should. And I really wanted to eat some chocolate cake.
Lucifer has told Trixie that she should take her desire for reality. Really, really, really.
picture by Allie Brosh
He repeats this idea in a far more serious context in episode 7:
Chloe: Well, they're pressuring me to drop the case, assume the party line, and say the guy died a hero.
Lucifer: My spidey sense tells me dropping it's not what you want, is it?
Chloe: I want the truth.
Lucifer: Well, then seek it out. You're a police officer. You don't need anyone's permission.
With my assorted Baudrillardian clues in hand, I dug through a bunch of his greatest hits, starting with Simulacra and Simulation, skipping around in Fatal Strategies, reading all of The Ecstasy of Communication. He is not exactly a straight-up philosopher; he's more of a pretentious crank who writes interesting but ambiguous pronouncements that can be distilled into aphorisms, if you like that sort of thing. His language is just squishy enough that you can easily read more into it than he actually provides, which, for overthinkers like me, is practically irresistible.
Whether I was seeing causation or merely correlation, an awful lot of Baudrillard's explanatory examples and jokey asides seem to show up as plot points in Lucifer. I was impressed by the number and specificity of things that popped up. Some themes that recur in Baudrillard: metamorphosis, simulation, seduction, psychoanalysis, the real, the desert, fake crimes, martial arts, reality TV. Los Angeles. Desire. There are a few others that, at this writing, would actually be spoilers. Still, these could all be coincidence--it's a show set in LA, after all. Circumstantial evidence. I needed more.
Two weeks and an unrelated family crisis later, I emerged from my Google deep-dive into a room full of empty liquor bottles, unopened mail, and religious and philosophical texts. My PDF reader had twenty tabs open. I had unearthed tons of undergraduate philosophy and/or lit assignments that had students analyze sci-fi shows or movies from a Baudrillardian perspective. Blade Runner, Supernatural and Orphan Black are popular for this. But there were also innumerable tangents. To name just a few: Borges, Eco, De Sassure, Debord, Bataille, Barthes, Foucault, Adorno, Marx, MacLuhan, Freud, Eric Berne, Erik Erikson, Laura Mulvey, John Berger.
This kind of exploration is an enormous amount of fun, but it will eat your head (and all of your spare time) if you aren't careful. I'm going to pick some more really obvious low-hanging fruit, and, with luck, I or somebody else will have time, at some point, to play more extensively in this amusing little orchard.
Wait, are these bananas?
So, back to Baudrillard. What's the deal with "simulacra?" According to him, in modern America, especially in LA, home of Disneyland and Hollywood, we interact with a manufactured image of the world, and not with reality at all.
Simulacra and Simulation delineates the sign-order into four stages:
- The first stage is a faithful image/copy, where we believe, and it may even be correct, that a sign is a "reflection of a profound reality", this is a good appearance, in what Baudrillard called "the sacramental order".
- The second stage is perversion of reality, this is where we come to believe the sign to be an unfaithful copy, which "masks and denatures" reality as an "evil appearance—it is of the order of maleficence". Here, signs and images do not faithfully reveal reality to us, but can hint at the existence of an obscure reality which the sign itself is incapable of encapsulating.
- The third stage masks the absence of a profound reality, where the sign pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original. Signs and images claim to represent something real, but no representation is taking place and arbitrary images are merely suggested as things which they have no relationship to. Baudrillard calls this the "order of sorcery", a regime of semantic algebra where all human meaning is conjured artificially to appear as a reference to the (increasingly) hermetic truth.
- The fourth stage is pure simulacrum, in which the simulacrum has no relationship to any reality whatsoever. Here, signs merely reflect other signs and any claim to reality on the part of images or signs is only of the order of other such claims. This is a regime of total equivalency, where cultural products need no longer even pretend to be real in a naïve sense, because the experiences of consumers' lives are so predominantly artificial that even claims to reality are expected to be phrased in artificial, "hyperreal" terms. Any naïve pretension to reality as such is perceived as bereft of critical self-awareness, and thus as oversentimental.
For me, this list brings to mind the very first scene of episode 2, when the new writing team began the work of building the show. A street preacher, whom we later learn is called Jacob Williams, asks, "Have you seen the face of the Devil?" and Lucifer answers, "Every day in the mirror, pal." By the descriptions above, seeing himself in the mirror would be a "first stage" image: an actual reflection. The preacher is acting as a "second stage" image, pretending to be a religious person, which he isn't, because he's actually a phony trying to fleece the crowd. Lucifer, as a nightclub owner and ostensible human, is a "third stage" image, not imitating anyone, but living as a synthetic person. Chloe picks up on this immediately, although she can't fathom the true nature of his sorcery. Everything in LA is fake unless proven otherwise.
Surrounding the two of them is a crowd of spectators dressed as cartoon characters. They are "fourth stage" simulacra, presenting images with no grounding in anything real, watching the dialogue of two more simulacra. You could also back up a few meta-layers to observe that Lucifer himself is a real-life actor playing a TV-show version of a comic-book character who is based on an eighteenth-century fanfiction of a character from an apocryphal book tangentially related to a character from the Bible. Wow. You can't get much more hyperreal than that.
Certainly, everything in the scene is some level of fake until Lucifer shows the preacher the true face of the Devil. It is, in the context of the show, absolutely real, and we know that this much realness is more than people can handle, especially in LA. Jimmy Barnes' breakdown in the pilot has already demonstrated that seeing Lucifer's devil face can drive humans insane.
