Lucifer Season 4 Recap: The Devil’s in the Details

With Lucifer season 5 fast approaching, now is the right time to get a season 4 refresher.

Tom Ellis In Lucifer
Photo: Netflix

The following contains spoilers for Lucifer season 4.

Lucifer is the rare show that didn’t reach its full potential until it was canceled. Always fun, supernatural camp, the show reached another level in season 4 following its move from Fox to Netflix.

The first three seasons largely used Ellis’ ability to slip so easily and believably from semi-sleazy boundless cad to genuinely hurt lost child to raging demon to tell the story of the devil’s emotional development from the rejected and perpetually abandoned son of God (and Goddess) to (semi-)self-aware friend, partner, and potential (chaste) lover. In this, he was aided by a cast and characters to play off who made silly moments funnier and touching moments sweeter or more heartbreaking.

Sadly, however, that’s largely all that humans Detective Chloe Decker, douche Dan, Dr. Martin, and quirky forensic scientist Ella were allowed to do. Their characters were given little development. Charlotte theoretically was given some space for movement, but this was largely due to her becoming literally a different character halfway through, and her last-minute heaven-winning transformation felt a bit hollow in the end. Demon Mazikeen and angelic brother Amenadiel fared better, both coming to grips (as foils to Lucifer’s own development) with what their move to the City of Angels meant for them. But still, the primary focus—and thus all that was most interesting—was Lucifer.

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But this all changed in season four, when Netflix picked up the show. The move away from broadcast television shortened the season (to 10 episodes, down from a high of 25) but lengthened the episodes, which meant that much of the procedural quality and one-off episodes dropped away and the show focused more consistently on its primary arc, and with it, the development of its characters.

With Lucifer season 5 set to arrive on Netflix on August 21, now is the right time to recap the events of Lucifer season 4

Chloe Finds God 

Season four’s opening scene grabs us immediately and sets the tone for the rest of the season as we watch and listen to Ellis’s Lucifer sing Radiohead’s “Creep” in a montage, night after night, as he slowly disintegrates over time over the loss of Chloe, who has taken Trixie and run away after Lucifer’s true nature has finally been made inescapably clear to her. This absence is quickly rectified when the Detective (Lauren German) shows up at a crime scene unannounced, throwing not just her celestial partner but the whole investigative team for a loop. 

She’s been to the Vatican—among other places—in search of answers, although it is never entirely clear what her questions were. Here she has fallen prey to a priest with an agenda. Father Kinley (played alternately with touching kindness and religious hysteria by Outlander’s Graham McTavish) has been tracking Lucifer’s comings and goings throughout history and is convinced that he is every bit as evil and malicious as the Bible has said. Although she does not entirely believe this, she is moved by the argument that, wherever he goes, destruction follows, and he must return to hell. She agrees to help him sedate Lucifer so Kinley can perform an exorcism on him.

All of this comes to naught, of course, since Chloe cannot reconcile the picture Father Kinley paints of Lucifer with the flawed but essentially good man that she knows, and she backs out of the plan. Kinley retaliates by informing Lucifer of the Detective’s intended betrayal (leaving out the key bit of information that it was and continues to be his plan) in an effort to drive a wedge between Chloe and her partner because he believes that she is the “first love” of a prophecy that promises that “when the devil walks the Earth and finds his first love, evil shall be released.” 

Lucifer eventually confronts her and she tearfully admits not only her plan but hesitates just an instant too long when he asks her if she will ever be able to truly accept all of who he is. Here Lauren German is finally given the opportunity to add some real depth to what has too often been a fairly flat character, and she steps up nicely throughout this subplot as we watch Chloe struggle to come to terms with her love for the man developing behind the face of the originary monster.

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Lucifer’s Rebound, Eve

Lucifer is crushed by Chloe’s confession, and it is this which jumpstarts the primary plot of season four as we are introduced to probably the most famous of Lucifer’s exes: Eve, who has recently escaped the unending boredom (we are told) of heaven, and is looking to hook up with her former lover. Eve’s conflict, as a character, comes from the fact that she was “created for (Adam). Turns out an arranged existence kind of takes the spark out of things.” She is, apparently, willing to accept all of what Lucifer is—something that he desperately needs at that point—and proceeds to join (or rather lead) him back into the life of debauchery that he was living before he began working with the Detective. Unfortunately for all involved, she seems to also have a fetish for his ability to punish people and actively rekindles his desire to do so, further estranging him from Chloe and the rest of his friends.

Charlie the Marginal Angel

Those friends, however, have their hands full. Dr. Martin and Amenadiel’s all-too-brief romantic alliance, it turns out, has borne fruit: she’s pregnant, though whether she will give birth to a fully human child or a more celestial being is unclear until the very end of the season when we learn that, while Charlie has no (obvious) wings, he likely is, in fact, at least marginally angelic. The angel Remiel does appear at one point to end Linda’s pregnancy by taking the unborn child, as an angel/human hybrid is forbidden, but Amenadiel manages to convince her to leave his family alone. Watching Linda and Amenadiel attempt to come to grips not just with impending parenthood but the uncertainty of their specific type of parenthood (including the VERY timely issue of what it means to be a Black parent to a Black son in America) allows both actors to turn in their best performances on the show to date.

Others struggle to make sense of their places and feelings in a changing landscape. 

