Lucifer – Season 3 Episode 16
Lucifer continues to work on Cain’s immortal problem by doing its own form of rewriting history and putting Cain’s brother Abel into a new body.
Unbreakable loops is the main through line for this episode as the idea touches most of the characters in one form or another. The most obvious is the central story involving Abel who is plucked out of eternal damnation in an attempt to exploit a potential loophole that could allow Cain to finally die. Basically since Cain is being punished for murdering his brother then in theory he can’t continue to be punished for it if Abel is technically alive.
It’s a reasonable theory if a little radical but desperation often births such fanciful leaps that can only be considered “worth a try”. There’s also a distinct “fan theory” flavour to it that might qualify as an extended meta-joke given that fans of the show will most likely throw ideas like this around in “What if…?” conversations. If Lucifer is going to periodically take the time to explore something that fans will be speculating about thus delivering a definitive answer on it then that’s something I’m very interested in. Sometimes it’s better to not have certain questions answered but on a tongue in cheek show like this one it’s not unfair to expect the writers to have fun playing around with various concepts.
The handling of this scenario is fairly typical of this show i.e. unexpected and hilarious. Characterising Cain as a petty brother who simply hates Abel makes a lot of sense and seeing his childishness shine through when the prospect of facing his brother once again is nigh makes a lot of sense. His desire to put Abel in the body of a 90 odd year old man on death’s door is wonderfully petty and sensible from the point of view of having the situation be as contained and controlled as possible.
Of course this goes horribly wrong because Lucifer has never taken a soul out of Hell to put in a Human body before so he loses track of Abel’s soul and it ends up in the body of a recently murdered young woman named Bree Garland (Lauren Lapkus). In the interests of keeping pronouns consistent I will refer to Abel as a “he” even though he is inhabiting a female body. The character of Bree is never an active participant in the story so it makes more sense to me this way.
There’s a fair amount of back story to be considered going into this episode and it does a really good job of summarising it. The question of why Abel is in Hell is asked and it’s more or less answered by Cain who calls him an “asshat” and points out that he was cursed because he happened to win the fight. Any blame belongs to both sides so the question of who is “worse” isn’t easily answered. Outside of this explanation we are told that all Abel cares about is “boobs and food” which more or less covers two of the seven deadly sins which surely makes him a candidate for damnation. It’s also possible that Abel feels guilty for not killing his brother first and the fact that he indulged in the fight between them at all probably has him tarred with that brush. In short there’s ample justification for Abel ending up in Hell.
Amusingly he acted as the prototype for what Hell is today. Being the first tenant he was used to help iron out the bugs and teach the Demons how to torture. Maze talks about this with a particular fondness and remarks that eventually he was tortured with an endless loop playing out different scenarios that always end with Cain hunting him down and killing him. Abel comes to Earth with a full memory of endless cycles of being murdered by Cain and that clearly weighs heavily on him in a key scene where he accepts the fact that he isn’t in the loop any more.
Prior to this he treats this like any other loop albeit an unusual one. At first he doesn’t realise that he’s in a female body and proceeds to creep on every woman he meets by making blatant advances that come across as nothing short of vulgar. It makes sense for someone who has accepted that reality is no longer part of this eternal torment and looks to take some enjoyment out of it where he can. In many ways he’s a lot like Lucifer in his hedonistic approach though lacks the suave charm so is far less successful. Lauren Lapkus does an excellent job in this role. She fully commits to the lunacy of a young woman acting like an over the top lecherous man and completely sells the lust filled glances along with aggressively suggestive dialogue.
Abel’s conversation with Amenadiel is the first step towards realising what is going on though it’s clear that he assumes that it’s all just part of the constant torture. There’s a hint of sarcasm when Abel tells Amenadiel he has never tried his suggestion of killing himself though it’s unclear if it is truly sarcasm. The idea of someone being so self centred that the possibility of taking charge of their own death has never occurred to them is an interesting one though equally it can be read as scoffing at someone believing that he’s never tried that before in countless versions of this loop.
Amenadiel’s motivation is of course largely fear driven. Most of his warnings to Lucifer involve not deliberately going out of his way to anger God and provoke some form of punishment even though that’s exactly what Lucifer wants to do every time. His approach to Abel seems cold in a way as he immediately encourages Abel to kill himself but it makes sense when you consider the fact that Amenadiel probably believes that Abel isn’t supposed to be there because he’s already dead so his subsequent death in the body of a woman who is also already dead carries no moral consequences. The episode doesn’t specifically address this but it is certainly there for consideration.
Abel eventually confronts Cain and manages to shoot him before he has the chance to react. Maze looks on curiously amused as she genuinely wonders what might happen and feels no guilt because if Cain ends up dead then he’s getting what he wants. Abel wants to break the look and definitely believes that he’s done it when he shoots Cain believing him dead. The excitement he shows and genuine relief show that this is something he has never experienced before. This quickly transitions to complete terror when Cain gets up despite having no desire to cause his brother any further harm.
