Lucifer is a ridiculously entertaining television show. That’s something I feel like I don’t say enough, and I know it’s also something A.V. Club readers often ask about when they bring up their curiosity about this show and its supposed drastic improvement. Of course, I’d say that improvement isn’t “supposed” at all, because things really have gotten that good for Lucifer. I fully admit that a good portion of the first season deserved the mockery it got, especially as it didn’t quite stick the landing of Vertigo comic-turned-inexplicable procedural the way iZombie (a show I dream of Lucifer crossing over with at least once) did right out the gate. Honestly, it still has problems with that at times, though that’s more because of the weakness of the actual cases than it is the actual reason behind Lucifer’s involvement; wanting to continue to punish those who deserve it is an easy and understandable concept to get behind, after all. But this sophomore season has worked out a lot of the series’ kinks, seemingly realizing just how much talent it has in front of and behind the camera and actually working with that.

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Again, the cases-of-the-week are still the weakest aspect of the show, which is kind of problematic for a procedural, but this season is also working overtime to try to shake things up on that end. This week’s episode, for example, opts to cut out mystery part of things; instead, it chooses to immediately tell the characters and audience who the perp is (without even thinking about going for a red herring), then find a more interesting perspective for the case moving forward. Finding out who killed Charlotte’s previously-unseen client isn’t all that interesting, after all, but the detectives attempting to unlock a phone that can take down a criminal organization—while, at the same time, the phone is key to Charlotte (and Lucifer and Amenadiel) getting to an integral piece of the flaming sword—definitely is. Plus, Bianca Ruiz (Carolina Gomez), tequila empress and smuggler extraordinaire, makes way more of a lasting impression as a possible one-and-done villain than most of the more recognizable actors in Lucifer’s typical cases-of-the-week. As does her dud of a son (Kade Wise), who the episode uses to nicely subvert the idea that he might come back to ruin things… by having Charlotte immolate him. You know, little Goddess things.

Outside of the procedural aspects, this season has also found an almost effortless way to balance its inflectional fun with its more serious, serialized arcs, which was pretty hard for it to do in the first season when it came to things like Palmetto and the Dan/Chloe relationship. The end of season one got better about that, but this second season has that more comfortable, lived in vibe that makes it so much more interesting to watch. While the show was probably laundry-folding television before, this second season has given the audience a reason to watch besides just Tom Ellis’ specific brand of charm and the idea of a Lucifer/Chloe hook-up. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that being anyone’s specific reason to watch—there’s just so much more going for the show at this point, in every aspect.) It also helps that the Lucifer mythology is both fascinating and mysterious, to a point where the endgame for these characters isn’t quite clear. Much like Hell before “A Good Day To Die,” Heaven and God are concepts we really only know from the characters’ personal accounts on the matters, and where or how far the show will go with them is really anyone’s guess.

An episode like “Sympathy For The Goddess” also highlights another one of the major strengths Lucifer has leaned into in its second season: That’s its terrific ensemble, specifically the newcomers. Even with the improvements from the first to second season, it’s no surprise that the original cast members are also stepping up, as they were already putting in the work. And that includes Kevin Alejandro, who arguably had the toughest hurdle to get over when it came to how Dan was written in the first season. (Part of Lucifer’s ridiculous entertainment in this second season means ignoring that he was legitimately a corrupt cop/terrible estranged husband in the first season.) But characters like Aimee Garcia’s Ella and Tricia Helfer’s Charlotte were gambles coming in—despite their proven track records elsewhere—and the way they’ve both paid off here is a testament to Lucifer’s understanding of its world as it expands and progresses.

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Ella is a character who manages to bring even more levity to a fun show, while also doing so with a different vibe from everyone else on the show. (That’s definitely a strength of Lucifer, in general—everyone brings something different to the table.) Just rewatch the moment where she tries her best to hug Charlotte, who would never let such a thing happen, not even on her worst day. Ella is a character who walks the line of too goofy or too sunny at times, but she never crosses it, which can be a struggle on any show with a similar character. Instead, she just makes the show and certain scenes feel complete; in fact, one thing I noted early on in this episode is just how much the scenes in Ella’s lab add something to the show that was missing, both in terms of multiple character interactions and something as “basic” as set variety. In terms of the character interactions, her lab allows Lucifer to show just how cohesive of a unit the characters have become since the show’s awkward beginnings, especially as it makes more sense for a group congregation to occur there (as part of a procedural) than it does group drinks at Lux. Even if they do all get to drink for free.

