Tom Ellis (left), Aimee Garcia

Lucifer’s second season has reached a point where it almost feels like a different show from its first season at times: To call it one of television’s “most-improved” shows would be quite the understatement. As I unfortunately have to mention regularly, the procedural element of the series—which basically got it on the air—is still the weakest part, but Lucifer is no longer at a point where that weighs it down tremendously, especially not when every other aspect of the show is so good. At the same time, the current quality level of Lucifer is very much informed by the rockier times of its first season; things like evil paparazzo and the Palmetto saga had to happen in order to get to this point. As a result, it’s become far less necessary to grade the series on a curve or give caveats when explaining its charm to the uninitiated. The series has finally caught up to the cast’s already stellar chemistry, providing the type of writing and character development that they all deserve, to the point where Dan “Detective Douche” Espinoza has quickly become one of the best parts.

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Literally no one could have predicted that during the first season, especially when you factor in how important pudding is to his role in this particular episode.

Despite its implications and role in light of some pretty heavy material, “Trip To Stabby Town” is quite the fun episode of Lucifer and one that maintains the show’s current hot streak. While there was clearly some semblance of growth and understanding in “My Little Monkey,” Lucifer’s role as Chloe’s “eccentric” partner continues to be tested and stretched toward its breaking point here, as the case-of-the-week is again deeply tied to his own family drama. It’s here, with a case-of-the-week fueled by the “accidental” use of a celestial weapon, that the topic of humanity and what that means to these divine beings becomes a major point of discussion, as well as dissension.

For better of worse, Lucifer is attracted and attached to humanity. As he confirms in this episode, Earth has been the only place an outsider like him feels at home.

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The same can’t be said for Amenadiel, and it’s certainly not the case for “Charlotte.” Even Maze, who is rather blasé about the fact that humans kill each other all the time (Azrael’s blade or not), has made an effort to figure out who she is and who she considers worth caring about in this human world. Amenadiel, on the other hand, may dress the part of someone who’s perfectly assimilated into humanity, but for him it truly is all just an act to try to keep going. Lucifer and Maze have jobs; Amenadiel pretended to be a therapist last season but only for information to use against Lucifer. Lucifer and Maze have humans they care about; Amenadiel may have patched things up with Dr. Linda in “Liar, Liar, Slutty Dress On Fire,” but their friendship certainly isn’t the strongest on this series. Meanwhile, Lucifer and Amenadiel’s mother only sees humans in terms of her use for them, whether that’s on a physical level or as unknowing death messengers to her ex-husband. Her alleged indifference towards humans is clearly more like disdain, which is in direct conflict with the life Lucifer’s made for himself and intends to continue living.

So as much as Lucifer would like to be able to have both his human relationships and his familial ones, “Trip To Stabby Town” does well to explain why that’s not exactly possible, at least not right now. To Lucifer, so many things are black and white, like parenting or punishment—that’s what he learned growing up and running Hell—and he constantly has to learn that they’re not. It’s Chloe, it’s Dr. Linda, it’s humanity in general that constantly show him things aren’t always so cut and dry, as much as he would like them to be. Amenadiel, on the other hand, can’t handle any of that, which is why he goes to extremes, whether it’s in reaction to losing his wings or in aligning with his mother over his father. It’s this or that, with no in between. (Uriel certainly didn’t see things in shades of grey, as he had even less exposure to humanity than his brothers.) Amenadiel sees himself as an “other” in this world, while “Charlotte” simply sees herself as a superior and hates that she already lost her husband to his fascination with humans. Meanwhile, Lucifer may also see himself as above humans, but he still finds himself in awe of and even entertained by them. He sees himself as being at home and the closest thing to “at peace,” for the first time ever. Amenadiel and their mother simply don’t feel that way at all, and it’s not in their nature to.

It also can’t be stressed enough that the major argument against humans in this episode (them always killing each other) is one that isn’t truly deserved in this particular case. There is a lot of blood shed and quite the body count in “Trip To Stabby Town,” but it’s the result of a celestial being (“Charlotte”) causing a celestial weapon (Azrael’s blade) to be used by humans—just to get her ex’s attention—and it’s a very human acceptance of responsibility that saves the day. None of this is to say “humanity’s always the best,” because Lucifer regularly makes it clear how far that is from the truth. But as Amenadiel and “Charlotte” share a belief that detaching themselves from humanity is for the best, it’s easy to understand why Lucifer and even Maze, who still regularly insults humans, are drawn to it.

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Despite Lucifer essentially going to bat for humanity by the end of this episode, he’s still stuck with the unfortunate dilemma of having to hide his true self—because no matter how many times he says who he is, none of it really counts until he shows his true face—from Chloe in order for things to function smoothly enough. For all of his, well, devilry, Lucifer remains awful at lying, and he’s even worse at attempting to deflect when it comes to his own independent investigation of the case-of-the-week (with Ella’s help). So after last week’s reconnection of sorts, Chloe and Lucifer’s return to trust and friendship is immediately stunted by Lucifer doing his best to keep his family’s name and weapon out of the murder conversation.

