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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lucifer’s weak “BlueBallz” almost threaten to ruin another girls’ (and guys') night

Illustration for article titled iLucifer/i’s weak “BlueBallz” almost threaten to ruin another girls’ (and guys) night
Graphic: John P. Fleenor/Netflix
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I’ve written about pivot points a lot in this half-season of Lucifer, but there’s perhaps no episode pivot point more necessary so far this season than the one that happens halfway through “BlueBallz.” It’s at that point that we get a Lucifer girls’ and guys’ night episode as temporary distractions from how weak this episode is as a whole up until the final scenes. A rave at LUX and a Three Men & A Baby riff are two guaranteed enjoyable story beats in an episode that’s case-of-the-week (and follow-up to the end of “Detective Amenadiel”) is far from that.

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I’ve always what a Lucifer/Chloe relationship would actually look like. “Lucifer in a relationship” has been shown with Lucifer/Eve, but a Lucifer/Chloe relationship would have to look a lot different, for many reasons. “Many reasons” being the type of person that Chloe Decker is, which begs the question of how the Lucifer Morningstar could even function as her boyfriend. While Lucifer has played up the will-they-won’t-they aspect from day one, “they will” was clearly always the answer. Now that they finally are, it makes sense for Lucifer and these characters to question what comes next. Unfortunately, “BlueBallz” answers that question with a misguided story about jealousy, lack of communication, and just about every tired beat you’d hope Lucifer would avoid after Lucifer and Chloe decided to be vulnerable with each other.

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To be fair, in Lucifer’s case, “BlueBallz” does explain why this would be his immediate reaction to the beginning of their relationship:

Linda (to Chloe): “What you should be worried about is that he’s unfathomably narcissistic, utterly terrified of intimacy, and sabotages everything good that ever happens to him.”

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This is absolutely true. But all of that could‘ve still been addressed had Lucifer and Chloe’s relationship drama just been about their excitement, expectations, and hang-ups about sleeping together for the first time; the added jealousy factor doesn’t work. It does, however, provide a reason for Lucifer to get unreasonably angry over being duped—even as a guy who hates to be manipulated, it’s too much here*—to the point that he reveals his Devil face and ends up solving the crying baby Charlie problem. Which is necessary for one of the episode’s final moments, despite the route taken to get there being, again, unreasonable. Honestly, the way Lucifer is played like a fiddle and then overreacts, you’d think that Chloe’s ex-boyfriend Jed (Justin Bruening) was somehow Michael in disguise. If that were the case, it would certainly make all of this work better.

* A solid explanation for· being so quick to Devil face—typically reserved for murderers and true monsters—might be the result of actual changes to his personality from being back in Hell again for thousands of years. That doesn’t happen here, and Amenadiel doesn’t even worry about that. 

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This episode overloads on the innuendo and sex jokes early on, but one imagines if you’re going to title an episode of television “BlueBallz”—especially Lucifer—you’re going to go all the way with it. But it’s more concerned with a story that’s not even bad because it’s a jealousy angle: It’s bad because it’s a bad jealousy angle on a show that has done good ones (and even not-so-good ones that are still better). An angle that makes this a mediocre episode only somewhat saved by the sheer willpower of the brief, sort of reprieve that is girls’ and guys’ night, Dan seeing Lucifer’s Devil face, and Lucifer and Chloe emphatically saying “they will.”

While Lucifer actually pulling the trigger on Lucifer and Chloe having sex is a huge deal, Dan finding out that Lucifer really is the Devil is the biggest moment of the episode. It’s also something that’s interestingly set-up early on. Well, not necessarily that he finds out, but in his dad meeting with Amenadiel, Dan talks about his mindspace. That’s actually the best thing to come directly out of this episode’s Jed plot, as Dan tells Amenadiel about his sense of inferiority and intimidation when it comes to “perfect” Jed. He actually shares these feelings with both Amenadiel and “Bracelet Bro” Lucifer (yes, Lucifer’s still wearing his), but in his conversation with Amenadiel, he talks about how that feeling is tied in with how he already feels so bad about himself outside of that. He feels so bad about the things he’s done, things no one else but Maze knows about. “And no matter how hard I try,” Dan says, “I just don’t think I’ll ever make up for them.” As much as the show wants the audience to root for Dan to be a better man, to face his demons, to avoid backsliding, in this moment—with all this guilt—there’s a possibility that the Lucifer writers will pull the rug out from underneath everyone and kill Dan, banishing him to Hell before he can even see if he has a chance to atone. Instead, they bring Hell to him, as he sees Lucifer’s Devil face—thanks to that dick Michael and Lucifer’s “mysterious” decision to throw his cell phone out Linda’s window.