With Charlotte, Tricia Helfer has knocked such a loaded character out of the park from the very first second she showed up to ask her son for help, and this episode continues that streak with the new dynamic formed in her team-up with Chloe. These are two women who have so many reasons to hate each other, though in Chloe’s case, it’s not until this episode that she really has as all that much context for Charlotte’s previous behavior. This doesn’t make them BFF like the last Chloe/Maze team-up did, but it’s something new that both enlightens the characters and also makes sense as a necessary team-up. The post-”A Good Day To Die” episodes have taken a step back from the show’s typical Chloe/Lucifer team-up, which is honestly good in terms of freshening things up but also makes sense when it comes to Chloe still not being 100% cool with Lucifer again. Plus, Lucifer has so much work to do with his secret plans that it’s understandable he wouldn’t give his all to the murder investigations at this time. Luckily, these changes in pairings have been very good about illustrating how every character on this show—even Trixie, as “Deceptive Little Parasite” proved—has their own particular set of skills to help Chloe out on a homicide case. Though, if the show has Amenadiel team-up on a case with Chloe, then maybe we should start wondering how far Lucifer can stretch its arbitrary cop partnership credibility. At least Charlotte has the criminal lawyer access in this case.

Speaking of Amenadiel, “Sympathy For The Goddess” creates another new (but interesting) pairing in Amenadiel/Dan, because these are two characters who are so similar in a way that it’s actually surprising it’s taken this long for them to interact without a Lucifer buffer in place. And not just interact: They bro out.

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These strange bedfellows this episode end up not even being that strange, all things considered, but the changing of the pairings also allows Lucifer to get back to basics by forcing Lucifer to finally pair up with Maze. As I mentioned last week, it would be pretty easy to forget (or even know, given this season) that Lucifer and Maze are best friends who have literally been through Hell together, but this episode works to set that relationship straight and possibly even, for once. In fact, “Sympathy For The Goddess” could also be known as “Everybody Hates Lucifer,” as Maze and Amenadiel both let their many frustrations with Lucifer finally come bursting out. No, the fact that Amenadiel’s necklace ends up being the key to the flaming sword (and that he ends up being God’s “favorite son”) doesn’t change his inferiority complex when it comes to Lucifer. Just like how Maze beating the crap out of Lucifer (and getting him to finally tell her about his plan) doesn’t change how genuinely upset is with him for the way he’s tossed her aside. The way things have been going for both Amenadiel and Maze, it all had to come to a head; because as much as Lucifer doesn’t want to hurt either one of them, the fact is, he did and he still does. Because Lucifer is a selfish guy. Sure, he helps solve murder investigations for the LAPD, but that’s out of his own personal desire to punish people. And remember, he also wanted to “figure out” Chloe’s deal at first. In the beginning of this very episode, Lucifer brushes off Amenadiel’s warning about how upset Maze is, not just because “angry is Maze’s default setting” but because he believes she’ll get over anything he does. He can’t even imagine a different reaction from Maze, even though she’s made it very clear—even to him—just how much she’s changed since seeing Dr. Linda and since telling Lucifer and Amenadiel off at the end of the first season. Remember when she made Lucifer make her a drink? Well Lucifer apparently doesn’t, at least not in terms of it being a part of Maze’s own transformation. He doesn’t even really get what’s wrong after their epic, very public fight, not until Linda point blank tells him what the problem is.

