“The Would-Be Prince of Darkness” opens with a profoundly stupid bait and switch, which is so obvious and heavy-handed that I was a little second-hand embarrassed for everyone involved in writing, performing and filming the scene. Even at this early stage of the show, we know that Lucifer isn’t actually encouraging a young woman to commit suicide. It’s not funny, there’s no real suspense, and it’s drawn out for several seconds longer than it ought to have been, even if I could agree that this little prologue should exist at all. Frankly, the whole thing is a little creepy, as Lucifer sounds very serious about getting this girl to jump into a pool at a party.
Which is, I think the biggest problem this show has in general—a tendency to take itself entirely too seriously without actually having anything substantive to say for itself. At some point Lucifer has to start just owning its absurd premise and either really having fun with it or using it to explore some deeper and more compelling ideas. The good news, however, is that although this newest episode starts off on a sour note, it does show some signs of moving in the right direction.
A largely forgettable case of the week is mostly made up for by Lucifer’s own investigation of a man who has been using Lucifer’s name to get laid. Lucifer’s decision to not actually punish the guy is telling, and it’s interesting to see him talk about it with his therapist after the fact. Lucifer’s sessions with Dr. Martin are a bit better integrated this week than they have been, although I’d like to see these scenes be a little less full of explanation. They would work better as a complement to well-developed ideas throughout the episode instead of sounding like an 8th grade report on the episode’s themes put into dialogue.
Much more than the previous episodes, this one felt like it was really about Lucifer, with all the rest of the show’s characters properly put into their places as characters in Lucifer’s story. Chloe seems to be coming closer to an epiphany about Lucifer’s true identity, and her ex seems to be finding his place in the show. Maze seemed to be making up for Amenadiel’s absence this week by being more unpleasant than usual, but it worked for the episode, even if she doesn’t seem to have much of an effect on Lucifer. Tom Ellis is still carrying the show, but that’s starting to feel less strained, and hopefully things will continue to get better.
It’s nice to see that Lucifer is improving, even if it’s not exactly doing so in leaps and bounds. “The Would-Be Prince of Darkness” definitely works marginally better than either of the show’s first two episodes, though, even if it doesn’t manage to elevate itself to anything truly deserving the descriptor “good.”