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Kevin Alejandro does a terrific juggling act here, nailing the light (walking around, adorned in stuffed animals) and the dark (the original scene with Amenadiel and then the reveal) inherent in the Dan, whenever a scene calls for either (or both). His stunned reaction to seeing Lucifer’s Devil face is something that makes even thinking to include another scene after it risky, but “BlueBallz” at least succeeds in that. It’s another tragic turn of events for Dan, as he’s in a place where he’s genuinely friends with Lucifer. And then he sees that his “Bracelet Bro,” the man he no longer feels threatened by, is, in fact, the Devil. It’s a game changer for the series, in an episode that, overall, is not.

The lesson of the episode comes from Chloe’s speech talking down the bad guy: “You should’ve just talked to her.” Well, yeah—the way the previous episode ended, one would assume Lucifer and Chloe would just talk to each other in this episode. One would also assume Chloe would set clear boundaries with Jed at any point in this episode, at least telling him she’s in a relationship. Because while Lucifer is obviously jealous throughout this episode, at no point does it actually play up Chloe considering Jed an option, except for the early moment where she awkwardly tells him she’s not in a relationship. (She gives Lucifer the excuse about people talking—because she does have a track record of relationships with coworkers—but it’s not like telling Jed she’s dating Lucifer or even that she’s dating “someone” would get around. Who’s Jed going to tell?) The “talk to ____” lesson also extends to Chloe, but she spends the episode attempting to do that with Lucifer, only for him to ignore her calls.

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As I’ve compared a lot of this season to Season Three in terms of certain plots and how it’s subverted them in record time, I’ll compare this Jed plot to Season Four’s Eve arc. It’s also “first love” drama, only without the added element of a self-fulfilling prophecy—unless you count the self-sabotage Lucifer does as a result of listening to Jed’s “advice” as such. Like Eve with Lucifer, Jed only has eyes for Chloe and never got over her after all these years, even naming his charitable foundation after her. Well, his nickname for her (“Cherry Jane”). There’s even the three-letter name situation at play, though I doubt Jed has anything to do with the celestial world, despite his name being “Jed.” But where Eve was able to befriend nearly everyone in Lucifer’s inner circle—even Chloe, begrudgingly—Jed pretty much only interacts with Chloe and Lucifer. Lucifer doesn’t like him. Neither does Dan, who has past experience with him; yet their one interaction goes no deeper than Dan bringing up the fact that he had a child with Chloe. (Jed’s focus on Chloe involves no actual interest in her life, as all he knows is that she was married to a guy named “Dave” and never once acknowledges that he’s trying to swoop back into the life of a single mother.)** Because despite what the episode keeps saying, Jed’s not charming. Which is only the beginning of the problem with this plot.

** He knows she married Dan but, somehow, not that she became a cop. Even though she met Dan as a cop. The Jed thing really would have worked better had Lucifer ended up being right about him being the murderer and a saboteur.

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It’s not that a jealousy story—and a need to define the relationship—isn’t a natural progression for the Lucifer/Chloe relationship. Lucifer has even had these characters have those moments, long before they were an item. They were just... better than Jed. Even outside of Eve, there was Candy Morningstar and Marcus Pierce (you know, Cain). Whether a ruse or an immortal dick, the jealousy that stemmed from Chloe and Lucifer, respectively, because of these characters worked. To compare Jed to Candy, nothing the character does feels as genuine as anything Candy did, despite Candy playing up a character. One assumes Jed is supposed to be genuine, but it’s hard to tell, because while Lindsey Gort was able to sell Candy’s connection to Lucifer, Bruening doesn’t even sell that he’s the “sexy” or “fun” guy Jed claims to be. He also doesn’t sell the “perfect,” charming guy that makes Dan feel inferior and sends Lucifer into an over-the-top spiral. (Jed’s reveal of his foundation is the clunkiest line delivery of the episode, saved immediately by Alejandro with Dan’s reaction to the reveal.)

In a cast starring very charming actors, you have to at least sell the charm.

The framing of this plot doesn’t even allow for Lucifer or anyone else to crack wise about DJs or EDM music. Except for the quick detour to the animal sex sounds lady, the culture of this world that Lucifer readily mocks is completely ignored, in favor of a barely believable love triangle that the series’ main character takes way too seriously. A typical Lucifer case-of-the-week would have dove into the DJ world, and while the procedural element being the show’s weakest point is now part of the series’ charm, this episode doesn’t even pretend like it’s trying. I’m talking structure, as Lucifer finally bucks tradition altogether and just makes the murderer some guy. You know, the scorned husband of some Karen. (Seriously, her name is Karen.) Chloe gives the thematic speech to this guy, tying it all back to why she and Lucifer have been acting the way they have this episode. Even though Chloe’s questionable behavior was only in one scene, which the episode still can’t quite explain at the end. Though the end does allow Lauren German to bring focus back to why Lucifer and Chloe make an interesting relationship—sorely lacking in this episode—in her delivery about them being “incredible.”

