Have you noticed that Lucifer and Sleepy Hollow are kind of the same show?

Lucifer hasn’t had nearly as much fanfare as Sleepy Hollow did in its early days, but maybe that’s for the best, given recent developments on that particular front. But the two series both take absolutely ridiculous premises—biblical Lucifer solving crimes and literary Ichabod Crane solving crimes—and, at their best, make such ridiculous premises work in a way they really shouldn’t (with equally fascinating mythology to boot). While Sleepy Hollow has apparently gone in a direction where it’s no longer being taken seriously, Lucifer started off as a critical joke and has become a show that realizes its strengths and weaknesses in a way that makes its upcoming second season something to look forward to instead of mock. That is, unless you’re still not over the whole “biblical Lucifer solving crimes” thing.

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Last week’s “#TeamLucifer” was a shining example of how the series can be when the quality of the procedural aspects of the show also catch up to quality of the serialized aspects, and a large part of that was because needed to segue into this season finale, “Take Me Back To Hell.” That episode did its job, and luckily, this episode also does its job. In fact, a lot of “Take Me Back To Hell” pings the part of the brain that says “FINALLY” when something happens on a show. That’s how the Lucifer/Amenadiel fight went down last week, and the same can be said about their buddy cop team-up in this episode, as well as Chloe and Maze’s buddy cop team-up. Yes, the episode just goes full-on buddy cop team-up, because what better way to support your show’s choice in storytelling than to just deeply lean into it?

It also helps that the show finally and fully acknowledges that Amenadiel and his obsession with Lucifer (especially as his reasoning behind that grew weaker and weaker) really is to blame for the problem they have on their hands when it comes to Malcolm:

Amenadiel: “Maze was right, Luci. We used her. And Malcolm. People have died because of us.”
Lucifer: “Because of you, you mean?”
Amenadiel: “Yes. Because of me.”

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The first act of “Take Me Back To Hell” alone also fully confirms something about Lucifer himself, something that the rest of the episode follows through on: Tom Ellis has been stealthily putting on one of the most compelling performances on television on a weekly basis, often shrouded (not really undercut) by the quippy literal nature of the beast. His nervous laughter at the bar, as the cops point their guns at him and he realizes (in his mind) he was right not to trust Chloe, is equal parts defeated and terrifying, but it’s the resignation when he pleads for Amenadiel to just take him back to Hell that’s the real kicker. The rest of the episode has typical, quippy Lucifer, but that’s only peppered in between his moments of genuine worry for Chloe, Trixie, and even Amenadiel—and it’s all crushed by the fear at the end over his mother being released from Hell. Ellis is honestly the glue that holds this whole thing together, though the show has realized in these past few episodes that the ensemble as a whole isn’t one to be slept on.

Seriously, all of the rockiness of the season has been worth it for the brotherly team-up of Lucifer and Amenadiel (especially them fighting alongside each other) and Chloe and Maze (who kind of make an even more interesting “good cop, demon cop” team than Chloe/Lucifer). For those who aren’t sold on the show, these past few episodes of Lucifer do everything to change that.

“Take Me Back To Hell” is a very good finale for Lucifer’s first season, but the little things that weigh it down are part of the show’s bigger problems. It’s easy to accept them as the episode rolls on, because the momentum never stops, but as the finale opens up possibilities for the future of the show, it also leaves behind questions about whether the show will continue on with its weaknesses moving forward. As I pointed out in “#TeamLucifer,” Dr. Linda remains a tricky character, even in this finale when she gets to finally stand up to Lucifer. Rachael Harris’ performance in this episode nails Linda’s professionalism that just so happens to be at odds with her relationship with Lucifer (and Amenadiel). But at the same time, when she snaps at Lucifer and Amenadiel over all of their “metaphors,” it again brings up the fact that this character has basically had her mind messed with by Lucifer (while also being physically threatened by him in his rage) and she still has to remain in the dark. Amenadiel could easily explain and show the situation to her, but instead, the show goes with Lucifer’s throwaway line about how it’s just easier not to explain it to her. Lucifer can be a genuinely funny show at times, but the forced moments come at the times when the show makes its characters stay in the dark merely to serve the jokes, not any sort of logic.

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(By the way, it’s 2016—the joke that two people of different ethnicities or nationalities can’t be siblings or relatives is beyond tired.)

That’s the biggest thing to still harp on Lucifer about ultimately: His inner circle essentially just assumes he’s a crazy man (at best) who thinks he’s the devil, while the audience has to see them as sort of dumb for not realizing that he’s telling the truth. Keeping his reality a secret from Chloe, Linda, and even Dan isn’t a priority at any point in this series, yet the show does just to pretend that there is some sort of conflict there. So the “in-the-dark” characters accept other characters disappearing right in front of them or when they have their backed turned for two seconds, and they accept characters coming back to life in perfect shape after bleeding out and dying, but they won’t accept any of the reasoning behind it. In theory, a world that knows that Lucifer is real and on Earth would descend into absolute chaos, but that’s not the story Lucifer is even telling. That’s the real problem with such a large-scale story on such a small scale, not the fact that Lucifer is solving crimes.

Outside of that inner circle is, of course, Malcolm. And as expected, Malcolm is not long for this world, even though he manages to get some true villainy in this is last episode by kidnapping Trixie. Kevin Rankin’s short time on Lucifer has been the best kind of scenery chewing, but it obviously had the shortest shelf life, and the show manages to squeeze out as much as it can in this finale. That’s the thing about “Take Me Back To Hell”: It’s not just a good episode for Lucifer, it understands what it needs to be a good season finale for Lucifer, even with the glaring issue about the world the show has set up. It sets up intrigue for the next season both with what it tells us and what it doesn’t.

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Obviously, there’s the reazlization that God wants Lucifer to stay on Earth and bring his mother back to Hell. But who is his mother, and who let her out? Why is Lucifer vulnerable when he’s around Chloe? What does Malcom’s death mean for Dan (who turns himself in this episode), for Chloe and Palmetto, for the corrupt cop friends Malcolm still had in the precinct? Where is Maze, as she disappeared presumably while saving Amenadiel?

I realize that the main question since I began covering this show has been “Is Lucifer a good show?” The initial pre-air review said nothing resembling that, but honestly, given the genre and the show’s potential, Lucifer is ultimately a show that has no right to be as good as it is and can only get better. It’s heavy material—in terms of the biblical aspects of it all, not the comics—and it’s still finding its way to manage that balance. That’s something worth sticking with.

Stray observations

  • Maze reveals that time she almost killed Chloe in her sleep in the most flippant way, reminding us all why Maze is the best.
  • Of the questions that this episode intentionally wants people to ask, I’m still a bit foggy on why Malcolm framed Lucifer for murder in the first place. I understood his belief that he thought killing in Lucifer’s name was a “good” thing, but the thing with the Reverend was definitely not that. Malcolm was ultimately a fascinating introduction into the mind of someone who went to Hell and back—especially in this episode, as he tried to fill his emptiness with material possessions—so hopefully the show explores that type of thing again.

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