With Amenadiel, this episode finally addresses that bubbling resentment of Lucifer, only for it to come out at the worst possible time in terms of him proving his own point. (On the bright side, at least Dan noticed it earlier and reached out.) Despite the whole Hell thing and the fact that Lucifer would never even assume such a thing, Amenadiel has a lot of reasons to believe that Lucifer is their father’s favorite son. In a way, it feels like Lucifer’s reveal about Amenadiel’s true place in the family is a way to take the character down a peg or two after his jealousy these past few episodes. “You can stop whining now, you’re the chosen one,” if you will, while also giving Lucifer another thing to be angry about, if necessary. At the same time, Amenadiel is still right when he complains about the way everyone else treats Lucifer, especially compared to him. Their own mother can’t even believe that anyone other than her light bringer is the key, and despite Amenadiel’s’ role as the doting and loyal son, she constantly passes up time with him to spend either with or on Lucifer. This is arguably a much-needed win for Amenadiel, but it’s a bittersweet one, the aftermath of losing his wings, being second best in his mother’s eyes, and barely being a factor in his brother’s eyes. Of course he and Dan can bond, since Dan’s apparently so lonely he can’t quit his bizarre relationship with Charlotte, and well, the whole improv thing.

As for Charlotte, she’s obviously not on the “Everybody Hates Lucifer” train, but this episode does introduce a key piece of the glowy puzzle for her. It also confirms that she greatly loves her children and can’t contemplate the idea of them not realizing how much she does for them, but that’s pretty much the default beat for the character. But back to the piece of the puzzle. The previous realization that the Charlotte Richards meat suit is working on borrowed time is one that makes a lot of sense, as a God/Goddess in a human body is obviously a bigger undertaking than an angel in one. But this episode provides the twist that that’s not exactly Charlotte’s biggest problem. Instead, there’s now an interesting new context when it comes to her intense desire to get back to Heaven as soon as possible: Based on what a little bit of glow does to Chet Ruiz’s body, it’s possible that Charlotte could wipe out all of humanity if things escalate. Now it’s not just a case of her chosen body not being able to handle her divinity—it’s a matter of the entire world not being able to. It sucks, and it’s awesome.

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But at least now she doesn’t have to pretend she’s someone other than Lucifer and Amenadiel’s mother! Sort of. While Lucifer and Amenadiel regularly worry that Charlotte doesn’t quite get humanity (even in this episode), sometimes it feels like she might get it so much more than they do. First, there’s the throwaway beat where she’s actually right to trust her criminal client in the beginning of the episode, even though he doesn’t make it out of the teaser alive. But then there’s just the fact that she thinks to tell Chloe that she’s Lucifer and Amenadiel’s father’s ex-wife and the woman who raised them and their siblings. While keeping Chloe and Dan in the dark about the Charlotte/mother situation has led to some fun moments like Lucifer’s “Marlotte” attack on Dan or just his general disgust over the idea he/Charlotte were ever lovers, the reveal in this episode shows just how unnecessary it was for them to try to hide it for so long. Especially if Chloe isn’t going to look at any paperwork to work out the timeline on that one, despite her knowledge that the real Charlotte Richards is married with kids. Actually, this reveal—as necessary as it was—doesn’t acknowledge that aspect at all. But ignoring the other family part of things, it makes so much sense that she’s their mother, and that’s a point that even Dan agrees with when Chloe explains it to him… so it’s even ridiculous it took this long for anyone to simply tell Chloe/Dan that backstory. Seriously, if Lucifer were just tell Chloe that Charlotte is his dad’s ex who raised him and his siblings (what Charlotte told Chloe), that would have helped things so much more for the Lucifer/Chloe relationship. It also wouldn’t have been lying. And maybe he could’ve stopped Dan from sleeping with his “Marlotte,” though I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that fun.

Now, as I pointed out in the Stray Observations of last week’s episode, Dr. Linda even had “Dr. Linda” on her nametag at the psych hospital—so it makes a lot of sense that such a choice would come back to bite her and her career in the ass. She broke Lucifer and another person out of a psych hospital, and she honestly didn’t do much to hide any of that. This episode doesn’t actually tell us the conclusion to her very big problem, but considering how easily Maze helped Dan get rid of Chloe’s father’s killer (before she and Chloe were officially besties), I won’t be surprised if she goes even further to help out Linda against the chairman of the review board. It definitely won’t be pretty, that’s for sure, and who know how that will pan out. Unfortunately, this particular plot doesn’t turn into an opportunity for the series to do an examination of things from Dr. Linda’s point-of-view. Sure, it has the much needed Maze/Lucifer confrontations and interactions, and as far as I can recall, Rachael Harris has never been anything less than very good in everything, ever, and that trend continues in the scenes she does have. But there is a sense of disappointment to be had in the fact that, for all Lucifer has done in its second season to make all the characters feel complete, everything about Dr. Linda still feels like we’re watching her from the outside. This is a human character who knows so much about all of these divine characters (and the human characters as a result), and the audience still barely knows that much about her. Even less than former car thief Ella, and remember, Ella’s a brand new character. Linda Martin is a passive participant in a plot about her career and in a show of active characters. So how about a little sympathy for the doctor, huh?

