Lucifer Season 5 Episode 12 Review – Daniel Espinoza: Naked and Afraid

The Team Lucifer members gather to participate in an elaborate ruse meant to show Dan how much they care.

DB Woodside and Tom Ellis in Lucifer season 5 episode 12
Photo: Netflix

This Lucifer review contains spoilers.

Lucifer Season 5 Episode 12

“Sometimes it feels as if the entire universe is against me.”

I’m going to say up front that I honestly don’t know what to make of this episode, and from the opening scenes, something just feels off in this chapter of Lucifer. At the moment, no one fears the power of the celestials more than Daniel Espinoza, and remembering past history, it’s understandable why he feels this way. While the participants of Lucifer’s highly orchestrated charade may contend they did it for Dan, the truth revealed in “Daniel Espinoza: Naked and Afraid” is that most of them did it for themselves.

There’s no question that it’s long overdue for Dan to have an episode to himself, and even though “Daniel Espinoza: Naked and Afraid” provides a number of perfectly entertaining elements and moments, it seems to fall outside the more serious, introspective approach much of the season has presented thus far. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there’s something about the exaggerated theatrics particularly involving Dan’s former police colleague Luis Navarro (Wilmer Calderon) and the overstated organized crime stereotypes that leaves us wondering when someone’s going to break out with a tune from West Side Story

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About this time you’re probably thinking that “Lucifer’s a show that can still explore serious themes without taking itself too seriously,” and I agree with that sentiment one hundred percent. What bothers me most about this episode, and it’s the fault of the characters, not the writers, is that Daniel deserves so much more from those who claim to care about him. He’s terrified of the consequences his life choices will have on him in the afterlife, yet his supposed friends agree to an elaborate ruse that in the end makes him feel even worse about himself. 

Apparently, there is no crime to investigate this time, and Dan is sent to retrieve a Los X gangbanger who’s been extradited back to Los Angeles. At the end of the story, Lucifer comments that Chloe needed to be left out of the loop since she’s a detective and would likely see through the entire escapade. Of course, Daniel’s a detective too, and though we understand that Lucifer looks for any opportunity to humiliate Dan, here, the situation becomes a bit more complicated.

“You would have had to know every single decision I would make,” Daniel concedes about his role in this theatrical farce, but it’s unclear whether Lucifer understands that his response not only pays the detective a compliment, but should somewhat assuage his fears about being sent to Hell once he dies. It’s true Lucifer doesn’t understand the depths of Daniel’s anguish, but Mazikeen and Amenadiel should. Still, Lucifer’s explanation that Dan’s perseverance and steadfast desire to always do the right thing are what make him so predictable also represent the qualities that generally keep individuals OUT of Hell. 

Ordinarily, we might accuse the writers of engaging in emotional pandering, and while they do to a certain extent here, this approach works within the context of the pretense around which the episode is constructed. Maze offers to bring her Russian contacts to help Dan out of the jam in which he finds himself, but she can’t resist getting a dig in a la Lucifer. “Don’t screw up,” she warns him, and then to mock the desperate detective even further falsely admits “I’m only helping you because it’s you.” No, Maze, you’re helping yourself cope with your own feelings of inadequacy. After the big reveal at the end, this scene becomes even more meaningful when we consider Mazikeen’s willingness to abandon any shred of empathy she might possess. One moment she pleads with God to give her a soul, and the next she acts like the demon she claims to abhor. 

Nevertheless, as we sift through the details of “Daniel Espinoza: Naked and Afraid,” one thing becomes exceedingly problematic – what Lucifer hopes to accomplish with his plan remains a mystery. Is this supposed to simply be an elaborate practical joke at Daniel’s expense, or in some twisted way remind Chloe’s ex that everyone’s actually on his side? Even before Lucifer reveals his true nature to Dan, the detective struggles to find meaning in his life, and after Charlotte’s death, he comes dangerously close to reaching rock bottom. Now, however, he has a more complete picture of the celestial realities which instead of providing clarity, confuses him all the more. As he explains to Luis when they first meet, learning the Devil and God are real “makes you worry more, not less.”

Taken within its totality, Lucifer’s master plan, while costing him a financial outlay in the nine figures, requires an attention to detail and precise execution that defies reality. Should Daniel have seen through this elaborate ruse and made better decisions along the way? Let’s look past the night of excessive drinking on the eve of his assignment to execute an extradition order and move right to the dead body he finds in his bed. He’s a detective who doesn’t really do much detecting here. Deliver a package of money to the Russian mafia? No problem. Oh wait, it’s not money, it’s a severed head. Except it’s not really. At what point should Dan’s detective spidey sense kick in and put a halt to all of this nonsense?

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I suppose we could look at things from a different perspective and hone in on the showdown at Lux during which Los X, the Russian mob, and Dan’s improv crew engage in a well executed standoff that leaves everyone dead on the floor. Except they’re not. Okay fine. Maybe this is all an elaborate metaphor for the existential crisis Dan experiences amidst the apparent knowledge that God is fallible and nothing really matters. That said, once the gun battle begins and the sound drops out, “Vaya con Dios” embellishes an otherwise first rate action sequence. But does Dan “go with God?” Isn’t that what Dan should take away from this experience?

I have to admit that after the shooting stops and the smoke clears, I was momentarily taken aback by the apparent loss of two core characters. Again, I have to be honest; the mass resurrection feels like a bit of a cheat, and when we consider the unlikelihood that anything like this could even possibly be pulled off in real life, my thoughts go back to Lucifer’s intentions. He doesn’t intend to help Daniel, but rather humiliate him yet again, driving home the idea that Detective Douche is as incompetent as Lucifer wishes him to be. In retrospect, it might have worked to have the resurrection scene turn out to be Dan’s dying wish, and while it would be a shame to lose Kevin Alejandro’s likeable character, there’s something about this that just doesn’t sit right.

With all of that out in the open, this really is an enjoyable Lucifer episode. Once we learn the reality of Dan’s journey, the overplayed, amusing performances make much more sense and succeed within the unfamiliar context. With Chloe and Lucifer’s father noticeably absent from the story, Maze, Amenadiel, and Linda step up to fill in any narrative gaps. The unexpected nature of Linda’s punch to Dan’s jaw followed by the classic water in the face routine feels real at the time precisely because of their shared history within the LAPD family. It’s always strangely gratifying to see Amenadiel spread his commanding wings, and even though we don’t visually experience him carrying Dan back to LA, it’s still fun picturing the physical humor that inherently exists. And let’s not forget the gangbanger support group at the bicycle shop. Again, classic.

Lucifer’s issues with his family obviously occupy much of the narrative space in the overall Lucifer arc, but “Daniel Espinoza: Naked and Afraid” powerfully exposes the fears and insecurities of the Everyman. There’s a certain complexity here that drives the episode, and as critics, perhaps we try to be too clever at times. So I’m just going to sit back with the knowledge that I was clearly entertained by this chapter in the story and pleased that we’ll still have Dan in the picture. And that’s enough.

Lucifer season 5 is available to stream on Netflix now.


4 out of 5