Is the show deliberately referencing Baudrillard here? Could be. Or maybe it's a coincidence (I kinda don't think it's a coincidence).
I could keep going like this, endlessly, but it seems unwise to ask people to read a bunch of unfiltered Baudrillard, unless they really want to. Instead, let's talk about the lead-up to "Wingman."
I don't know where I heard it, but it's some kind of truism that the first six episodes of a new series will determine its success with audiences. The first six episodes of Lucifer are a bunch of murder cases, a budding "will-they, won't-they" (they won't , definitely not before S5), and a character study of this version of the Devil as seen through a hall of metaphorical funhouse mirrors. They're jokey and entertaining police procedurals with snappy dialogue and sexual tension, and most people find them at least mildly diverting. It has attractive and talented actors and some mild social commentary, but it takes a few rewatches before overthinkers like me start to engage with the interesting subtext lurking below the surface.
But six episodes in, do we even like Lucifer? Are we attracted to him? Do we know what will happen? The first time through the series, my answers were no, no, and no. I kept watching because I wanted to know how this crazy asshole was going to be relevant in solving Detective Decker's problems. Despite her role as a stereotypical uptight female lead who needs a wacky male co-star to draw her out, I liked her. I could relate to her struggle as a single mom, to how she tried to be a good parent and a good cop, and how much it hurt her to be ostracized. I was watching the show because of Chloe, and because DB Woodside had been in Buffy . He shows a few flashes of emotional vulnerability, like the "Don't" moment in 1.4, but until episode 7, I found it hard to care about Lucifer as a character.
Throughout the series so far, Lucifer has been in an ongoing dialogue with different versions of himself -- as an instigator and an observer, an innocent and a manipulator, a phony, a lovelorn hypocrite, a domesticated animal, a framed parolee, a renegade troublemaker, a cutter of wings. We hear the expression "re-branding" over and over, watch battles over the framing of backstory and attempts to go legit , to transcend his past. On first viewing, all this is easy to miss.
"Wingman" brings this conflict into the open, and we start to root for him. It's so, so good. Let's recap.
From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Paul, in Ephesians 4:16
The "Talking Body" song from Tove Lo plays over the opening scene. Love that bodily integrity. Plus fucking for life. Nice.
On the penthouse balcony, Lucifer and Maze are acting like the torturers we know they have always been. At his command, Maze repeatedly pushes Sergei Bok underwater until they conclude he's telling the truth and doesn't know anything about Lucifer's wings. "What would I do with a pair?" asks Sergei.
The real question is: What would YOU do with a pair of lying wingmen?
I'm guessing that Sergei is named after Sisela Bok, the author of Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life . It's a book that talks about lies having moral gradations that depend on the societal power of the liar, and explains that you don't have to be telling rank falsehoods to be lying--omission counts--and that there are good and not-so-good reasons to lie.
Lucifer realize that their Hell-style approach of kidnapping and torturing information out of various people isn't going to work, and decides to "ask a professional" for help, meaning, of course, Chloe, who knows how to investigate things on Earth.
Back at the precinct, there's news that Malcolm's family is going to pull the plug. Dan tells Chloe to hurry up with her investigation before Malcolm dies. He tells Chloe he's "trying to protect" her. My Spidey sense tingles at this. We've already seen characters "trying to protect" somebody an awful lot in this series, and we've also seen that intention get catastrophically foiled, more than once.
At her house, Chloe is sitting on the floor, crime scene photos from Palmetto spread out all around her. Lucifer bursts in to ask for help. Uncharacteristically, he notices that Chloe is upset and offers "an ear." I notice that there's a lot of talk of disembodied parts in this episode.
She tells him it's about Palmetto, and he tells her to keep investigating, which she appreciates, then makes his own ask about his "case."
For advice, Chloe tells him that she would "Grab a pair of fresh eyes. Someone who's not gonna be afraid to be honest with me, even if it's not what I want to hear."
Angels should have plenty of spare eyes, but Amenadiel isn't sharing. Grumpily, he tells Lucifer a whole bunch of things he does not want to hear, like how much he hates patrolling the gates of Hell, and how dangerous the wings could be if unleashed on unsuspecting humanity. He concludes by saying that since Lucifer wants free will, he should "fix his own mess."
And so, back to Chloe's. Lucifer has no choice but to come right out and tell her that he's looking for his wings. She gives him a minor razzing, but puts out an APB for him. Lucifer is ready to help her revisit Palmetto when Dan shows up. The three of them return to the crime scene together.
At Palmetto, Chloe has Dan and Lucifer stand in for Malcolm and Aoudi (Hey, a first-order simulacrum!). They discuss Nicolas Aoudi's preferred methods of violence, and Dan lists several body parts that Aoudi is fond of attacking with a hammer. Chloe retells her version of the story, and we are given a view of what she saw, with sound effects like gunshots and everything.
Lucifer listens to the retelling, then says the motivations they are attributing to Aoudi don't make sense, because if he was getting a regular payoff, there would be no reason for the drug dealer to shoot Malcolm.
Dan gets a call about the APB on angel wings. The FBI has a hit.
Lucifer and Chloe meet with Pitts, an FBI agent in charge of the federal case. On a tablet, he shows them a picture of the wings. In the photo, the severed wings end in hunks of bloody flesh covered in human-like skin, showing that even after five years, and despite his pale, healed scars, Lucifer's wounds are still quite fresh. The image is vaguely disturbing, somewhere between a crime scene photo and a museum exhibit, but it's only a photo on a screen.
