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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

“Spoiler Alert”: Lucifer ends the first half of season five with its greatest reveal yet

Illustration for article titled “Spoiler Alert”: iLucifer /iends the first half of season five with its greatest reveal yet
Graphic: John P. Fleenor/Netflix
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There’s an absolutely stellar-but-short episode of Lucifer in “Spoiler Alert,” as long as you remove everything in between Lucifer learning Chloe has been abducted and Maze suggesting that whoever took Chloe actually did it to hurt Lucifer. Not only because the Whisper Killer misdirect is an obvious one—there’s no way he would’ve known Chloe was on his trail and Michael is actually a major player—but because the Whisper Killer reveal is both anticlimactic and completely dependent on a supposedly clever villain being anything but.

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The reason I shared some of my first-time viewing notes on Ella’s love interest, Pete, in my past two reviews was to make perfectly clear that my thoughts on the character weren’t colored by my knowledge of how the storyline progressed. From the moment Lucifer introduced Pete, I didn’t trust him—originally from the standpoint of a crime journalist using Ella for career advancement (his first episode), before realizing that something was genuinely off about him and then considering him the serial killer (his second episode). As soon as he gave Ella a key to his place in this (his third) episode, his villainy was sealed for me.

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The real problem is, at no point did I ever care about or for this character. Which, in turn, hurts the Ella character, because this story requires that you care enough about Pete to care about his betrayal. Instead, it’s just the official moment that Ella’s storyline so far this season crashes and burns. And it does so with an added dread for the second half of this season, as Pete tells Ella in interrogation, “There is darkness in you, Ella. I recognized it the very first moment that we met.”

Illustration for article titled “Spoiler Alert”: iLucifer /iends the first half of season five with its greatest reveal yet
Graphic: actual footage of Ella’s underlying darkness from “BlueBallz”
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Understandably, the Lucifer writers wanted to build Ella’s bad boy attraction before introducing a “good boy” for her, but the rushed nature—although, in Lucifer, it’s normal to accept some guy’s proposal or key after about a week of dating—only tips the show’s hand regarding things not being quite right. It’s also a clear example of the type of story that’s hurt by the short episode count. (But considering how much has been accomplished for other characters, that’s just an excuse.) However, had Pete been introduced earlier, that would also create a problem, as it would mean more Pete. Alexander Koch’s best work here is after the heel turn, but that’s only because, at no point prior, is Pete believable as a three-dimensional character or genuine person. And still, Aimee Garcia has to do a lot of heavy lifting by herself at the reveal that Pete originally planned for her to be his victim. Lucifer revealing a nice guy is an even worse version of a Nice Guy—with a pointedly lame misogynist origin story*—isn’t some special trick up its sleeve, and Ella truly being a bad guy magnet is even sadder for the character than intended.

* I genuinely don’t think Lucifer was taking emotional abuse lightly and that Pete’s origin story really is that he was a deranged kid who interpreted his mother—a woman—speaking at all as “yelling” at him all the time. There’s a thin thread you can connect to Lucifer’s interpretation of his father’s actions up ‘til the end.

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There’s also the part where Pete is supposed to be “cleverer” than copycat Les Klumpsky (who left behind clues), but what is clever about directing Ella to a box of Whisper Killer research? Even if it was misinformation, the clever play would be not to feed her any information. And why would he place the box right next to his serial killer flower lair? Or give Ella unfettered access to his home when it’s where he grows his serial killer flowers? (Lucifer noted in “Our Mojo,” right before they got the Klumpsky lead, that it seemed like the serial killer grew the flowers himself. He was doing good detective work even then.) The only answer to these questions is that it moved the plot along. But the problem is that the plot exists in the first place. So, suddenly, the best bit of meta commentary all season is when Lucifer calls this a waste of time.

At least it allows Lucifer to upgrade from his “OPERATION PAYBACK DAN” whiteboards to his professional, detective-level evidence board. Plus, Lucifer and Ella—as well as Tom Ellis and Aimee Garcia—make a good duo whenever the occasion arises. Which is in contrast to Lucifer and Maze’s dynamic, despite their history, because Lucifer remains the worst friend ever when it comes to Maze. Of all the Maze-betrays-Lucifer moments of the series, the one at the end of this episode is the most recent. (This has been happening since the first season, so people should accept it’s part of their whole thing. Even Lucifer does.) It’s also the most justifiable, as this has been going on since Season One: When it comes to putting Maze first, even for a second, Lucifer just won’t do it. And he certainly won’t consider her feelings when it really counts:

Maze: “So—have you ever heard of a demon getting a soul?”
Lucifer (scoffing): “Of course not. That’s impossible.”
Maze: “Yeah. I’ve heard that all my life. Then again, you did fall in love. Amenadiel had a baby with a human. There’s a first for everything, right?”

