This review of Lucifer contains spoilers.
Lucifer Season 3 Episode 1
“Nothing pisses God off more than exercising free will.”
After a four month break, everyone’s favorite demon returns to the small screen, and as it turns out, it’s the devil you think you know that flips the season three premiere of Fox’s Lucifer inside out. The unexpected appearance of Lucifer’s overbearing mother dominated last season, and “They’re Back, Aren’t They?” introduces the abrupt return of Lucifer’s wings, setting in motion the quest to discover an explanation for why the Prince of Darkness has suddenly lost his mojo.
At its heart, the show remains a standard police procedural, but as it’s deftly managed to do through its first two seasons, the crimes Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) and Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) investigate merely serve as a platform on which the two wrestle their own personal demons, not the least of which is how they feel about each other.
The episode’s cold open finds Lucifer stumbling around in the desert after his kidnapping at the end of season two, and not surprisingly, the dead body discovered nearby appears to tie into his disappearance. We’ve witnessed countless examples of sexually suggestive wordplay between Lucifer and Chloe, but tonight, that tone takes a back seat to the one-sided quarrel he continues with his Father. It seems that at any given time, either Chloe or Lucifer feels emotionally wounded by the other, and tonight is no different as the detective continues to weather the results of last season’s aborted romantic relationship. And even though Lucifer has been ready to provide her proof of his true identity, something invariably precludes him from doing so.
Nevertheless, Lucifer has reached a point in his life on Earth where he desires more than he’s been able to experience despite the obvious advantages he possesses. Dealing with his mother (Tricia Helfer) and her subterfuge only increased his periods of self-doubt, and we watched with amusement and amazement at the Devil seemingly destined to do good in the world despite his best efforts to the contrary. The show’s arc has been as much about his moral choices as anything, and like so many tales before, Lucifer struggles to find his way amidst the evil within the City of Angels. That said, it’s the loss of control and helplessness he feels that drives the narrative. Though he would like to believe that “I define who I am,” lingering doubts preclude him from feeling secure in that assessment.
Lucifer longs to open himself up to Chloe and show her his true identity, but ironically, he’s not that person anymore. We know she’s witnessed his transformation, and even though she has no idea how far he’s truly come, the difference is still obvious. “The devil so rudely turned into an angel” complicates an already tangled affair that neither seems able to honestly face.
As a prank kidnapping gone awry unfolds in the background, Lucifer acknowledges his Father’s culpability in his own disappearance and sets out to question God’s emissaries to learn the true reasons for this latest act. But while Lucifer’s abduction continues to plague him, it’s the reappearance of his wings that signals a new direction for both the character and the show. He’s absolutely beside himself that his Father would go to this extent to impose his will on his son, but we have to go deeper to further understand the true significance here.
Lucifer’s focus now zeroes in on the person responsible for his abduction but also the reason why he’s seemingly unable to rid himself of his angel’s wings. Cutting them off himself when he begins his reign as owner of the decadent nightclub Lux, Lucifer symbolically severs ties with his father and the job he finally leaves behind so he can experience life among the human race. And even though his depraved behavior continues to regress, the not so subtle implication of his white wings seems to be lost on Hell’s former gatekeeper.
Followers of Lucifer know that the writers have taken some license with the Devil’s backstory, but it’s his sense of obligation to see that those deserving of punishment receive their just due that continues in this episode as he commandeers the clothes of an erstwhile thief. From a narrative perspective his desert deliverance and speedy reunion with Chloe makes sense because these two need to be together, not only for their own emotional well being but the health of the show as well.
Noticeably absent tonight is much of Lucifer’s indelicate banter directed toward Chloe, but that change doesn’t mean this delightfully naughty aspect of the show has been siphoned off. In fact, one of the show’s hidden gems, forensic scientist Ella Lopez (Aimee Garcia) picks up the slack, and her fascination with Amenadiel’s physique is priceless. We’ve seen it before, but her revelation of and comfort with the dichotomy she undoubtedly faces as a scientist and woman of faith appears once again when she tells Lucifer’s brother that not only does she believe in God but trusts he has a plan for us all. Ironically, as Ella’s conviction remains strong, God’s sons both struggle with a crisis of faith and loss of direction.
