Another Lucifer season two episode, another case of questionable identity. Last week, it was Trixie Morningstar. The week before, it was Candy Morningstar. Now, it’s God Johnson, an identity that is obviously a lot trickier for the show to handle. That’s not just because this episode could have possibly given us Lucifer’s actual interpretation of God (in the form of the always enjoyable Timothy Omundson); it’s also because of the way the very concept of the episode has been framed, long before it actually aired. “God Johnson” has arguably been Lucifer’s most anticipated episode since the initial casting news, and sadly, some of that anticipation does cloud this episode. Because the very description of the character—either from the casting announcement or just the weekly episode description—completely hinges on the idea that he may or may not be the real God, the “daddy” part of Lucifer’s “daddy issues.”
So of course the smart money is on him not being the real God. Then the first half of this episode unfortunately does this God Johnson (formerly known as Earl Johnson) character no true favors when it comes to pushing things towards the audience believing he actually is Lucifer’s father. While there’s the “Samael” name drop (Lucifer’s real name) that Lucifer can’t explain at first, most of God Johnson’s early dialogue leans toward things that could easily just be explained as metaphorical or coincidentally appropriate. Yes, he calls Lucifer his child… but he also does the same for Linda later on. As soon as Lucifer does get on board with God Johnson being the real God—because he does see him heal someone divinely—his comments luckily don’t come across as smug (thanks in large part to Omundson’s performance). But they do still come across as genuinely unaware, because he’s clearly not God, even if we don’t know how he’s doing any of this yet. For example: “So you believe me. Good. Tell me, just what it is you think I’ve done.” That’s why I pointed out it doesn’t come off as smug, because this is something God should obviously know, especially post-Lucifer quitting Hell.
God Johnson’s early dialogue also makes little sense once the episode confirms he was as close to the real God as he possibly could be. Instead, that confirmation essentially means that his behavior in the hospital only reads the way it does because the plot requires the audience to question his credibility. Even if it doesn’t quite add up at the end. But at least Lucifer knows when to use its supernatural elements (bringing back the “piece” Uriel spoke of, as part of the sword and basically the anti-blade), because imagine how bad it would have been had it revealed God Johnson truly was just a mentally ill man who happened to luck his way into some truths.
What’s especially frustrating about the iffy nature of the story early on is that “God Johnson” is also a great episode for Lucifer season two continuity. Dan has a less murderous tantrum over his workplace pudding, without even realizing that pudding thievery runs in the family (first the son, then the mother). Maze clings to Chloe after last week’s best friends team-up. She also reminds Amenadiel he promised never to lie to her again. Dr. Linda (which she even writes on her hospital name tag) has a crisis trying to figure out whether to bow or curtsy to God, after having basically no preparation when it came to Lucifer’s mother. Charlotte brings up that time she danced on a table at Lux. So for all the little details in this episode, the lack of bigger details in the set-up stages of this episode stand out.
And while there are fun moments early on in the episode—like “straight man” Chloe facetiously discussing the concept of “what if God was one of us” with Ella—the episode doesn’t get going into standard Lucifer gear until Lucifer and God Johnson’s prison break. That scene is honestly one of the most beautifully-directed of the episode, if not the entire series. And assuming you went through this episode just knowing he’d end up as a fake God—or even just rewatch it with that knowledge—it’s an absolutely heartbreaking scene once you notice everything Lucifer and God Johnson do in this scene is perfectly in sync, like father, like son.
So once God Johnson leaves the hospital with Lucifer and Dr. Linda, we finally get the “God Johnson” worthy of the work the cast is doing the entire episode. That beautiful direction isn’t relegated to just one scene either: Lucifer’s re-creation of his parents’ first date is an amazing visual, one that ends up surprisingly poignant. And not just because Lucifer and Dr. Linda pulled the old millions of candles trick of because Spandau Ballet’s ”True” (then a pretty appropriate cover of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”) plays. Here, we have someone who’s been a conniving villain for most of the season and another who’s not even who they think it is (though it would be mighty bold of the show if it were) falling in love all over again, and it works. Also, because not every great artistic choice has to hurt, props to the scene that opens with a close-up on Ella and her magnifying glasses. It’s so very, very Ella.
Even though Chloe is able to step outside her character’s comfort zone and tease Ella with her own extensive ‘90s music knowledge, “God Johnson” actually ends up hurting the character in an unexpected way. No, it’s not the clingy Maze stuff or even the way she reacts to Lucifer’s decision to commit himself, because those are honestly things Chloe should just expect in her life. But Chloe walking in on God Johnson and Charlotte kissing, as Lucifer and Dr. Linda watch for afar, is the type of moment you can’t just reasonably allow the character to sweep in under the rug.