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At that moment, as mad as Maze has been with Lucifer all season, it’s clear that all she wants is some bit of hope from Lucifer. Instead, she gets this: “Well, that’s different. We’re angels. You’re just a demon.” After that, it’s hard not to root for the future possibility of Maze kicking his ass.

This latest “betrayal” of Lucifer also goes down easier as it doesn’t require the betrayal of anyone else, as Maze even goes after Michael in the first place (leading to his turning the tables) because she want revenge for what he did to Chloe. It also works because Maze ends up having another good point come fight time: Michael’s the celestial twin who hasn’t lied to her yet. Of course, that lack of lying in the lead up to this could mean he’s finally able to lie about getting her a soul now. But while there are obvious examples of Michael lying for the audience to point to, Lucifer has actually played things close to the vest. There’s still no confirmation whether all the ideas Michael claims he planted in Lucifer’s head are true or not, while there’s also no answer as to whether he’s actually responsible for baby Charlie’s cold or not. It’s another testament to Ellis’ work as both brothers, as while Michael makes a logical point in saying that Charlie caught a cold like any other mortal baby would, Lucifer also makes a good point in saying that Michael would stoop so low as to somehow cause it for his “bigger plan.” As hard to buy as Lucifer’s thought is, Ellis’ Upsetting American Accent: Michael Edition makes it seem true, as Michael’s “Come on, I would never.” is nothing but pure slime. This argument then leads to another angel/Devil on the shoulder gag (last season had Chloe/Eve function as such for Lucifer), with Lucifer again playing up the fact that the angel is the evil one and the Devil is good.

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Going back to Lucifer’s behavior in this episode, let’s go to the very beginning. Picking up where “Our Mojo” left off—now with a slow-motion version of Dan shooting Lucifer and Chloe panicking, scored to Skeeter Davis’ “The End Of The World”—“Spoiler Alert” ushers in an even newer “new normal,” with the reveal that Lucifer has returned to having physical invulnerability around Chloe. (The episode later reveals he also has his mojo back, while also proving that Lucifer can simply “channel” Chloe as a detective. Right before time freezes, you can see the gears turning in Chloe’s head, as all of this change signals a shift in their professional and personal relationship, even more Lucifer’s mojo swap/loss.) Just the rush of this reveal puts Lucifer on a high that undoes as much progress as it possibly can, leading to his “Who cares about the details?” response to Chloe about the Whisper Killer and lack of awareness when she snaps at him about it. He doesn’t come down from that high until he finally hears Chloe’s abduction voicemail. From there, he realizes the Devil is in the details.

The Whisper Killer plot isn’t resolved until over halfway through the episode, and while there’s plenty of good during that less-good plot—Dan’s confusion over “crazy” Lucifer and Chloe, the Lucifer/Ella team-up, Maze, the directing—so much is also just setting things up to get to a place where the series can have its most impressive fight sequence to date. That includes Amenadiel’s story, as a plot about Charlie being sick shouldn’t be so important… but it’s also the natural progression of Amenadiel having such high hopes and expectations for Charlie as a half-angel baby who will eventually fly around the house. Amenadiel has spent so much time worrying about Charlie’s safety, and with the knowledge that his son is a mortal, that worry (and fear) ramp up. As Amenadiel can’t quite articulate to Linda or Lucifer why this is such a problem, he goes from being unable to consciously slow down time to subconsciously stopping it altogether out of his own panic. Which only confirms that he should fear for Charlie’s safety, as the baby freezes with the rest of the humans.

