“A parent just wants what’s best for their child.”
As fans anxiously await news that Lucifer has been picked up by another network, it’s only fitting that what may indeed turn out to be the final installment of the Devil’s journey from Hell to the City of Angels explores the narrative possibilities of placing the characters in an alternate reality. Directed by Kevin Alejandro (Det. Daniel Espinoza) “Once Upon a Time” deftly employs a standard “what if” scenario to great effect as it considers whether given different circumstances an individual will make different choices and be drawn to different people.
I’m ordinarily not a big fan of the voiceover, but co-creator of this version of Lucifer and author of American Gods, Neil Gaiman provides the voice of God in this tale of free will and the desire to follow one’s heart in seeking fulfillment. With a delicate balance of power and wisdom, his appearances are relatively non intrusive while filling in needed background. From the opening scene in which Chloe chases a suspect into an alley only to be gunned down by the bad guys, our expectations are thrown off, and it become immediately evident that we’re witnessing an alternate world in which the detective is the star of the Weaponizer action film series. But as God says, this is about placing people in different circumstances to see if they make the same choices and are drawn to the same people. And while “Once Upon a Time” clearly and necessarily focuses on the actions of Chloe and Lucifer, the lives of the others are nicely addressed as well.
Miss Lopez has chosen a different career path, and instead of becoming a forensic scientist, she runs an automotive repair shop neatly connecting her to the murder after Lucifer gives her the murder weapon knowing she might provide clues to identifying the killer. Seeing her out of her usual edgy, but nice girl comfort zone, reminds us that at her core, Ella is a brilliant analyst whether she chooses to work with engines or microscopes. Though it appears she may have made some questionable choices along the way, Ella’s followed her passion and seems to be in a good place. The Espinoza name tag on her coveralls is a nice touch as well.
On the other hand, the return of Charlotte Richards works within the context of this fairy tale construct that doesn’t necessarily provide happy endings for all of its characters. While she does connect with Daniel, both have chosen paths that will ultimately lead them to an afterlife in the Bad Place should they fail to change their ways. Charlotte’s struggle to be good in the real world punctuates just how easy it is go in a different direction. Of course, it’s disappointing to see Dan as a crooked cop stealing cash from the evidence locker, but again, we’re shown how choice impacts not only our life but the lives of those around us. And while the two ride off into the sunset with a backseat full of money, we know what eventually awaits them.
Perhaps most disturbing though is the path chosen by Dr. Linda, who like Chloe has apparently become a media star with her version of the Dr. Phil show. There still seems to be a genuine desire to help people, but she too has a moral choice to make when her producer suggests she confront her guest with information that will likely induce an on air emotional breakdown. With flagging ratings hanging overhead, Linda disappointingly makes the wrong decision. In this alternate world, would Lucifer and Chloe’s presence in her life lead her down a different path? Does she live a self-imposed isolation in which many celebrities find themselves? Would she make a different choice had she been part of a family?
Nevertheless, this is the story of Chloe Decker and Lucifer as they seek fulfillment in a world littered with obstacles. Bored after the fifth film in the Weaponizer franchise, Chloe seizes the opportunity when one of the stunt drivers turns up dead at what was supposed to be a celebration that just happens to take place at Lux. We know that she chose law enforcement after the death of her father in the line of duty, but here, he’s still alive and proud of his daughter’s career path. Would Decker have become a cop had her father not been killed? It appears she might. While Lucifer’s motivated to find the killer because his accounts have been frozen precluding him from executing a deal to expand Lux into Las Vegas, Chloe’s drive comes from a different place. This is a friend, part of her extended film family, and she wants to bring his killer to justice.
All along Lucifer has operated under the notion that his Father placed Chloe in his path to manipulate his son, and while God admits as much, dear old Dad just has to know whether Lucifer will be drawn to goodness on his own. Like Ella, Chloe’s a natural detective, and while even she ascribes some of her talent to having played a cop in her movies, it’s obvious there’s much more to it than that. What does become clear though is that both need a change from lives that have evolved into drudgery and lifestyles both now find boring. Lucifer turning down sex with Charlotte presents a side we’ve not really seen, but it’s evident that this new connection with Chloe has rejuvenated him and sets up a partnership that, while it may take some time to come to complete fruition, will most certainly provide both with a reason to get up in the morning.
Watching Chloe and Lucifer work together solving Rex’s murder feels familiar, but it’s the little differences that also make this fun to watch. Lucifer’s red Corvette which Chloe drives, pushing him unceremoniously into the passenger seat, represents more than a desire to do things differently. A bright future awaits both should they choose different paths. There’s something fresh about both, but it’s the knowledge that at their cores, these are the same two we’ve observed for three years that makes watching them in this world so fascinating. Would we want to see a reboot of the timeline to watch how things play out? Probably not, but exploring the idea here reminds us who these people really are.
In the end, “Once Upon a Time” returns us to the fundamental question: If you give someone a different set of circumstances, will they end up in a different place? Now that Chloe knows Lucifer’s true identity on Earth Prime (sorry, I couldn’t resist), how will she react to this knowledge? Will it change her relationship with Lucifer, but more importantly, will it change who she is at her core? Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to explore that, but for now, we wait.