Pitts tells them there will be an FBI raid at the auction.
Lucifer arrives at the auction, and Amenadiel is waiting there to meet him, saying, "I came to ensure the wings get back where they belong." Lucifer tells Amenadiel that there's about to be a raid, so they'd better hurry. "So if we don't get the wings, humanity finds divinity, so on and so forth, you know the rest."
Although security is tight, Lucifer flashes his pentecostal coin to the camera and gets entry to the auction. "Did you catch all that?" he asks his brother. He's used a mediated image of his divine currency to get them into an actual marketplace.
Next: Malcolm's bedside at hospital. His family is angry that Chloe is there. Dan says, "I want to show you who your case is about... Not a monster. Not a villain. But a grieving family trying to say goodbye." As we'll find out in the next episode, Dan is manipulating Chloe in an attempt to distract her from finding the real shooter.
Back at the auction house, Lucifer tells Carmen Grant that the coin is not for sale, and demands his wings, which "glow with the light of God." Carmen threatens to have them shot, so Lucifer, aware of his new vulnerability, falls back. He offers to bid for the wings. It's nearly the same bait-and-switch that Grant is about to pull on him: subbing the earthly for the celestial. It's interesting that at this point Grant has already been exposed to the wings, so all of his talk about profiting from believers is an amazingly brazen put-on. His conversion mirrors that of Jacob Williams, our phony street preacher from episode 2, who will be back soon.
Lucifer: If you truly worship the dollar, then I'm your ticket to divinity.
Amenadiel is flummoxed by Lucifer's concession. Lucifer explains about his "mortality sitch," and Amenadiel, metaphorically twirling his mustache, tells his brother he knows exactly how to exploit it. Shitty brother.
Any fan of classic TV will recognize Isaiah Whitlock, Jr, the actor who plays Carmen, as the corrupt senator Clay Davis in The Wire . The first thing that comes to my mind on seeing him is the word, "Sheeeeeeeeeeit." Which is about right. In fact, you can find autographed bobbleheads of him at https://www.sheeeeeeeeeit.com . You know he's a huckster the minute you see him. In describing the "Missing links of the chain of St. Paul," Carmen sounds exactly like a carnival barker.
The brothers heckle the auctioneer about Paul's chains being fake. In real life, Paul's chains are an actual relic ensconced in a chapel in Rome:
There is some interesting and poignant subtext here.
From Psalm 81:15-16:
The haters of the Lord would pretend submission to Him,
But their fate would endure forever.
He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat;
And with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.
Lucifer: ...That man never could pass on dessert, could he?
Amenadiel: He should have been the Saint of--
Lucifer: Honey cakes? Those are clearly fake!
Their little exchange is implying that Paul was a suck-up, a glutton for God's love. And there's that rock from the song again. There's more, but you might say it's kind of a reach. Here's an excerpt from a speech by the 4th century archbishop St. John Chrysostom:
Were any to offer me my choice, the whole Heaven or that chain, that chain I would prefer. Were any to ask whether he should place me on high with the Angels, or with Paul in his bonds, the prison I would choose. Were any about to change me into one of those powers, that are in Heaven, that are round about the throne, or into such a prisoner as this, such a prisoner I would choose to be.
Those chains, and those wings, are signs of devotion to God, Lucifer's father. We know that Lucifer will choose none of this. He's had enough of prison and enough of angels. Still, he's painfully aware of what he's giving up.
Chloe arrives at the auction to tip them off that the raid will be happening very soon.
The wings are up on the auction block, and Chloe and the crowd both ooh and ahh . Conveniently, the FBI arrives before any bidding starts. Amenadiel slows time so Lucifer can get to the wings, and Lucifer discovers they are fake. When time resumes, Chloe realizes there's a hidden door at Palmetto.
Lucifer is furious at the fakery. He refuses to help Chloe when she asks him to go back to Palmetto with her, saying, "No more role-playing for me, thanks." Oh?
Chloe goes to Palmetto with Dan in tow. They hear a hollow sound underfoot. Chloe finds a secret door that leads to an underground passageway, and then finds a "999" key, something police carry, on the floor of the passageway. Hmm. What's 999 upside-down? Like someone else we know (cough Amenadiel cough), despite knowing exactly what happened, Dan is trying very hard to look helpful. He still can't stop Chloe from finding things that might be incriminating.
Lucifer goes to Carmen's house and finds Carmen on his knees in front of a glass case that looks kind of like a giant cell phone screen, which contains the wings, mounted for display.
"Shame on you," Lucifer says. He stands in front of the case, framed by the wings on either side, as if they were still attached to him. He's incandescent with rage, and his eyes briefly flash red, but notably, he does NOT show his devil face to Carmen. "Perhaps you don't understand. They're mine!"
Cut to: Lucifer on the beach, smoking a cigarette, fidgeting with a lighter, again framed by the wings now splayed out on the sand. He has learned from Carmen that Amenadiel had arranged for the theft of the wings.
Amenadiel stands over him. He's taken off his human jacket but is still wearing the rest of his tailored suit. "Now that you finally have your wings, doesn't part of you long to assume your form? Get back to where you belong?"
"Not exactly," Lucifer says. He flips his cigarette back and the wings go up in flames.
Aghast, Amenadiel falls to his knees in front of the fire.
Lucifer tells him he's never going back to Hell. He calls the wings "A ripcord back to the life that dear old Dad chose for me." They might have softened a fall into Hell, but they never prevented it.
