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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

In the Lucifer premiere, a returning “Really Sad Devil Guy” begs the question: “Whose Hell is this anyway?”

Illustration for article titled In the iLucifer /ipremiere, a returning “Really Sad Devil Guy” begs the question: “Whose Hell is this anyway?”
Graphic: John P. Fleenor/Netflix
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While Lucifer on Netflix is not drastically different from Lucifer on network television, it’s arguably the ideal version of the series that showrunners Joe Henderson and Ildy Modrovich always wanted to create. No, that ideal version of the series isn’t a pure adaptation of the source material either, but it’s a fun genre series with a great love for both its characters and the mythology of the world in which they inhabit. And that world is always getting more interesting.

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Season One was a grimier version of the show, seemingly the result of being developed by Tom Kapinos, with Len Wiseman’s directorial eye. Season Two ushered in the show as we’ve come to know it, visually, tonally, and thematically, the network season closest in concept and quality to what we would come to see of the show on Netflix. Season Three was the result of, in retrospect, a lot of network notes that resulted in that network canceling the show. Then Season Four introduced the streamlined version of Lucifer, amplifying the positives of the series established in its second season and showing that it had learned from its mistakes in its third.

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Lucifer is back now for its second Netflix season. Initially intended as the final season—a concept that really informs the progression of the Lee/”Mr. Said Out Bitch” (Jeremiah Birkett) premiere runner—it will be interesting to watch both halves of this season with that (and the ultimate pivot from that) in mind. Especially with the Devil in Hell/Florida (same difference) and his evil twin (also played by Tom Ellis) doing evil twin things.

Lucifer has provided glimpses of a standard day in Hell before, in episodes like “A Good Day To Die” and the stellar “Off The Record,” But while the basics of how Hell and Hell loops work have been laid out, we’d never seen how they work with the King of Hell actually at the helm. Nor have we examined the root of someone’s Hell loop when it’s not the actual Hell loop premise. Until now, with “Really Sad Devil Guy.” While Hell loops are driven by the punished’s guilt, ultimately, Lucifer controls them and everything in Hell. Since he left Hell on autopilot for the past four seasons, to actually see just how much control Lucifer has over Hell is kind of a rush. That extends to Lucifer revealing the reality of what Hell looks like in Lee’s Hell loop, a moment that’s difficult to imagine ever existing on network TV Lucifer and not just because of the Netflix money.

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But one can also understand how the artificiality of all of it could (and did) get tiring for Lucifer after a while. Especially when you consider the length of Hell years. Only two months have passed (since “Who’s Da New King Of Hell?”) in the real world on Lucifer, in Hell, it has been “much, much longer.” (Like, thousands of years.) Two months might seem like an arbitrary number or possibly not a long enough time, but anything longer than two months could lead to too much change and damage for everyone involved. And it would mean possibly missing out on the adorableness that is baby Charlie.

Two months seems to be the sweet spot for these characters’ emotional wounds to still be raw but for them to be able to pretend that’s not the case. (It’s not enough time to buy for even a second that Amenadiel would become a corrupt club owner though.) “Really Sad Devil Guy” takes those attempts at these characters pretending to be okay—both on Earth and in Hell—and drops them side-by-side in a same-ish time, different plane DevilCop adventure, resulting in one of the most structurally impressive cases of the week since “Off The Record.” While Jason Ning’s script creates a seamless flow that bounces the story from Hell to Earth and back and forth, Eagle Egilsson’s direction succeeds at translating said flow visually. Getting the audience familiar with the back and forth of Hell and Earth, there are a lot of match cuts early on before the episode settles on a singular transition effect to switch between the worlds.

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At the same time, “Really Sad Devil Guy” understands that sometimes it’s just cool to make things look cool. That’s definitely the case when a suspect is sent flying in slow motion after being hit by a car, but it also comes with substance when a frustrated Lucifer reveals to Lee what Hell actually looks like. Though, to be fair, the former ultimately leads to substance in terms of playing with demonic possession again in order for Lucifer to help Chloe on the case.