Though he continually plays on his terrifying persona, to a large extent, Lucifer’s angst about his wings speaks to the dysfunctional relationship he has with his parents, and coming on the heels of his mother’s attempts to return him to Hell, it’s little wonder that he finds trust such a difficult commodity to attain. While he blames God for this latest development, his perception that he no longer has free will pushes him even lower emotionally. But what of the wings? As he slides more and more away from the traditional view we have of the Devil, the restoration of his wings may be viewed as the return of his moral compass.
Ironically, when he finally feels comfortable enough to reveal his “devil face” to Chloe and thereby his true nature, how telling is it that he’s lost this part of his identity. As time goes on, it will be interesting to watch whether he sees his wings in a new light, embracing them for what it is they represent, a new direction in how he wishes to be viewed by those around him. Of course, that begs the question; if he can’t show Chloe his devil face, why not just spread his wings?
From the very beginning, Lucifer’s mother’s duplicitous motivations presented themselves in a fairly clear manner, and though we didn’t always know exactly what she was up to, her intentions rarely had her son’s best interests at heart. Now that she’s gone and Lucifer must wrestle with the fact that he may not be as bad he thinks, Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) finds himself facing life on Earth without his powers. And in the prototypical sibling rivalry, he’s plagued by the fact that his devil-may-care brother not only retains his powers but has regained his wings as a bonus. Is this a sign that the seemingly good brother may not be as righteous as he proclaims? Have the brothers reversed roles?
It will be difficult to top last year’s introduction of Tricia Helfer to the cast, but Lt. Marcus Pierce (Tom Welling/Smallville) takes over as Chloe and Dan’s new boss, and immediately establishes himself as someone who plans to keep a keen eye on this erstwhile trio. His deadpan attitude and lack of tact when dealing with his key subordinates smacks perfectly against Lucifer’s condescending, know-it-all conversational style. And let’s be honest, he simply doesn’t like any of them.
Nevertheless, as we reach the end of the episode, Lucifer wonders whether all of this is a sign that his Father has forgiven him and raises the question that if the Devil can be forgiven, can anyone be redeemed? And while Amenadiel, like Ella, feels that this is all part of God’s plan, however irrational, it’s the revelation of the man responsible for Lucifer’s kidnapping that lays the groundwork for what should be the focus of the season’s initial story arc. Who is The Sinner Man, and what does he want with Lucifer?
Throughout the course of the series, Lucifer generally remains upbeat, and his dark periods kept to a minimum. So when he, like us, wonders that if God is not responsible for what’s been transpiring with the two brothers, then who is out there pulling the strings, a vast universe of possibilities becomes available. His fear that what’s going on may be much darker than even he anticipates casts an initial pall over the protagonist, but this is Lucifer. However, dark things become, his witty repartee with Dan and Chloe always pull things back into the light.
Of course it’s disappointing that Dr. Linda (Rachael Harris) appears only briefly, and though Lucifer’s mother has returned to Hell, we know that Tricia Helfer returns to breathe life into super lawyer Charlotte Richards. But it’s the absence of Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt) that’s most noticeable. Not to worry though since Brandt’s absence can be explained by the birth of her first child, Kingston, and she will be back to keep Lucifer and Chloe on their toes.
“They’re Back, Aren’t They?” takes a bold step toward reorienting the narrative while still moving the action forward with a combination of the unexpected and the unavoidable. The writing team immediately sets a scenario of conflicting sources while at the same time keeping the new antagonist hidden. Who will be this season’s Big Bad? Too early to tell, but Lucifer is off to a resounding start.