“Sympathy For The Goddess” is another strong showing for Lucifer and a great rebound after a somewhat disappointing previous episode, but as it highlights the show’s strengths, there are still some aspects of Lucifer that need work. Linda needs more, certain lies need actual reasons to exist, people in Los Angeles need to react to violent male/female battles. This was a much needed episode for Maze and Amenadiel’s emotional states, as well as for Chloe and Dan’s general limited knowledge when it comes to the big picture and Lucifer’s realization that things aren’t quite as hunky dory as he seems to think. The episode could’ve skated by on the Maze/Lucifer fight and Chloe “rapping,” but thankfully, it came to play.

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Stray observations

  • Chloe: “Nope.”
    Charlotte: “Nope?”
    Chloe: “I’m a homicide cop. I do not go around checking on worried criminals like a nanny, Charlotte.”
  • Charlotte: “Because I’m the best.”
    Chloe: “At getting criminals off.”
    Charlotte: “Well that’s not true: I haven’t slept with any of my clients.”
    Chloe: “What?”
  • Ella: “Too bad you can’t catch bullets.”
    Lucifer: “Well, he can’t, maybe.” The episode doesn’t address it, but I love the early interactions between Charlotte/Lucifer on the case. Lucifer makes his typical jokes while Charlotte, proud mother, finds quite a bit of amusement in them. Lucifer realizes it’s happening at this point, and he’s so clearly confused by it.
  • Charlotte: “But I suggest you go shopping. This isn’t the kind of place you can attend in pajamas.”
    Chloe: “Pajamas?”
  • Ella (out the side of her mouth): “What if Ella goes to the party? That sounds like a great idea…”
  • Chloe: “I’m not going to seduce him, Charlotte.”
    Charlotte: “Not with that posture, you’re not. Fine. I’ll do it.” The first line from Charlotte. She’s such a mom.
  • Maze: “He is a backstabbing, selfish, narcissistic little devil. He’s greedy—”
    Chairman: “Is there a point to this?”
    Lucifer: “Yes, I’m wondering the same thing.”
  • Bianca: “What did Chet do now? Run out on another child?” Not only was a high quality zinger, it was probably the biggest sign (other than the incompetent murder) that Chet wasn’t just a “harmless” idiot.
  • Chloe is so bad at undercover work that I’m starting to think that’s the real reason every cop hated her in the first season, and the Palmetto thing was just a good excuse. At least this time around, she’s able to save things with an amazingly bad interpretation of Chet’s “music.” Oh, Chloe. Never stop being this uncool, you pajama partier.
  • Dr. Linda: “Did you guys kill the chairman of the review board? Please tell me you didn’t kill him. Not that he didn’t deserve it, the smug, insufferable—”
  • Ella: “When I look at you, I see a light.”
    Charlotte: “Did my bandage come undone?”
  • Lucifer will never let Chloe’s love of ‘90s jams go, as he plays “Oops I Did It Again” on his piano as soon as she enters the penthouse.
  • Charlotte: “Children always find new ways to test us.”
    Lucifer: “She’s talking about Amenadiel.”
    Charlotte: “Put us through Hell.”
    Lucifer: “That one’s me.” This scene shows just how relieved Lucifer is to no longer have to hide the fact that Charlotte is his mother. Now that it’s out in the open, he just wants to talk about it all the time. Goober.
  • Amenadiel: “Maybe it’s an instruction manual.”
    Charlotte: “In an ancient language I can’t read. Here.”
    Lucifer: “I can’t read it.”
    Charlotte: “But you speak every language!”
    Lucifer: “Speak. Not read. I’ve always found tongues much more useful than books.”
  • Chloe and Dan chilling, joking about him becoming Lucifer’s dad? That’s proof of hard work paying off, Lucifer writers.

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