Lucifer: S1, E3 “Sin-Eater”
Written by Alex Katsnelson
Directed by Mairzee Almas
“Do not touch the charred crotch.”
The second season of Lucifer goes in a different direction than last year: Decker and her murder inquiries sing backup to Lucifer’s family squabbles. People getting killed provide a format for Lucifer to explore existential questions, such as why do we do the things that we do? How much of our lives do we truly consciously control? Nature or nurture? How much of our likes and dislikes stem from our inner nature, rather than just the time and place in which we find ourselves living? In other words, this season of Lucifer is all about the meaning of life. Getting answers to these questions from a TV show like Lucifer is on par with getting medical care from TV commercials produced by drug companies, but hey, maybe asking the questions is all that matters.
Fire metaphors abound in this episode, which opens on a bound man begging for forgiveness. He seems to be on trial for some wrongdoing, and it consists of a literal trial by fire, as the man’s burned corpse provides the first body for Decker to investigate. The man’s recorded confession was posted to the internet at the time of his death. Ella, the quirky perky CSI/tech geek, determines that the fire began at the man’s nether regions and spread from there. Talk about fire down below! Decker and Lucifer figure out that someone punished the man, and Lucifer takes that as someone intruding on his turf.
The dead man played a prank on an intern at the internet company where they both worked, in which he lit the intern’s shorts on fire and then posted a video of the incident on the website owned by the company. The humiliated intern quit his job as a result. He quickly confesses to the crime, but Decker doesn’t believe him. Decker’s instincts prove to be correct when another body and another video appear while the intern is in custody. This victim posted a video to the same website of an intimate encounter involving S + M with a Catholic school teacher. She not only lost her job, she committed suicide. This time Lucifer, in an about-face, decides that the man’s death was justified retribution. The killer seems to be taking vengeance upon video bullying, and Lucifer applauds the results. The episode raises the issue of how internet postings can ruin people’s lives, yet the perpetrators go unpunished because their deeds aren’t criminal acts. Unfortunately, Lucifer doesn’t provide any solutions to this problem.
While all this is going on, Mum keeps showing up at inconvenient moments in Lucifer’s life. First she interrupts playtime involving dripping hot candle wax on a woman’s body, then she turns up at the precinct while he is helping Decker investigate the murders. Later she jumps up on a table at Lux and dances provocatively. She also asks inconvenient questions. Lucifer labels himself a punisher; Mum asks why. That’s the job Lucifer’s father thrust upon him – does Lucifer really want to keep doing it? Is he still trying to impress daddy? When she confronts him we see Lucifer’s eyes turn red for the first time this season. Are his immortal qualities just muted by his human experience? We need more information. Lucifer continues to flip-flop about his role as a punisher throughout the episode. He states that no one volunteers to become a sin-eater. It is worth noting that the show uses the phrase “sin-eater” incorrectly. A sin-eater does not punish sins; rather, the sin-eater absorbs the sins of others and thereby absolves them of their responsibility. This show is not about penance; it is about whether to hurt people when they hurt others. Payback keeps cropping up as a theme in this episode: for example, Maze would love to get back her own on Mum for last week’s head-butting incident.
The investigation narrows to focus on the website on which both the death videos and the humiliation videos were posted, and at which one of the victims worked. The website uses content moderators to screen all posted videos for inappropriate material; in fact, the head of the company who has been helping Decker with her investigation used to work as one. The moderators don’t last – turnover is high because the ugly clips the moderators are exposed to wear on them. Decker believes that one of these moderators has become disgusted by all the horrible video clips and turned vigilante. At first, the head of the company seems to be the likely suspect, but she ends up tied up and doused with gasoline by the real killer. Lucifer questions the man why he chose to punish these people. Even though Lucifer’s redeye trick no longer works, the man reveals that he did it because he liked watching people suffer and beg forgiveness. The killer attempts to set them all on fire, but Decker saves the day by releasing the building’s fire suppressant.
Mum keeps demonstrating her complete indifference toward and contempt for humanity, including the body she is currently occupying. She is supposed to be the goddess of all creation. You would think that she would have a little more affection for her creations. She thinks humans are like bugs, which raises the question – didn’t she create bugs, too? Why so dissatisfied? That in turn raises the question whether deities really dislike the people who worship them. If that’s true, we’re all in deep, deep trouble. Actually, it explains a lot.
Amenadiel goes on a bender after his wings decay. He hides his condition from everyone. Maze ask for his help in getting rid of Mum without telling him who she is. It becomes a moot point, however, when Amenadiel goes to Lucifer’s apartment and meets her. They reconcile, after a fashion.
Everyone on this show is having an existential crisis. Lucifer wants to understand himself; Amenadiel has lost his wings and most of his power; Decker and Detective Douche decide to turn their temporary separation into a permanent divorce; and maze wants to find out who she is when she’s not tied to Lucifer and Amenadiel. Some of Lucifer’s joviality seems forced this season, but whether that is due to sophomore slump or Lucifer becoming jaded with his devil-may-care lifestyle is unclear (see what I did there?). After talking with the vigilante killer, Lucifer realizes that he likes punishing people and is good at it. Therefore, Lucifer sentences Mum to staying on the planet as a human being. She accepts her fate with good grace, for a woman who thinks very little of humanity. When a mugger tries to steal her money, though, she discovers that she has superhuman strength and kills the thief by accident. This disturbs her not at all. She has claimed the best of both worlds: she gets to experience being human, while retaining all of her magnificent powers. That seems to resolve her existential crisis.
Never forget that throughout human history, all of the goddesses of creation have also been goddesses of destruction. Since the name of the actress who plays Mum is featured in the credits along with all of the other regular players, it looks like her powers of destruction are going to play an important part in the series for the rest of the season. Whether she will help answer all of our questions about life, the universe, and everything remains to be seen.