The case itself isn’t all that interesting, which is the story of Lucifer, but the presentation and the character beats that stem from it are. Plus, it’s not that it’s uninteresting to find Lee’s killer but that the reason for his murder is about as predictable and disappointing—in terms of this character squandering his second chance so tremendously—as one would expect the murder of a petty criminal to be. That’s a good decision, from a writing standpoint, but it’s also pretty sad.

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The way Lucifer is able to balance tone has always been part of its charm, and it’s only gotten more impressive as it’s matured. Season Four, with the 10-episode order, truly excelled at pivoting episodes from carefree to tragic, often functioning as a workaround for having fewer episodes to flesh certain bits out. This tonal balance also speaks to the concept of the Lee story and its apparent conclusion. (Hey, maybe he will find his way out of Hell one day.) Lee has been a fun bit character for the past three seasons, and after his appearance in last season’s premiere, it would be hard not to root for him and hope he turned his life around. Seeing him live the life on a yacht to open this season, seemingly making the best of his second chance from Lucifer, is a joy to see. That joy, however, turns to despair upon seeing Lucifer on the yacht, knowing exactly what that must mean. Lucifer is a show about redemption—even the Devil can be redeemed, after all—and “Really Sad Devil Guy” opens with the reminder that redemption doesn’t always work out.

Not that trying to be better works all that well either, as everyone else is currently in their own Hell on Earth. After finally seeing Dr. Linda toward the end of Season Four, Dan’s spent these past two months going all in on self-improvement, in a way that is more distraction than actual self-reflection or improvement. Amenadiel has been trying to eradicate the world of crime to give baby Charlie a safe future, and well, it’s still the world. Linda, on the other end of the Charlie parenting scale, has taken the concept of believing one’s child is perfect into overdrive. Ella promises herself that she’ll finally stop going for bad boys, only to continue to go for bad boys. And Chloe and Maze team up as a more mature version of Buffy and Faith, which is awesome—as their team-ups always are—but also reveals how they’ve been using each other to fill the voids left by Lucifer and Eve. (Based on the conclusion to this episode, though, Maze might have been telling the truth that her actions weren’t about Eve. At least, not all about Eve.)

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While dropping in now reveals the loops these characters have been stuck in for the past two months, the resolutions to these plots in this episode don’t mean they’re all wrapped up. These issues will obviously be driving these characters throughout this first half of the season, which will certainly help the undercooked aspect of Ella’s bad boy attraction in this episode. Though, while the exposition for that is clunky—and not even the first bit of clunky exposition Aimee Garcia recites in this episode—it actually is an established pattern for Ella. See: her attraction to Pierce, hook-up with Dan.

Lucifer, on the other hand, doesn’t try to be anything other than what he’s been trying to be lately. Meaning, the King of Hell. “Really Sad Devil Guy” reveals how Lucifer has resigned himself to his post in Hell, how he’s not making excuses to go back to Earth, how he’s actually handling things more maturely than anyone could have imagined. Sure, he’s miserable, but of course he’s miserable: He’s in Hell. As Lee even asks him, “Whose Hell is this anyway?” And while it’s not quite as obvious as in “A Good Time To Die,” Lucifer has been sucked into punishing himself upon revisiting his time as a crime-solving Devil. As Lucifer, Tom Ellis doesn’t interact with any other series regular in this episode, but Jeremiah Birkett ends up being a terrific scene partner. All of their previous scenes have always been good for a quick laugh to kick off the season, but the Lucifer/Lee scenes here are funny, frustrating, and affecting, sometimes all at once. Ellis regularly makes going from devil-may-care to absolutely heart-wrenching seem effortless, but the impressive part on Ellis and the show’s end here is in making a bit character like Lee worth investing in. When he’s already dead, even.

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And now for the big finish. First of all, King Princess and Mark Ronson’s cover of “Happy Together” is the perfect needle drop to close out this premiere, especially in case you missed just how miserable all these characters have actually been all episode. (Yes, Linda and Amenadiel end the episode in a good place and actually happy together with Charlie. They are the exception.)