Full of frustration and rage, Amenadiel assaults his brother. Lucifer taunts him. "That's right, hit me, brother! Go on, again! Become like me! Become wrath! Fall as I did!" An iconic, unforgettable line. And it's a curse with teeth.
(screengrab thanks to Team Lucifer podcast)
Precinct: At the living wake. Paolucci is framed by flags the same way Lucifer was framed by wings (so creepy); he says Malcolm "was like a brother to me." Chloe stands next to a giant map of LA and says nice things about Malcolm. She's acting. She doesn't want anyone to know they are still investigating. Dan acts encouraging. He and Amenadiel: both weasels.
Back at Lux, Lucifer plays "Hurt" on the piano. Maze tells him, "I cleaned up your mess on the beach." She's still playing the caretaker. Chloe comes in and sits by him, notices his shiner. They do shots together.
Lucifer: Well, in my search for the wings, I realized what they actually were. A relic worth exactly what someone was willing to pay for them.
He puts on a brave face, but the price paid was immense: destroying the wings meant severing his connection to his celestial family and to heaven. He's given up any chance of earning his father's love.
Amenadiel is seen walking away from Malcolm's hospital room as the heart monitor starts beeping
So at the end of this episode, we've got closure... or do we? I almost thought that for the first time since the pilot, since he's finally become the version of himself that he's willing to show the world, Lucifer has NO counterpart in this episode. That's not exactly true. He has no counterpart that he's aware of, but if Dan is mirroring Amenadiel in concealing his own responsibility for a crime, then Chloe is mirroring Lucifer.
I think everyone reading this knows perfectly well where that is heading. "Precession" means "going before." We see the map before we see the territory.
I'm not done yet! Lucifer's procession/precession of simulacra
In the pilot, Lucifer is fully in charge of his own domain, but starting in episode 2, as Dr. Linda points out, he gradually gives his power away, losing, episode by episode, his sense of competence, his "name-brand," his sexual magnetism, his physical invulnerability, his emotional maturity, and finally, his celestial identity. Each case in episodes 2-6 gives him at least one character as an analog, and sometimes several. They act out his losses and literally explain his motivations, even when they are contradictory, as in the case of Ty Huntley and his agent, or the case of Renny and Cutter. If you'll excuse me, I'm gonna say they are the maps overlaying the territory. Lucifer, who's really only interested in cases that relate directly to what he's experiencing, clearly sees them that way.
Lucifer also seems to grow younger as his shells are stripped one by one: in "The Would-be Prince of Darkness" (1.3) he starts to second-guess himself as Chloe questions his methods and brands him an amateur; in "Manly Whatnots" (1.4) he's like a randy but frustrated adolescent; in "Sweet Kicks" (1.5) he's child-like, taunting the suspects, and so oblivious to danger that he needs an actual babysitter; in "Favorite Son" (1.6), he complains about boredom, but ends the episode as emotionally raw as we've seen him so far, complaining bitterly about his unjust treatment at the hands of his father, like a kid in a time-out; and by "Wingman" (1.7) he's reduced to shouting "mine!" like the scariest toddler ever. At the end of "Wingman" he will consider himself to be born anew.
So what are the wings actually worth? I'm not letting you off the hook just yet. Let's ask Baudrillard. Here's another list swiped from Wikipedia.
...there are four ways of an object obtaining value. The four value-making processes are:
- The first is the functional value of an object; its instrumental purpose (use value). A pen, for instance, writes; a refrigerator cools.
- The second is the exchange value of an object; its economic value. One pen may be worth three pencils; and one refrigerator may be worth the salary earned by three months of work.
- The third is the symbolic value of an object; a value that a subject assigns to an object in relation to another subject (i.e., between a giver and receiver). A pen might symbolize a student's school graduation gift or a commencement speaker's gift; or a diamond may be a symbol of publicly declared marital love.
- The last is the sign value of an object; its value within a system of objects. A particular pen may, while having no added functional benefit, signify prestige relative to another pen; a diamond ring may have no function at all, but may suggest particular social values, such as taste or class.
I'm not saying this little list proves there's anything Baudrillardian about Lucifer's wings, but it's interesting how the wings change from one of these "value-making processes" to the next: First, they are a means for Lucifer to travel between celestial realms, second, worth whatever cold, hard cash he'll bid for them, third, a symbol of Lucifer's connection to his family, and finally, a sign of the continuation of a life he no longer wants. So, naturally, he destroys them.
His severed wings are like all of those relinquished facets of power wrapped up in a single package: they are admired, even fetishized, glowing "with the light of God," eclipsing Lucifer as an individual. They threaten to damage humanity with their ineffable divinity, and because of this, they also threaten his ability to live among humans. If he keeps the wings, he remains chained and defined by the story that has made him an outcast, and they will continue to remind him of what he has lost. To him, they represent his past and his obligation to Hell, but most importantly, they are his connection to his father. In choosing to give them up, he's choosing to live without the real. Although it's a spiteful act (pissing off his family), and a selfish one (concealing his true identity to maintain status quo), it's also an unappreciated act of heroism: to keep his new friends safe from possible existential collapse, he undermines his own as-yet unacknowledged wish to be truly seen. And, as we know, he'll do it again and again.