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Kind of like the concept of girls’ night. Unfortunately for Linda—whose excitement to be in the outside world, with adults, gives Rachael Harris some great comedic beats to play—none of this leads to another bar fight that she instigates and then spends the whole time hiding under the bar. But it does lead to Ella and Maze—who takes Linda’s advice of being more “emotionally available” to mean becoming Ella 2.0—having some realizations. In Ella’s case, that means deciding to go out with a nice guy named Pete (Alexander Koch) as a change of pace from her bad boy fetish, despite his “nice” introduction involving him using her for his own professional gain.***

*** Pete—or “this attempt at boy Ella,” as I wrote in my notes—is very clearly “nice.” But “nice” is far different from “kind,” and in this case, “kind” (like Ella) is an actual characterization. Or “good,” as Ella considers Maze. “Nice” is not.

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In Maze’s case, that might actually mean another setback. Because while it’s a joy to watch Lesley-Ann Brandt beam as Ella tells Maze how “amazing” she is, you see how everything resets back to zero as soon as Ella brings up the “soulmate” thing. Because Maze doesn’t have a soul. And for someone who already feels like something is wrong with them, this just confirms to Maze that she has a literal void preventing her from connecting with someone the way she wants to. It’s a rough way to end a plot that adds to Lucifer’s little collection of weird-but-accepted character mimicry (Lucifer as Dan, Eve as Chloe), but at least we got to see Brandt do her version of Ella (“Abuelita!”) alongside Aimee Garcia and Maze finally accept that her name’s not “Ellen.”

While hearing a screaming, crying child isn’t all that fun, guys’ night is. It’s also easier to separate from the rest of the main plot, for the most part, especially with moments like Uncle Luci going to get Charlie milk and coming back with a gallon of milk. Despite not being a fan of children, Lucifer actually puts effort into this, even though he’s very bad at it. (He probably should’ve been the one to sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” though.) And the tremendous effort Dan he puts into helping Amenadiel with his newborn is touching to watch. While “Detective Amenadiel” was “D.B. Woodside’s episode,” his performance here doesn’t let up. Easily the MVP of this episode, Woodside’s delivery throughout this (his shouted, sarcastic offscreen lines to Linda at the top), as well as his expressions (his late realization of why Linda left, his blank face as Dan sings) are absolute gems.

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Unfortunately, all the good of “BlueBallz” are not an island unto themself. The good isn’t consistent, the bad is insulting, and the highs—arguably higher than those of “¡Diablo¡ ,” but that episode at least swung big all around—don’t elevate the whole as much as they usually would. It’s certainly a tactic to slip something as major as Dan learning the truth about Lucifer into an otherwise weak episode, as it keeps you on your toes. But Lucifer has been so consistently good-to-great in these Netflix seasons that the mediocre truly sticks out.


Stray observations

  • The opening scene is two concertgoers going at it, who we’re supposed to think at first are Lucifer and Chloe. But their voices—even just moaning and sighing—clearly aren’t the voices of Tom Ellis and Lauren German. Then that DJ has a death scene fit for Bones.
  • Amenadiel: “What are you talking about? You’re a great guy. … Great cop. Great dad. And your hair—it’s so high.” Considering the number of times I’ve written in my notes that Dan’s hair is so tall, this line spoke to me.
  • Amenadiel: “Charlie’s the same. It’s Linda that’s the problem. She just handed me the baby and left.”
    Dan: “Well, what’d you do?”
    Amenadiel: “I just said what you said! That it’s okay that she gets it wrong all the time and that it’s perfectly natural that she’s so clueless because no one ever— Oh. Okay. Right. I… I see what happened there.”
    Dan: “Mmhmm” Woodside’s delivery is perfect.
  • Jed’s mesmerizing speech to Lucifer about the “will-they-won’t-they” is a bit of a meta point about the fear of “the Moonlighting curse” and how shows drag these dynamics out to avoid crashing and burning after getting their two leads together. Of course, most shows then curse themselves by waiting way too long to put the characters together.
  • Of all the ignored calls, Chloe’s at the end is probably the most important. Because there’s no way it’s not Dan, right?
  • Lucifer’s Devil face soothes baby Charlie, just like Angel’s vampface (on the show Angel) soothed baby Connor. As adorable as that is, I’m now concerned about Charlie’s future. Stay alert, everyone.
  • I got more frustrated the more I thought about this episode, so I forgot to mention something I genuinely loved: The dark blue and red lighting in that final scene. Richard Speight Jr. directed this episode, and being given the episode where Lucifer and Chloe finally “do it” is a big deal. And the who scene is shot as such. Truly beautiful, not just visually.
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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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