Second of all, the conclusion to “Really Sad Devil Guy” is one that works a lot better if you’re lucky enough to not have seen the Lucifer Season Five trailer (or any promotional material or interviews about the season). The relief that Lucifer left Hell to save Chloe is followed up by an almost immediate gut-punch once you realize that he actually did stay in Hell and Chloe was saved by an impostor. Because you want to believe it’s Lucifer—what reason would you have not to?—maybe you won’t notice that this impostor is far calmer than Lucifer just was in the moments leading up to learning Chloe was in trouble, even after the cool crime-fighting Devil entrance. You might even think the reason he doesn’t shy away from guns being pointed at him—despite Chloe making Lucifer vulnerable—is because he trusts the Detective to have his back. And you’ll probably think him regurgitating that line about time in Hell is just him filling Chloe in on why something’s not quite right, instead of just an excuse to explain why something’s not quite right.

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When you know right away that it’s Michael posing as his identical twin for nefarious purposes, it does kind of take the wind out of the show’s sails at that moment. While there is still plenty of this season not spoiled by that trailer—including one big thing I was not expecting at all but have since seen mentioned quite freely in interviews—I envy those who were or will be able to go into this episode (or even this whole season) without seeing that. And I’m sorry for revealing the Michael thing to you right now, I guess. Last season, Amenadiel was very opposed to the idea of Linda naming their baby Michael, but at the time, that felt like an in-joke for the fans of the comics. Especially with the amount of feedback the show had gotten from people either disappointed that Michael was not part of the show or who assumed that Amenadiel was just a replacement for Michael altogether. Well, as it turns out, Michael does exist, and Amenadiel’s reaction to his name last season was well-deserved.

“Really Sad Devil Guy” is an ambitious season premiere for what promises to be an ambitious (now-penultimate) season of Lucifer. In the aftermath of Season Four, characters like Dan and Ella aren’t just magically healed, Linda and Amenadiel haven’t faced the last obstacle in being good parents, and Maze hasn’t recovered from bearing her heart and having it broken. Chloe and Lucifer, of course, have even more distance between them. Not that Chloe knows that.

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Stray observations

  • Hello, hello. Lucifer coverage is back. Eight episodes, one review a day. I’ve missed you all.
  • Scarlett Estevez is now credited as a guest star. From the one Trixie scene we get, I think it’s safe to say that it’s kind of hard to sell that five seasons of television have taken place in a relatively short amount of time when one of the actors very obviously ages… like it’s been five seasons of television.
  • Ella: “I mean, at least you guys got to say goodbye.” Maze, of course, didn’t actually get to say goodbye to Lucifer. So she ends up saying goodbye to his piano. (Again, this was supposed to be the final season.) She also still calls Ella “Ellen.”
  • The bubble wrap remains in Linda’s home, though Charlie doesn’t seem to be zooping all over the place. Phew.
  • Unlike improv or even pudding, Dan being all in on self-improvement and essential oils and Crossfit is so clearly a crutch that it reads even more tragic than the angry Dan of Season Four. The only point during this episode where Kevin Alejandro doesn’t play Dan as a guy who is sunshine on the outside but screaming internally is when he’s giving Linda and Amenadiel parenting advice. Because that is something Dan knows, without a doubt, he’s got a handle on.
  • Chloe: “Evening. We are here to play poker.” It’s really Lauren German’s delivery that makes this line, because it’s another example of just how bad Chloe is at being undercover, after all these years.
  • As fun as it was to see Maze as Chloe’s “new Lucifer”—but only in the professional sense—Chloe had to have known that Maze was multiple brutality lawsuits waiting to happen.
  • You could say that Maze kissing Chloe is her completely misinterpreting the situation, but after seeing both the LUX scene—you know, “Lucifer’s den of sin”—and the interrogation scene—where they can read each other’s minds—I don’t know how Maze could interpret things with Chloe any other way.
  • Amenadiel: “Looks like good drugs.” A truly hilarious line reading from D.B. Woodside.
  • Dan: “Removing all the danger in the world is like trying to bottle up the ocean.” That is more profound than every platitude Dan has surrounding his desk.
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.

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