A few links, from which I've drawn inspiration or flat-out stolen things:
Chapter 7: What's left unsaid
The title: Et Tu, Doctor? says it all. This episode is a big round-robin of backstabbing, from the petty double-cross of Lucifer trying to sic Linda on Chloe, to the marital infidelity of the murder victim and the murderousness of his colleague, to the murder of Paolucci by his own partner, to the deeply horrible subterfuge Dan has been perpetrating on Chloe under the pretext of recommitting to their relationship and helping her solve the Palmetto case, to Lucifer's discovery that Maze has been plotting with Amenadiel (and using Linda) against him. Everyone suffers, and nobody says what they're really thinking.
Et Tu, Doctor? draws inspiration from the dreamy, wistful mood of the 1987 Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire. Lucifer finds that desiring someone is not the same as having them, and starts to realize that although he's burned his wings, he's still an outsider on Earth. Also, he solves all the mysteries.
Nearly all of the big emotional beats in this episode are wordless epiphanies conveyed by the performances of the very talented actors. Like the angels in Wings of Desire, we know what they are thinking.
I've tried to add relevant descriptions to the screenshots, but some of them really need a few paragraphs!
Addendum, 1/7/20: I've just learned that Peter Handke, who wrote the screenplay for Wings of Desire, won the Nobel Prize for literature for 2019.
Also I feel like I should mention the US remake of the film, City of Angels, which moves the action from Berlin to LA and stars Nic Cage. I haven't seen it, so I can't speak to how it might or might not relate to Lucifer. Its reviews are such that I didn't feel like paying the four bucks to find out.
1.8 "Et Tu, Doctor?"
Finally to ‘suspect’, instead of forever knowing all. To be able to say ‘Ah!’ and ‘Oh!’ and ‘Hey!’ instead of ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’.-Damiel in Wings of Desire
We deal with your issues. Not someone else's. -Linda Martin
Those who talk most about the blessings of marriage and the constancy of its vows are the very people who declare that if the chain were broken and the prisoners left free to choose, the whole social fabric would fly asunder. You cannot have the argument both ways. If the prisoner is happy, why lock him in? If he is not, why pretend that he is? -Don Juan in Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw
The problem is he fell in love with her. -Sandy Shaw
Wings of Desire , set in West Berlin in the mid-80s before the wall came down, follows an angel called Damiel, who decides to become mortal to pursue Marion, a trapeze artist he's fallen in love with. In the film, humans can't see the angels, but can feel their presence. It's their job to subtly influence humans, to give them hope, and help them live in the world. They do their best, but don't always succeed. Peter Falk, known and recognized everywhere as Detective Columbo , plays himself, shooting a fictional movie about a detective pursuing a case in historic Berlin. It's implied that he, too, is a fallen angel, and is able to perceive Cassiel and Damiel, although he can't see them. There isn't much dialogue: Most of the film's script consists of monologues that reveal the humans' unspoken thoughts as heard by the angels watching over them: in pain, loneliness, frustration, boredom, nostalgia, and love.
At this point in the series, Lucifer is in a similar position to Damiel, having given up his wings and his "armor" to pursue love with a mortal. He still has a lot to learn.
The episode's director, Eagle Egilsson, an industry veteran with a gigantic list of movie and TV credits, makes lots of references to the film, which made a close rewatch really fun. I had more than one "OMG" moment when a connection fell into place. Some of them might be a stretch, but I'll throw them out there anyway and leave it for you to decide if I'm on target or just chasing coincidental shadows. I'll try not to drown you in screen shots.
Since this discussion uses a lot of visual examples, I'll go right to the recap so the pictures coincide with the story. This is an episode with far more show than tell.
In the first scene, Lucifer has a "re-birthday" party at Lux, with Bowie's "Rebel, Rebel" playing in the background. Along with the appearance of his comic book character having been modeled on David Bowie, Lucifer is most definitely the hottest and trampiest of rebellious hot tramps. Now that he's shed his wings, he can be "Whoever the hell I want to be." One of the first shots shows a pole dancer, evoking the trapeze artist from Wings of Desire. Like Marion, lots of people in the crowd are wearing fake wings, and the dancers perform similar aerial acrobatics. If you look carefully, you will see a woman seated at the bar with her hair done up in a glittering tiara, also a Wings of Desire reference .
Marion, the trapeze artist:
Dancers at Lux:
Maze glowers jealously when Chloe arrives. Lucifer glowers as well when he sees Dan with Chloe. They bring a birthday offering of "whiskey with a pickle juice chaser", whose briny flavor implies that there could be tears ahead. Lucifer pointedly does not raise his glass to Dan, and stares daggers at him until they leave.
Lucifer's face shifts from surly to puzzled as he watches them go. Brushing off Lucifer's protest that the party has just started, the two cops have gone to Malcolm's "welcome-back" party at the Paddock, where Malcolm psyches Chloe out by first acting hostile, then breaking into a smile. His partner, Paolucci, wryly remarks, "Guess Heaven didn't want him and Hell couldn't keep him," and Malcolm replies with a wink, "You got no idea." Chloe notices the wink. Was it directed at her, or at Dan? For a weedy little injured guy, Malcolm will prove to be an amazingly effective baddie.
Foreshadowing alert: check out the big, wrinkly Stars & Stripes behind Paolucci:
At Linda's office, Lucifer apologizes for punching a hole in the wall, and she is uncomfortable that he's overdone his apology by sending gifts, candy, and flowers. She tells him that he's had a breakthrough in getting in touch with his emotions and dropping his barriers. His expression shows that the loss of those barriers is causing him distress, saying, "I'd like them back up, thank you." But does he really want that? He describes the physical sensations he's having when he sees Chloe with Dan: "Like a fat man sitting on my chest, but not in a fun way." Evidently, Linda, a very effective therapist, has taught Lucifer to use this kind of body awareness to address his alexithymia. She helpfully identifies this description as jealousy. No wonder she likes having him as a patient--he's a really fast learner.