Unfortunately for Chloe, that’s exactly what Lucifer does, and of all the talk since day one about how Lucifer’s “secret” can make Chloe look oblivious (especially when you consider now that she and Dan are the only ones left in the dark), this is the first moment in a long time that really looks bad for the good detective. Emphasis on the word “detective,” because the fact that she doesn’t push forward on this line of questioning doesn’t fit with that aspect of the character. This moment is the culmination all the times Lucifer has told Chloe that Charlotte Richards is definitely not one of his lovers; it’s the aftermath of Charlotte personally attacking Chloe in court, defending her father’s killer; it’s something that leads to Lucifer telling Chloe that God Johnson is 100% his father. And that last point is something Chloe just bulldozes right over, really. So Lucifer saying “never mind that” when Chloe asks what’s going on and why Charlotte is part of it really isn’t good enough. Especially, coincidentally enough, in an episode where Lucifer is so angry that he flashes his Devil red eyes every chance he gets, barely caring who sees. While it’s gotten much easier to accept Chloe’s continued outsider status when it comes to the full truth about Lucifer, an episode like this takes away a lot of that good will in this moment.
It doesn’t help that this episode also has Chloe fail miserably (but amusingly, at least) at a sexpionage fueled fact-finding mission for the case. You know which television character could help her out with that one? Riverdale’s Betty Cooper. And she’s a high school student, not an LAPD detective.
But Chloe’s poor attempt to smoothly get information from Dr. Garrity (Alimi Ballard) in this episode is far from the weakest part of this week’s murder case. In fact, “under the radar” would be far too lenient of a description for this week’s perp and reveal. There’s a reason why procedurals often have the most recognizable faces or actors do the crime—because they’re actually memorable and, again, recognizable. It also doesn’t help that this episode just features a lot of bad police work, despite focusing more than ever on special protocol and bureaucratic red tape. Plus, the mother, the murderer’s real target, barely even exists outside the scene where she’s healed by God Johnson. Yes, it’s a sordid murder case that sounds like it should be on a soap opera, but it’s not exactly one that has enough moving pieces to draw the audience in. The hooks are Lucifer and God Johnson, and despite God Johnson being a suspect at one point (yet never actually questioned about it), neither man really has anything to do with the case. It’s like background corruption in the psychiatric hospital that somehow came to the foreground, only without the writing changing to accommodate that.
The psychiatric hospital aspect of the episode is also leaned more heavily on in the first half of the episode, and unfortunately for Lucifer, the “wacky scenarios with crazies” trope has been a case of diminishing returns every time it’s been used. I’m sure no one will be surprised to read that USA Network’s Psych had an episode like that in its sixth season, so Timothy Omundson is two for two on this trope, but at least it didn’t do two episodes dedicated to it, as House did. Luckily, Lucifer at least uses its big psych hospital moments in this episode to lead Lucifer toward a healing God Johnson and the jailbreak scene.
“God Johnson” is an episode that really relies and depends on the strength of its actors to work even half as well as well as it does. Everyone’s on their game this episode, which is just as necessary in the heavy lifting of the Lucifer/God Johnson/Charlotte/Dr. Linda scenes as it is in the lighter Chloe/Maze scenes or even with Ella and… everything she does this episode. The beauty of Lucifer believing that God Johnson is his father is that it allows the character to somehow simultaneously put his guard up while also lowering his defenses. He gets to say everything he wants to say to his dad, but he also gets to find a sense of love he long lost. (So it’s a shame it doesn’t take.) The same is true when he tries to get his parents back together, making claims of “revenge” while looking every bit the child who still has hope he can fix his family. And Tom Ellis plays both sides of that masterfully throughout the entire episode. Then there’s Lesley-Ann Brandt in her oblivious, peppy (as much as Maze can be peppy) approach to Maze’s friendship with Chloe in this episode. Remember how excited Maze was when she made a friend in Trixie? This is like that, only she never needs to tell Dr. Linda of her progress.
This episode also doubles down on Amenadiel not fitting in on Earth, an aspect of the character I’ve written about before. First he tells Lucifer that “Earth is nothing compared to Heaven,” which Lucifer—who can obviously be unaware at times—is honestly surprised to hear him say. But it’s the “double date” scene that really drives home the fact that Amenadiel is really not on the same wavelength as humans. In that beautiful scene, Maze and Amenadiel are like the trashy couple you’re not quite sure why you’re friends with, and… I absolutely need more of it. Between this and the impromptu double date from this season of Supergirl, comic book shows sure know how to bring it in the awkward romantic setting. Besides Amenadiel snagging Dr. Garrity’s pizza (with the plate) and wine (after he finishes his own wine), he tells the man that he “like[s] the shape of [his] head.” How did Amenadiel trick Dr. Linda into thinking he was a therapist for as long as he did? Then, one of the more understated moments of the episode is Amenadiel properly putting dishes in the dishwasher after Maze just throws the plates in along with pizza. This is all unexpected from the moment Lucifer brings up how he’s sure Amenadiel at least miss Maze when they go back to Heaven, but it’s such a joy to see Lucifer go this way for him to address that point, and D.B. Woodside nails the awkwardness.