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Which leads us to the big fight. As both Lucifer and Michael get Amenadiel riled up, Michael is just about to get his stupid face caved in when Maze interjects. From there, we find out the soul promise, and then the fight kicks off in the coolest way possible: with Lucifer showing off its Netflix money as Maze kicks Lucifer through the frozen-in-time glass. I know I can’t do it justice, so I’ll direct you to Kevin Alejandro’s Entertainment Weekly interview about directing this episode and the fight. One thing I can say is that “Spoiler Alert” shows that Alejandro knows how to direct in a way where there’s always forward momentum. As obvious as the Whisper Killer reveal is for things outside of Alejandro’s control, the momentum and pacing of the story does work. The perceived ticking clock does work—especially in tandem with Ellis, Garcia, and Lesley-Ann Brandt’s performances—despite the belief that Chloe was taken by the Whisper Killer not. The frenetic energy after Dan shoots Lucifer works. And that momentum is harnessed into something, to quote Michael, “epic”—building to the episode-ending, show-altering reveal.

Before I get to that, what exactly is Michael’s “bigger plan”? We know it involves slowing down time. And...? Upon rewatch, I considered that maybe his plan involved luring God out to really ruin Lucifer’s life, but his shocked reaction upon seeing his father suggests otherwise. (As opposed to how Ellis plays Lucifer at that moment: wet eyes, finding it unbelievable that his father has actually come to Earth. That he’s come to intervene for once.) The plan also involves Dan shooting Lucifer, but based on the fears he preys on with Chloe, that may have been more about revealing to Chloe that Lucifer is now invulnerable around her. Like he said before, he knows things. While he warps and lies about what this self-actualization stuff means, he still seems to know what it actually means. I can see him knowing Lucifer wouldn’t die with her near him this time. Because his bigger plan has to be more than just “kill Lucifer,” right?

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While this first half of Season Five has provided some long-awaited answers and gone deeper into the concept of celestial self-actualization, “Spoiler Alert” ends up providing more questions. But now, they can finally be answered by God Himself. Upon seeing Dennis Haysbert’s name in the opening credits, I was amped, but I had no idea who he’d be playing. So I appropriately lost my mind at the end. Unlike this season trailer, I was lucky enough to have missed the news in January that he’d been cast (and as Who)... and then to have watched all of these episodes before reading interviews with the showrunners, who definitely had no problem talking about the casting and role. More than any other season, I wish that less information was available to know going into Season Five. Because going into this episode without this particular casting knowledge simply allows for the best reaction possible.

Lucifer has created an even more interesting set-up for the second half of this season and the eventual, actual final season. For five and a half seasons, we’ve heard others’ opinions of God and interpretations of “His will.” Now, the absentee father is very much present. What does that mean?