Lucifer is indignant. "The Devil doesn't get jealous. I'm the one who inspires passion in others. I mean, you know that."
Linda visibly squirms, with both guilt and lust evident on her face, as she replies, "Don't I ever."
We see Lucifer's expression shift as Linda's does, but it's because he's just had one of his completely incorrect realizations: "Maybe it's not me!" He asks her to heal Chloe's "douche fixation," but she replies, "We deal with your issues. Not someone else's." While she is explaining this to Lucifer in regard to Chloe, she still looks kind of guilty. She is realizing that this boundary needs to work both ways--Her own issues should not be in play here; they are interfering with his therapy.
Next, we get our first glimpse of Lucifer's iconic red-soled Louboutins as he strides down the hall to a crime scene. I grabbed this screen shot because I was wondering if the Louboutins are a subtle reference to a scene in Wings of Desire where a suicidal man sits at the edge of a building musing about trivial details: "Why red socks with black shoes?" Here is the entire two-minute sequence from the film, which is referenced again in this episode, very soon. You really should watch it.
This image features strong vertical lines with a red accent, the stripy red motif prefiguring the ribbons of blood we're about to see running down dead Dr. Shaw's face, and recalling the flag behind Paolucci. These stripes will also show up quite prominently later in the episode.
But also I saw something that I almost made me yell out loud. This one is a bit of a stretch, but here is a still from the film, right before we see the suicidal man, with a screen shot taken just a split-second after the one above.
With the four poplars on the right forming those dark stripes, the composition of the Louboutin shot, with its backlit legs and dark vertical shadows across the floor, seems to me like a conscious homage. Something about the way the leg of the policeman standing sideways meets the one facing forward seems to echo the way the saplings cross each other on the right in the foreground of this shot. Note also the sepia-toned light from the table lamps in the corridor, along with the near absence of color in the rest of the frame, aside from the shoe. The cinematographer of Wings of Desire shot through a silk stocking to produce the sepia tone in his black and white images. My daughter mentioned that the similarity could be coincidental because the cinematographers are following the Rule of Thirds, but... maybe? It's not like this shot really furthers the action, but it's included in the episode for a reason. In any case, thank you to director/cinematographer Eagle Egilsson for inspiring me to look this closely.
The crime scene is in the office of a murdered therapist named, pointedly, Bernard Shaw. He asks Chloe if she's ever been in therapy to address her issues and her attraction to "very dull men." Chloe cracks a smile and tells him to focus on the case. Shaw is known as "the Cheater Therapist," because he specialized in addressing marital issues via deliberate infidelity. Lucifer is, naturally, quite interested.
The victim's name is a nod to George Bernard Shaw, probably as a reference to Man and Superman , and to the playwright's jaded opinions therein about relations between the sexes. Shaw was of the opinion that, in relationships between men and women, it's always the women who call the shots. Our Lucifer is quite recognizable as one of the characters from its play-within-a-play, the philosophically opinionated third act, "Don Juan in Hell," which has the Devil arguing with the great lothario Don Juan about the spiritual hypocrisy of Heaven versus the hedonistic and more practical gratification of Hell.
Lucifer and Chloe meet Dr. Shaw's colleague, Dr. Medina (played by the awesome Al Madrigal, a comedian and The Daily Show's "senior Latino correspondent") who is comforting a weeping Mrs Shaw. She claims to have been out of town when the murder happened. Chloe points out that every single patient of Dr. Shaw's is now a suspect.
In order to aid the investigation, the police need to appoint a psychologist to review Dr. Shaw's confidential records. Lucifer sleeps with a judge (cutely named Tourvel, after the married target of a very determined seducer in Dangerous Liasons ) in order to get Dr. Linda assigned to the case. He wants her to "fix" Chloe while also helping solve the crime. Linda tells him she never agreed to do such a thing. "Don't you want to help me?" he asks. Again, Linda squirms. Is she reacting to Lucifer's desire mojo, or to her own conscience?
Chloe meets them at Linda's office, where she's surprised to learn that first, Lucifer is in therapy, and second, Linda is his therapist. Calling back to the symbolism of the Russian dolls from ep 6, Lucifer retorts, "I have layers." Since Linda hasn't succeeded in convincing him that he isn't the Devil, Chloe is skeptical of her ability. (Of course we already know that Linda is, in fact, highly competent and perceptive.) She hands them a lead: Richard, a former patient of Shaw's who had made death threats. We get yet another anxiety/lust face from Linda when Lucifer touches her arm as he leaves with Chloe to find the suspect.
While they are driving, Lucifer apologizes for prying into Chloe's relationship with Dan. She tells him that Dan has been making an effort lately, which is a change. Another dark scowl from Lucifer.
They walk to Richard's building, and Lucifer is already looking up at something overhead when Chloe gets a call from Linda to warn them that Richard might be a danger to himself. They find emergency teams already on the ground, and Richard standing on a rooftop, clearly ready to jump.
Here's the reference I mentioned before, to the suicidal man in Wings of Desire.