All I want to know now is how God Johnson—well, Earl Johnson—lives his life after the events of this episode. Because first of all, the only two things he can say about what happened to him are either that he’s completely cured of his mental break or that something specifically was making him sick. With the former, that won’t do much to repair what he inadvertently broke in his life, and for the latter, the least Lucifer could do is forge some medical records for the guy. (You can’t just say it was because of a cool belt buckle.) Also, even though it appears Lucifer already “wasted” its one chance at Timothy Omundson as the actual God, if the show were to ever actually bring the Man upstairs to Earth, I wouldn’t mind him taking Earl’s vessel for a spin again… In fact, it would probably help him get on Lucifer’s good side much quicker. Because boy is Lucifer in a state at the end of this episode.
- Dr. Linda: “God and his ex having a fight to the death? Sounds kind of bad for, you know, humanity.”
Lucifer: “Oh, you’ll probably be fine.”
Dr. Linda: “Probably?! That’s not exactly reassuring.”
- Chloe suggests she and Maze “expand [their] circle of friends,” meaning she thinks they should see other people. Maze, on the other hand, takes that to mean Chloe wants a booze cruise/orgy. CBS’ The Odd Couple may have just been canceled, but this version is obviously just heating up.
- Lucifer: “I love the mentally ill! I mean, who isn’t amused by someone who thinks they’re Elvis or Napoleon or… Wesley Snipes.” This part really rings false to me, not because no one even addresses the elephant in the room re: Lucifer’s lack of awareness. (Because Lucifer being mentally ill makes much more sense than him being a “method actor,” Ella.) It’s because I don’t buy Lucifer finding amusement in the mentally ill. If anything, I’d interpret it as one more thing he hates about his father, as he’d see mental illness as his dad punishing the innocent people.
- Ella: “Come on, guys. Is it really so crazy? I mean, what if God was one of us?”
Chloe: “Just a slob, like one of us.”
Ella: “Exactly. Or just a—”
Chloe: “Just a stranger, on a bus.”
Lucifer: “My father would never use public transport. That song is completely unrealistic.”
Ella: “What song?”
Lucifer: “The song I hate almost as much as I hate these hypocrites like God Johnson.”
- This week, in Amenadiel’s feelings of inadequacy: He doesn’t get to see his “dad” during all of this. Not even when Lucifer pulls a Parent Trap with Dr. Linda. Lucifer realizes God Johnson is his dad, and he punches him. Charlotte realizes God Johnson is her ex-husband, and she knees him in his crotch. It’s such a shame Amenadiel doesn’t get in on any of this action.
- Lucifer: “You are a patronizing, sinister… helicopter parent!”
God Johnson: “So you think you have no free will?”
Lucifer: “Every bad thing that’s happened throughout eternity is your doing! Not mine! It’s all part of God’s plan! Even mom’s coming here and manipulation of me was part of it.” At least God Johnson points out free will, since I’ve brought it up when it comes to the whole Lucifer/Chloe saga.
- Maze: “You and I are flowing, Chlo. Same page.”
Chloe: “Nope. Different books altogether.” The most surprising thing about this episode is that it doesn’t lead to Chloe blowing up at Maze, somehow. I spent most of the episode dreading it, and it never came. Now Maze has Lucifer to be mad at anyway.
- Dr. Linda: “Explain to me what’s going on, please.”
Lucifer: “I’m trying to recreate their first date.”
Dr. Linda: “You’re— What? Wait. You’re trying to Parent Trap God and the divine Goddess?”
Lucifer: “What? Worked in the movie.” By the way, with all his talk of Uriel in this episode, I can’t believe Lucifer just ignored how Uriel’s entire reasoning for coming to Earth was to kill their mom—specifically to prevent God from taking her back with arms wide open. Yes, Charlotte has spoken of wanting to take down God, but no matter the version of the plan, that particular aspect affects things.
- Charlotte: “I guess humanity isn’t entirely awful. They did make vodka. Rollercoasters. Triple crème brie.” She really could’ve stopped at vodka. But I also like the touch that the biblical plagues and floods were her doing, trying to destroy his “toy”… even though it does ride to line of shrill wife.
- While Dr. Linda is quite a part of this episode, Lucifer’s true therapy sessions come in the form of his interactions with and around God Johnson. And the realization on Lucifer’s part that his father would never have been anything like God Johnson was to him (he wouldn’t apologize, he wouldn’t tell him he’s proud of him) is the end product of this therapy session, as upsetting as that is.