The Lucifer B-Team

Dan is essentially destroyed by Charlotte’s death at the end of season three and goes on a vengeful crusade against Lucifer, reverting to his corrupt ways in his attempt to alternately punish his ex-wife’s partner for her death—though his rationale for Lucifer’s guilt is murky at best—or cut through procedural red tape on cases. He believes that Lucifer is responsible for another outrage, that of having broken a criminal suspect’s back (which Dan is correct about), but his missteps eventually put Trixie at risk and he continues to spiral down, including trying to provoke Mazikeen into hurting him, as well as starting an ill-advised affair with Ella.

Ella is likewise struggling with Charlotte’s death which has shaken her religious beliefs. Over the first half of the season, we watch her go from being “on a break from the Big Guy” to outright stating that God does not exist. It is likely this which opens the door to her sexual entanglement with Dan. When she learns that Dan is the one who told a suspect’s criminal father that Lucifer broke his son’s back—which led said criminal to send muscle to Lucifer’s penthouse to kill him and catching Trixie in the crossfire—Ella keeps Dan’s secret but tells him he is in pain and needs help. 

Mazikeen has had one support after another knocked out from beneath her on the show. First she faced rejection and/or betrayal (in her eyes) from both Lucifer and Amenadiel; then her best friend snuck around with her former lover, and now she has found out that her roommate, Chloe, is only pretending that things are okay between the two of them after the Detective learns of her true nature, and that she is actually keeping Mazikeen’s first friend, Chloe’s daughter Trixie, from being anywhere near her. When she attempts to then base her self-worth on her status as the impending child’s aunt or as Dan’s partner in marginal crime and definite violence, both possibilities collapse, and she’s left rudderless.

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Eve’s Original Sin

In the midst of this, Eve has been tempting the Devil, and he is lapping it up, joining her in sexual debauchery and violence-rich punishment of the criminal, though we begin to suspect that Eve cares little about their targets’ actual guilt. This leads to mistakes and escalating estrangement from Chloe, as well as Lucifer’s growing sense that while Eve says she wants him to be himself, her view of who he is is as misguided and ultimately self-serving as the Detective’s was until she saw his true face. He knows that while he has always claimed he is not evil, he is skating dangerously close to becoming so, and as Amenadiel sussed out, an angel’s perception of himself has tangible effects: Lucifer’s wings are back but they are the leathery, horrific appendages humanity has always imagined him having rather than the beautiful ones that left humans awestruck in previous seasons. He becomes intent on stopping his transformation, and knows that this begins with rejecting Eve.

He tries, at first, to tell her of the prophecy, but all she hears is that she is his “first love” and takes it as a declaration of his feelings. He then attempts to get her to leave him, perhaps too guilty at having used her to get distance from Chloe. He turns himself into the prototypical bad boyfriend, forgetting perhaps that adapting herself to her man is her jam. When he finally confronts her, he tells her that he doesn’t like who he is with her, which, while true, isn’t the whole truth as he later admits to Linda: he doesn’t like himself. Full stop. He hates himself and it’s that that fuels his continuing transformation.

Not Standing by Your (Wo)Man

But that’s not his greatest danger. Nor the greatest danger he poses to humanity. Eve’s desire for him drives her to extremes, and after Maze’s standard man-getting advice fails, Eve kidnaps Father Kinley from police custody in an attempt to get him to convince Lucifer that the prophecy isn’t true and they can be together (though her intentions are unclear perhaps because Eve’s thinking is becoming more random and desperate). But Maze finally confronts her with the truth: he doesn’t return her feelings (anymore, Maze realizes, then Eve does hers, the demon having fallen for Eve) and she needs to get over it. But Eve cannot and when Kinley tempts her with the possibility of having Lucifer to herself and rendering the prophecy moot by getting him to return to Hell with her as his queen, she takes advantage of having to kill the priest (in self-defense) by telling him to deliver a message to the demons who control Hell: come get your king.

The demons, able to inhabit the bodies of the recently deceased, begin to possess the dead (starting with Kinley, who is taken over by the demon Dromos). When Lucifer orders them back to hell, informing them he has no actual plans to return, the demons come up with a backup plan: they grab the nearest defenseless celestial (since Hell’s king must be an angel): the recently arrived Charlie. They plan to perform Kinley’s exorcism on Linda and Amenadiel’s son and raise him to rule Hell as they want it run. Lucifer eventually cows them and forces them to return to Hell and all seems to be happily resolved.

Except that just about everyone is either heartbroken or otherwise shaken. 

Eve has redeemed herself in the final battle, but knows that Lucifer will never love her. Rather than turn to Maze, she decides she needs to stop trying to define herself by who she is in a relationship with, and chooses to head off on that most quintessential of LA quests: to find herself. Maze is devastated. Dan is left to deal with the emotional fallout of his bad decisions, and while Charlie is safely back in his parents’ arms, it is with a very clear understanding of the risks they face as a family.

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And, of course, the long awaited declarations of love between Lucifer and the Detective finally do happen, but only as he announces that he now knows that Hell cannot remain unguarded—that the demons would just return and that they could hurt Charlie or her–and he must go back…with no hope of return.

So thank uh…hmmm…Charlotte(?)…that Netflix renewed Lucifer for a fifth season because, while that would have made for an excellent end to a tragedy, I have now become a fan and am hoping for a happier ending. Now that we know there’s also to be a sixth season, I doubt that we’ll get that type of emotionally satisfying closure this year, but the trailers thus far have promised more than enough of the type of action, angst, and even comedy that has made the show such a favorite. It’ll be a Hell of a ride.