(If I were to guess, the Louboutins shot above was meant to go right here, between these two shots, but was moved for pacing.) Lucifer appears on the roof, but it's not to rescue Richard, it's to accuse him of the murder and ask him about jealousy. Lucifer keeps looking down at the ground where Chloe is standing, and threatens to throw Richard off the building himself. Richard explains he wasn't angry at the doctor, who had helped him greatly during during calamity and divorce; he was distraught at the doctor's death. A complicated series of expressions crosses Lucifer's face as he assesses the situation. Wow, Tom Ellis, wow. "You're not jealous, you're just sad," Lucifer concludes. Does Lucifer realize how important a therapeutic relationship can be, and how painful it can be to lose it? He tells Richard that his life is so bad that there's nowhere to go but up, and Richard decides not to commit suicide. Despite himself, Lucifer still has some angelic mojo of his own--he has succeeded where we saw Damiel's friend Cassiel fail.
In case you didn't watch the clip earlier, you should go back and do that now, but if you really don't wanna, here is a gifset of the moment from the film.
This is one of my favorite Lucifer storytelling quirks: winking postmodern pastiche that it is, the show draws recognizable story elements from other sources, but very often reverses the tragic outcomes of the originals: anyone who was gonna die gets to live, etc. As frustrating as I've found some of the decisions made by the writers, I'm grateful for this one.
Back on the ground, Richard tells Chloe that he had seen Mrs. Shaw, aka Sandy, two days earlier, and that she had been planning a surprise for her husband, contradicting her alibi.
Linda goes to Lux, ostensibly to meet Chloe. She first encounters Maze, who refuses a handshake, and warns Linda off of sleeping with her boss, because it "won't end well." Linda disarms Maze's attack with an astute observation that rudeness is a sign that a person feels powerless.
Another fun bit of visual symbolism I noticed: circles of light are being used in this episode like thought bubbles behind the characters. The number of lights varies with the character's state of mind. Here's Maze, giving Linda crap. Only a few lights:
Here's Linda, her mind running like a freight train, dealing with Maze:
This kind of effect with the lights isn't unusual for TV shows with indoor or nighttime settings, but the number and location of these little circles actually seemed to have some kind of relationship to the action. And the glittering ceiling of Lux reminded me of another Wings of Desire location, a library where the angels hang out and listen to the thoughts of the many patrons there, its overhead lights like so many thought bubbles:
Chloe and Lucifer arrive, and Linda is surprised to learn that Lucifer has arranged the meeting, not Chloe, in the hope that Linda will provide impromptu psychoanalysis. Not so much. Together the three confirm that Sandy Shaw has lied about her alibi, and that Dr. Shaw has mentioned her in his notes as stalking one of his patients. Chloe's phone rings, and someone from police dispatch tells her that Dan wants to meet her at her place. Lucifer snarks, clearly jealous, and Chloe takes off.
He turns to Linda. "You see what I'm dealing with now, don't you?"
"I think I do, actually. It's worse than I realized."
When Chloe arrives home, she finds Malcolm there, not Dan. He tells her they are on the same side, because they both want to know who shot him. He says was shot by another cop, who was crooked, but didn't know how the shooter knew where to find him. She won't tell him how she herself found him at Palmetto, so he throws up his hands and recommends she not investigate further. Had he been planning to tell her about Dan but then changed his mind?
We're starting to see a pattern with Chloe, similar to Lucifer's with the jealousy, where she's being handed very strong leads, but is refusing to draw some obvious conclusions.
Chloe, Lucifer, and Linda ride to the parking lot where police have located Sandy Shaw. In the car, Lucifer fishes for more insight on Chloe, but Linda sticks up for her.
When they speak to Sandy Shaw, she confesses that she had lied about her alibi so she could come back early and exact revenge on Tiffany, the woman her husband had been sleeping with. She shows them the load of horse poop she has in the trunk of her car, and tells them Dr. Medina had indirectly made her aware of her husband's infidelity by pointing out that Dr. Shaw wasn't with him when he claimed he was. She is jealous, but not murderous. "The problem is he fell in love with her," says Sandy. "I didn't kill him, I just wanted him back."
At that moment, Dan arrives at the parking lot. He's heard about Malcolm's visit, and is checking in with Chloe. She asks him about the 999 key they found at Palmetto, but Dan tells her there were no prints on it. He's got a scared-rabbit look, but you can see he's relieved that Malcolm didn't spill the beans.
Linda gently pushes back on Lucifer's complaints about Dan, and reminds him that therapy isn't about taking sides, it's about helping him process his emotions. He brushes her off and leaves; he's heading to the group session being held in memory of Dr Shaw, led by Dr. Medina. Lucifer, naturally, commandeers the group so that they can talk about him.
Linda and Chloe are left at the parking lot together. Linda says things may have gotten "a little too close to home" for Lucifer, and says he's grown a lot since starting to work with Chloe, who in turn, attributes his progress to his work with Linda, and apologizes for thinking they were sleeping together. Linda confirms that they actually were, but realizes she needs to stop. She almost, but not quite, admits that she herself is becoming jealous (and perhaps she is thinking about the fact that sleeping with a client got Dr. Shaw killed!) The two of them discuss the particulars of the case and determine that Dr. Medina had manipulated Mrs. Shaw into deducing that her husband was having an affair.
Meanwhile, at the group session, Lucifer has apparently told them his life story, which the participants are finding to be quite confounding. In frustration, Lucifer falls back on his experience from the past seven episodes, and decides to use someone else as his "case study". Linda really has taught him well. He buttonholes Dr. Medina and asks, "So what what makes you jealous? Hmm? What do you desire that you can't have?" Dr. Medina is compelled to answer him: "I want Sandy."'