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Stray observations

  • I figure the actual reason for Lucifer’s invulnerability near Chloe is that he feels unstoppable, like he can make it through anything now that he’s in a good place with Chloe. Especially after the balcony scene they’d had right before Dan arrived. I interpret this as Lucifer finally knowing true self-worth, without realizing it.
  • Lucifer: “An eye for an eye. Or, in this case, a snake for a bullet.”
    Chloe: “That is not a good idea.” Lucifer, Prank Sinatra that he is, thinks she means the prank should be “bigger.” While Chloe’s right that Dan’s fragile and Lucifer should take that into account for once, it’s a strangely refreshing sign that, because of his invulnerability, Lucifer approaches Dan shooting him as more of a dumb prank that requires reciprocity than a true “I’m the Devil, I must punish him.” situation. If that prank results in bodily harm, then it’s just a bonus. But he does take thing a little seriously: After Dan shoots him, Lucifer is no longer his “Bracelet Bro.”
  • Which brings me to Lucifer’s “OPERATION PAYBACK DAN” whiteboard, where the bracelet (that might go up Dan’s ass) now resides. Here is a clearer version of the board (courtesy of episode writer Chris Rafferty), and now I’m going to make the fun thing depressing: One of the pranks is to convince Dan that he’s going to Hell. Because Lucifer doesn’t realize—doesn’t care to realize—that Dan’s behavior here is because he’s afraid of going to Hell. He doesn’t realize that Dan’s behavior, in general, is because he’s afraid he’ll never redeem himself. My dream? Lucifer and Dan go to couples therapy together.
  • Klumpsky: “‘The Whisper Killer’? Lame. That doesn’t even make sense. I don’t kill whispers. I have a list of far superior names I’d like you to submit to the paper’s editor. For example, ‘The Silencer.’ ‘The Husher.’ No, no. Maybe— Maybe it should be… ‘The Shusher.’” Interpreting this as Lucifer calling the Zodiac Killer a dweeb.
  • Ella: “Should we call for backup?”
    Lucifer: “I’m all the backup we need.”
    Ella: “You’re just an actor!” Any bets on how Ella will react when she finally sees Lucifer’s “freaking scary-ass red face?”
  • As far as I’m concerned, Maze is wearing the Necksercisor from Happy Endings in this episode. That’s right: Maze said, “Neck yourself before you wreck yourself.”
  • Maze: “He kept my mother from me.”
    Amenadiel: “Does Lucifer even know why you’re mad at him? No. Well maybe you might want to tell him.” While he ends up spiraling about Charlie’s mortality, Amenadiel’s clearly the most well-adjusted character at this point.
  • When Maze finally does tell Lucifer—during the fight—he makes a good point that he gave Lilith his word. Maze is upset that his word means more than she does, but again, that’s always been the issue with them.
  • Like with the clown painting in Lucifer’s bedroom and the bracelet, I now look forward to seeing that security guard show up as a dancer at LUX, as promised.
  • Pete: “And I did everything right, everything that you’re supposed to do. Candlelit dinners, I took you to that convention, I gave you a key to my apartment.” Wait, did he learn Klingon just for her, in the span of a day or two, or did he already know it? It only makes sense if he already knows it, but calling it “that convention” in the dismissive tone doesn’t scream “Star Trek fan who previously learned Klingon.” It does scream rushed writing.
  • I’m of two minds about the scene where Pete assaults Ella. It’s terrifically directed, and the way it sells how such a short amount of time can feel like an eternity—differently from the opening scene—while Garcia sells Ella’s fear and smarts in this situation are very good. But the victimization of a character like Ella—after another underserved arc for the character—leaves an awful taste in my mouth. It’s so atonal for Lucifer, and it’s just… more, in two straight episodes with multiple images of brutally murdered women. Aimee Garcia’s Entertainment Weekly interview about this episode talks about this and how people reacted on set, and while I can appreciate how triumphant it was for her as an actor, it’s one of those things where—as an actor—maybe she shouldn’t have had to gone through it at all. For a light show, it’s not that Lucifer is unable to go dark or get uncomfortable. It’s that this version of dark and uncomfortable just may not be right for it.
  • Tim DeKay as Dr. Carlisle was the best serial killer this show ever had, and they probably should’ve stopped there.
  • As much as Chloe fears Lucifer doesn’t love her, everyone else has no problem using the l-word when they talk about Lucifer’s feelings for her.
  • After a stellar season so far for the character and Lauren German, Chloe is on the sidelines this episode. She’s missing for a big chunk, so as not to tip off the truth about her kidnapping, and then once she confronts Lucifer about his feelings, she’s frozen in time. And as the baby Charlie story became more about Amenadiel’s parenting, that also led to less for Linda and Rachael Harris, especially here. The material is there in this episode of Maze/Lesley-Ann Brandt and Ella/Aimee Garcia, but as I’ve addressed, the latter comes with the caveat of the weakness (and questionable nature) of her story so far this season. But let’s here for the boys (and Maze)!
  • The most interesting part about the fight to me is that, despite the betrayal, Lucifer still only fights Maze defensively. (We know he can give back to her though.) Even when he finally knocks her out, it’s for her own good—so he and Amenadiel can focus on Michael, the true problem.
  • On D.B. Woodside’s recent Spectrum Lounge podcast appearance, he talked about lobbying hard for Haysbert as God for years. Much like with the babies who play Charlie, Woodside was adamant that the casting reflected his complexion, especially after Tricia Helfer played Mom. Once he asked Haysbert if he’d even be interested and he said yes, that really got the ball rolling.
  • Yesterday, I ordered chicken nuggets, and I couldn’t help but wonder: Has Lucifer Morningstar of the television series Lucifer ever eaten chicken nuggets? Grilled cheese sandwiches, yes. Burgers, yes. But chicken nuggets? I suppose a chicken nugget is the very definition of it never ending well for the chicken… And with the aforementioned grilled cheese sandwiches and burgers on the table, one would also figure that Lucifer has eaten potato chips and/or french fries before, right? Possibly tater tots? Who’s to say? So, again, I ask: Has Lucifer Morningstar ever eaten chicken nuggets?
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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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