The bright side is that Tom Ellis can sell just about any version of Lucifer, and flustered, secret-keeping Lucifer is one he can obviously play in his sleep by now. Lucifer then makes an even better choice by having Lauren German play her own version of this with Chloe’s belief that Lucifer is having a secret relationship with Ella. Wide-eyed incredulity—and let’s be honest, jealousy—is another good look for Chloe, though it’s one that is most likely good in small doses. Luckily, this episode is that dose and it goes down just right. Lucifer’s relationship with Dr. Linda also leads to some good reaction work, as the return to “normal” in this situation involves a readjustment period full of many questions about the ins and outs of Hell. Unsurprisingly, Rachael Harris remains an absolute delight as she sells Dr. Linda’s transition from the stage of absolute fear to one of being totally overwhelmed.

“Trip To Stabby Town” really is a fun episode of Lucifer—which is much needed after “My Little Monkey”—as well as a solid set-up episode and template for how celestial weapons function in the show’s greater mythology. Plus, it’s kind of refreshing to take a break from the emotionally-draining heartbreak that’s fueled this season so far. At the same time, as intense as the actual case-of-the-week is, given the circumstances, this episode is far less heavy than expected. The show does well to figure a way out of having the blade end up with an innocent person (and the memory loss is a very good touch), but while Amenadiel brings up how human interaction with celestial relics is a recipe for disaster, that doesn’t completely come across here. And it’s not just because “Charlotte” is responsible for this: The episode opens with a brutal killing which falls in line with this, but there’s also a massacre crime scene that becomes an afterthought to a (great) comedic bit. And with the exception of the last victim, plenty of innocent people die in this episode. Yet there’s a detachment from this case that comes across like a trade-off for the ability to have that much death, which doesn’t quite fit Lucifer’s typical approach to the subject. It’s not as though Lucifer can’t pull off a trivialization of this type of thing, but it’s not it’s usual style.

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But Lucifer has quickly become the type of show where even a slightly off aspect of an episode does no true harm to a winner on the levels that truly count, and “Trip To Stabby Town” maintains that distinction. There’s simply too much to enjoy in this episode, all dead human things considered: Maze and Amenadiel’s crime team-up (and Amenadiel’s subsequent poor trash-talking), Lucifer’s amazingly uncomfortable sex talk with his mother, Dan’s very existence at this point of the series, the nonexistent Chloe/Lucifer/Ella triangle. It’s still somewhat hard to believe that a show about a “Devil Cop” is getting so many things right and doing so while also remaining a perfect hour-long break from the world, but that’s where we’re at with Lucifer right now. It’s been one hell of a ride, and based on how “Trip To Stabby Town” ends, it’s only just begun. Not bad for an episode of television titled “Trip To Stabby Town.”

Stray observations

  • Early on, Lucifer looks for meaning in the sandwich Chloe made for him at the end of last week’s episode. The sandwich even gets “previously on” time dedicated to it. Lucifer can be a difficult show to explain.
  • Without the context of the blade’s function, the opening teaser with the victim and the killer is an aggressively violent start for Lucifer. I’d compare it to Scream in terms of tone, specifically the Stab movie franchise within Scream. It’s even written (“It’s you? You’re kidding me, right?”) and directed (the lack of truly helpful passersby in the chase) as such. Though it’s done very well, especially with the happy music playing at the beginning and end of the scene, it’s also the beginning of the tonal incongruity in this plot. It makes more sense in hindsight, but at the same time, the selfie showing the murder is absolute nonsense.
  • Speaking of writing and directing choices, the scene where characters continuously come and go from Lucifer’s place is a standout of the episode, even as it leads to the expected beat of Chloe walking in on Lucifer and Ella. Pop-Tarts have never been so cool; sorry, Gilmore Girls.
  • Lucifer: “Sis is no sweet peach, is she?” They don’t talk too much about Azrael, but after all this, one can assume she has to show up sooner rather than later. Surely she must be looking for her blade. Despite his selective hearing, God listens, and him knowing where Azrael’s blade is should eventually lead her to it.
  • Amenadiel’s loyalty to his mother is admirable on a certain level, but it’s also clearly a result of how he just can’t be his own person. Amenadiel is a follower. He follows his dad, he even follows Lucifer, and based on this episode, he also apparently follows style trends. Now, he’s following his mom, even though there’s no way that doesn’t spell the type of trouble cheesy noodles can’t fix.
  • Speaking of mommy dearest, I’d never been speechless during a Lucifer scene… until this episode. Every single thing “Charlotte” said to Lucifer about sex (particularly the “reverse cowgirl”) and the Ella/Lucifer reenactment scene had me at a loss for words. So if “Stabby Town” is really a Lucifer writers room inside joke about penises, I’m not surprised.
  • You know who else lived in Hell and only found his true self when he came to Los Angeles, just like Lucifer? Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan, Lorne from Angel. That’s some good company to be in.
  • Dan being an adult who takes responsibility for his own actions (despite being under the thrall of a magic blade) is the best thing to happen to a character who’s been having a string of episodes that have all been the best thing to happen to him. Plus, this version of Dan can apparently have a healthy, teasing conversation with his ex-wife without it getting weird. His blade attack has him blaming Lucifer for the dissolution of his marriage and the disappearance of his precinct pudding, but ultimately, he’s able to acknowledge that none of that is actually true. Except for the pudding thing, that is. Is it magic or just will power? That’s yet to be seen. But it works, because Dan works now.

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