This Lucifer review contains spoilers.
Lucifer Season 3 Episode 5
“There are no loopholes if you’re guilty.”
During its three year run, Lucifer has examined the delicate balance most families struggle to achieve, but “Welcome Back, Charlotte Richards” takes that dilemma to a profound, yet delightful new level. The long awaited return of Tricia Helfer opens a wealth of narrative possibilities as Lucifer sees his immoral, lawyerly mum in an entirely new light, but it’s her recognition that actions have real consequences that causes her to reexamine her values.
Only a fortunate few receive a second chance in life, and though tonight’s case involves not a murder, but suicide by pudding, it’s the examination of the morality of loopholes that proves most fascinating. And speaking of loopholes, who better to address the issue than a woman who has spent her life defending scumbags. Charlotte Richards finds herself at the center of a pudding company chemist’s death, but it’s the nagging feeling she has that all is not as it seems that plays into many of the episode’s interactions.
The complexity of Charlotte’s return is not lost on Lucifer or the viewer. However, it’s coping with the lost time that ends up humbling and ironically sending her to the Devil for advice on how to save her soul. As the mother of the Devil, Charlotte played several roles in the family drama that forced her sons to make a choice no child should have to make. Now, having metaphorically and perhaps literally returned from a sentence in Hell, she’s determined to turn around her life and takes the first steps toward avoiding the bad place in the future. Having been told by Dan that she and Lucifer were close, Charlotte seeks his help, and even though he knows this woman is not his mother, Lucifer accepts responsibility for the state in which she finds herself. He’s not wrong; he did send his mother back to another dimension, leaving Charlotte Richards on her own to figure out why her husband has left her and she is no longer allowed to see her own children.
We never really got to see the real Charlotte Richards since Lucifer’s mother had already taken possession when her character is introduced at the beginning of season two, so the image we have of a cutthroat lawyer willing to do anything to save a client should be met with some reservation. Calling together the heads of the two rival pudding companies and the corporate fixer provides her a chance to do the right thing, an act we have to believe comes from an innate goodness that’s just been buried deep within her psyche. “Nobody’s leaving until I find out who killed Simon,” she tells them while brandishing a handgun, but she’s really searching for much more. As she recounts her story, it becomes clear that she’s having a difficult time reconciling some of the residual memories that clearly still exist in her brain, and when she tells them that she “died and went to Hell,” we know she’s telling the truth.
But what is this truth, and why is it so riveting? Where once Charlotte Richards called the shots and was seen as an intimidator, now, unable to remember the past few months, she feels helpless and unable to rid herself of the nagging suspicion that she’s done things for which she must atone. Holding onto a literal interpretation of her previous whereabouts, she begs Lucifer to tell her how to avoid Hell. Can he put aside his emotions concerning this woman that in the back of his mind he still sees as his manipulative mother and help her achieve a measure of redemption? At the beginning of the episode, he rails against accountability, but now that he’s had a chance to really talk to Charlotte, even he seems to be changing his attitude after learning she’s truly terrified of returning to Hell.
How Charlotte views herself is one thing, but it’s Ella’s response to her that’s most intriguing. Not only can the forensic scientist see into the evidence for truths that often lay hidden, but Ella often stands as the show’s moral compass. Feeling she’s been to Hell and back, Charlotte now exhibits remorse that she represents criminals and wants to change that aspect of her life, so it’s a bit confusing when Ella tells her that she “used to see a light in you, but now all I see is darkness.” Given what we know about Lucifer’s mother and Charlotte’s moral awakening, that seems counterintuitive. Does Ella know something we don’t?
Make no mistake though, “Welcome Back, Charlotte Richards” contains plenty of humor and witty dialogue, and as it usually does, Lucifer ties these into the episode’s central theme. Despite her best efforts to curb Trixie’s use of bad language, Lucifer undoes her teachings by introducing the youngster to language loopholes. Ronald D. Moore would be proud. He even tries to slip her a few bills to cover future payments to the Swear Jar her mother has instituted. Dan’s obsession with Pudding Plus and his dismay when he learns it’s been slowly poisoning him coupled with the cold shoulder he’s received from Charlotte, doesn’t make him an object of pity, but instead the classic Everyman. In so many ways, Dan is us.
During the course of the investigation, Lucifer and Chloe make their way onto the set of a commercial shoot for Pudding Plus’ competitor, Heavenly Pudding. With a nod to Victoria’s Secret, the models all wear white bikinis and sport angel wings, and of course Lucifer can barely contain himself. So when Chloe orders Lucifer to give her long coat to one of the models who she thinks looks cold, am I the only one that thought Chloe planned to don a bikini and pose as one of the models? Okay. Thought so. But what continues to make these scenes so amusing is that there is always a method to her madness, and here it’s no different.
Nevertheless, my favorite occurs when the detective attempts to get a copy of the surveillance footage that might reveal the identity of the killer. The security guard tells her he doesn’t have the authority to release the tapes, and she’ll have to clear it with “the big man upstairs.” Lucifer does not disappoint with his response.
What “Welcome Back, Charlotte Richards” does so well is reintegrate a major character back into the narrative despite the fact that for all intents and purposes she is an entirely different person. And that’s the beauty of this situation. Ordinarily, Charlotte Richards embodies precisely the type of woman to whom Lucifer would be attracted, but he’s having difficulty getting his mother out of his head. More importantly though, the devil is in the details, and the Devil has changed whether or not he wants to admit it. Now that Charlotte has essentially thrown herself emotionally on Lucifer’s good will, where does their relationship go from here? It’s clear he feels a responsibility towards her, but when he tells her that he knows everything she did came from a place of love, we have to ask whether he’s changed his opinion of his mother or is simply attempting to assuage Charlotte’s distress.
Lucifer has found a formula that works, sticks with it, and to keep things from stagnating, finds creative ways to engage the audience. Tonight is no different.
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