Medina immediately realizes he's incriminated himself. Lucifer first describes this as an example of unbridled jealousy, but his further explanation is not quite that: "The woman that you loved was with someone else, someone you thought wasn't worthy of her. But no matter what you did, she never saw you the way you wanted her to." A look creeps across his face as if he's having a profound personal realization, and maybe he is. Like Damiel invisibly watching over Marion with unrequited longing, Lucifer has been watching over Chloe, unseen in all the ways that matter to him.
Although Medina acknowledges Lucifer's assessment as "pretty accurate," he concludes that his situation and Dr. Medina's are "absolutely nothing alike." To be fair, Lucifer is far more like Sandy, who is inclined to fling poop at her rival, not to kill her, than he is like the murderous and violent Dr Medina, who is currently holding a knife to his throat.
This claim seems like a stretch for someone who claims to never lie. Perhaps he's fudging when he says, "Not jealous," but doesn't actually say, " I'm not jealous." Does he deny it because he sees that Chloe is there? Or is he being more expansive about the definition of his "situation" than we initially think? It's not entirely clear. But Chloe is there, and she wrestles Medina to the floor and arrests him. Afterward, Lucifer seems distracted, and a little embarrassed. When she asks him if he really didn't see any similarity between himself and Medina, he says, "I don't know. Did you?" Which also isn't technically a lie. Stifling a grin, Chloe says no, but she is very obviously lying to let him save face, and he knows it. It's a sweet little moment between them. She's got his back.
Lucifer asks about the Palmetto case, and Chloe says they have a lead, because she had hacked Malcolm's GPS to find him, and his partner Paolucci also had a shared GPS tracker, so also had to have known where Malcolm was on the night of the shooting. A brief look crosses Lucifer's face, as if he has an idea he's not sharing, but it's quickly replaced with a smile. At this point, Chloe has "two plus two" written out in front of her but is reserving her judgement about what the answer might be. They are both so good at deduction when it's not about them, and so willfully terrible at it when it is.
During this scene the characters have flashing red and blue police lights in the background that appear as big, flickering circles. More thought bubbles!
They follow the GPS signal to a cruiser parked outside of the Paddock. Lucifer, demonstrating impressive hairsplitting ability, uses his mojo to cause the door to open, then simply tells Chloe, "It was unlocked!" He fails to mention how it actually got that way.
Remember the flag behind Paolucci? Here's a shot from right before they find his body at the Paddock:
Paolucci is sitting there with his brains blown out, with a suicide note confessing to shooting Malcolm.
The red and blue circles of light from the outdoor scene are echoed in the grisly shot of Paolucci's blood and brains spattered across the snowy video screen behind him, along with Lucifer's dark quip cluing us in: "At least you can see what he was thinking." Yep, thought bubbles.
As more police arrive, Dan shows up, looking upset. "Paolucci was an ass," he says, "but I can't imagine this." While giving Chloe a comforting hug, he locks eyes with a very displeased-looking Lucifer. Is this just jealousy or is Lucifer onto him?
Oh, shit, look at that flag.
Lucifer stops in at Linda's office, where she tells him she wants to keep their relationship professional. He is fine with this, and says he'll see her at his next session. He leaves and then comes back in, Columbo-style, saying, "One last thing before I go," and quizzes her about the new doctor across the way. He realizes it's Amenadiel.
Next we see Dan at Chloe's house, where he's been helping put Trixie to bed. They mention reading a "sneezing panda" book, which is a nod to a Neil Gaiman kids' book, Chu's Day. Chloe thanks Dan for his support, because he's been doing his best to look helpful during the Palmetto investigation, and (after his unnerving learning experience with Maze) is now stepping up as a dad, too. They kiss, but pull back, and he leaves. There's been a weird, haunted look in Dan's eyes the whole time.
Dan and Malcolm meet in their cars in the middle of a dark street. It's revealed that Dan is the one who shot Malcolm. He knows Malcolm has framed and killed Paolucci, and is appalled. Malcolm tells Dan they are going to be partners now, and threatens to spill the beans if Dan says anything.
I have to say, Kevin Alejandro really knocks it out of the park in this episode. He nails the complicated combination of concern, guilt, and fear that seems to be eating Dan from the inside. The first time through, I thought he was just looking out for Chloe, but on rewatch, I saw so much more going on than that. Dan knows what he's doing is wrong, but he also really wants to get Chloe back and to protect her. Also, check out this cool use of vertical reflections that evoke the bars of a cage with Dan locked inside, with some glittering dots to remind us of what he is thinking:
This is right after the reveal that Dan shot Malcolm. Et tu, Dan?
But as Malcolm watches Dan drive away, we all know who Malcolm is really after. Look, a face with Luci's red devil eyes and glowing phantom wings!
At Lux, Lucifer angrily confronts Maze about plotting with Amenadiel. Despite her protests that she did it to protect him, he tells her, "We're done." As he stalks away, Maze's face crumples into hurt and disappointment.
I had dismissed this as one of the duller episodes of Season 1, but as I do these close rewatches, I'm finding a lot of hidden depth. It's rare to find a show that actually gets better every time you watch it, but I think Lucifer might be one of them.
Speaking of things that get better every time you watch them, if you haven't seen Wings of Desire, you definitely should. What a gorgeous film.