Strangely the episode doesn’t focus on the relationship between Cain and Abel when they share the screen which is something of a missed opportunity though there is the strong sense that there’s nowhere for their relationship to go considering what has happened. It’s becoming more difficult to see Cain as a measured and reasonable character especially given his attitude in this episode. We aren’t explicitly told the reasons he and his brother fought in the first place other than them fighting as brothers tend to do so the context for their antagonistic relationship isn’t really there though it might simply be petty hatred or jealousy that is the cause. Cain does refer to him as an “asshat” suggesting that he simply doesn’t like Abel that much and in Biblical times that apparently meant a fight to the death. Either way it would have been nice to see some exploration of their relationship once they both acknowledged that there was no need to continue fighting one another.
They do reach a grudging reconciliation at the end of the episode when Cain resolves to keep him alive because that represents hope that the curse can be broken. They aren’t brought closer as such but agree to keep a distance from one another which is definitely progress when you consider the alternative. The episode ends on a tragically funny note when Abel is hit by an ambulance and killed therefore shattering that hope as quickly as it manifested. It may simply be a result of dumb luck or a lack of spacial awareness on Abel’s part or a violent reminder from God that disobeying his will is impossible. There are arguments for both though considering how adaptable Abel is supposed to be judging by dialogue elsewhere in the episode it would be inconsistent for him to be so careless especially given how easily he managed to get around prior to this. The good thing about this is that it effectively breaks the loop as Abel dies without Cain having anything to do with it.
Maze continues in her inability to accept Amenadiel and Linda’s relationship deciding to take her frustration out on him violently. There’s so much venom in her performance as Amenadiel points out his confusion at the situation. Put simply Maze is upset about being lied to and betrayed more so than her two friends getting together. I think we’re at the point where she is massively overreacting and her original problem is starting to get lost but it’s clear how hurt she is and trying to physically hurt Amenadiel is the only way she can process it at this point. Amenadiel gives up and lets her attack him but this results in a really sedate yet tortured reaction when she simply tells him that he’s ruined this as well. It’s obvious that she’s attacking him to get a reaction so the lack of reaction makes it pretty much pointless to her. This could be a sign of Maze breaking her own loop of feeling betrayed and lashing out at others though it remains to be seen how this will play out.
Charlotte begins her therapy sessions with Linda though is misguided on what she is going to get out of them. She wants to restore the gaps in her memory which doesn’t seem possible at this point though there is the added guilt on Linda’s part since she knows what happened when Lucifer’s Mother was in control of Charlotte’s body. At first her reaction to Linda’s methods is hostile because she wants the quick fix but once she reflects on this she is able to apologise and acknowledge that she’s used to being in control of a situation and getting what she wants. Once she accepts this she is able to open up about the recurring dream she doesn’t know is a memory of her time in Hell. Her loop involved eating breakfast with her family in a scene of blissful contentment that is violently broken by a criminal she represented bursting in and brutally killing them. This repeats with the faces of every criminal she kept out of jail and she can do nothing but stand and watch.
Tricia Helfer’s performance is really powerful when describing this giving deep insight into Charlotte’s current state of mind and strengthening her motivation to be a better person and prevent this from happening. Charlotte has been a great character this season and adding depth to her character through her constant sense of self loathing as well as her inability to process what happened to her is definitely a good thing and ties into the theme of breaking the loop through her desire to improve who she is as a person.
This episode has the least engaging case of the week in recent memory. The guilty party is obvious through a combination of bad acting from Jacqueline Obradors and sub par scripting. The entire plot mostly exists to reaffirm the partner relationship between Chloe and Lucifer. Chloe is feeling marginalised by Cain though doesn’t really understand why and is very honest about missing Lucifer. It’s really touching to see Lucifer realise this and hopefully break his habit of ignoring her for whatever he happens to be obsessed with that week. Him ending the partnership with Cain suggests that there is a real appetite to change in Lucifer punctuated by him pointing out that he’s serious about it because he is willing to break his word. It’s both the hardest and easiest decision he’s ever had to make and hopefully lets the show get back to the core relationship.
A muddled episode that consistently explores the theme of characters breaking loops in one form or another and allows some form of closure for Cain. Bringing Abel back in the body of a young woman is a hilarious idea that works really well thanks to some really strong acting. The brotherly relationship and motivation for their shared hatred could have been handled better though the closure achieved is probably the best that could be hoped for considering the circumstances. Abel’s death possibly at the hands of God is a darkly funny ending that strips all hope that Cain thought he had. Maze struggling to deal with Amenadiel and Linda’s betrayal works really well to a point though it’s becoming far too over the top at this point. Hopefully Maze realising that she can no longer get a reaction out of Amenadiel will allow her to move on but we shall see.
Charlotte opening up to Linda after a rocky start makes for a really powerful moment superbly acted by Tricia Helfer. it offers insight into the pain that Charlotte is experiencing, presents an opportunity for Linda to feel guilty for withholding the truth and reaffirms Charlotte’s motivation to be a better person. The case of the week is one of the worst in recent memory thanks to bad acting and sub par scripting though Chloe and Lucifer reaffirming their partnership is really touching and hopefully lets the show get back to its core relationship.
- consistent exploration of the theme of unbreakable loops
- unconventional yet effective casting for Abel
- solid exploration of the animosity between the brothers
- Charlotte’s moving account of her memories of Hell
- Lucifer and Chloe’s touching reaffirmation of their partnership
- a lack of exploration of the root of the brotherly hatred
- Maze’s reaction to Linda and Amenadiel starting to feel overblown
- a really poor case of the week
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