Deadshirt is Watching… Our Devils, Ourselves

Deadshirt Is Watching…is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt staff, contributors, and guests sound off on the television shows we’re tuned into, from intense dramas to clever sitcoms to the most insane reality shows. This week: Lucifer and Westworld!

Major spoilers follow for both shows.

Chuck Winters is watching…

Season 2, Episode 10, “Quid Pro Ho”

Remember my review of Lucifer’s season premiere, where I remarked on how clever writer/producer Joe Henderson was to introduce Tricia Helfer’s likely Big Bad character by falling wounded into his arms? Somehow I keep forgetting that when Henderson (and his staff) wants to be, they can be clever sons of bitches.

A few episodes back (“My Little Monkey”), the show decided to make “Who killed Chloe’s dad”) a thing, and I had PTSD flashbacks to the increasingly ridiculous mystery of Beckett’s mom in Castle; I dreaded the show going down the same road, and when the prime suspect—the warden of the corrupt prison Chloe’s dad was looking into—disappeared into the wind before the last act, I thought “Yep, this is gonna be a season-long thing, shit.” Then it turned out Maze tracked his ass down and brought him back to Chloe like a dog with a bone, and I laughed my ass off.

This week, after realizing that we were going to have an episode with the warden going on trial, though, I thought, “Oh great, here we go,” because that could only mean said warden was getting off, setting off our season-long “Chloe vs. the Warden” plot in earnest. Yep, there’s the head of the Russian gangster that helped Chloe out, there goes the key witness to the prosecution’s case. No, great, let’s get Lucifer’s mom, trapped in the body of super-lawyer Charlotte Richards, in there to get the dad’s killer off because she wants to prove to Lucifer that Chloe will throw him under the bus if it means putting her father’s killer away. We need to be sure that she’s evil. Whaddaya know, Chloe’s sticking by Lucifer’s side. The warden’s going free all right. Can’t wait to see how they string this out through May.

But I guess I couldn’t complain too much; “Quid Pro Ho” (great title, prompted by a great Lucifer line) was packed with fun moments like the montage of Lucifer’s epic testimony, or the hand-to-hand duel between Maze and the Triad thug, looking for information on the man the warden might have hired to take out the Russian informant. Honestly, for such a downbeat episode, Lucifer still maintained a sense of fun. Going into the last act, I just wished that it wasn’t going down such a frustratingly familiar path for a lightly serialized procedural mystery.

And lo, not only did history repeat itself, it did so in epic fashion, as if it wanted to tell me, “Never EVER doubt my shit again.”

First, with Maze’s help, Espinoza sics the Russians on the warden, because he knows that they don’t like it when you have one of their own killed without permission. So fuck you and goodnight, Jack; your shitty, obvious arc appears to be suddenly closed off, and a fresher, more subtle arc of Espinoza going down a dark path is now on the table.

Then it turns out that Chloe’s impassioned defense of Lucifer in court has cranked up their little “will they/won’t they” arc, so instead of somehow dragging it out to a 4th or 5th season finale, they’re going all in on it right now. Well, they’ll probably find a way to walk it back and draw it out a little when the show comes back in January, but somehow that’s okay because…

…Amenadiel, while looking for Maze, runs into Chloe’s mom, who vaguely recognizes him. And it takes him a minute, but Amenadiel recognizes her too. God asked him to go down and bless her when she and Chloe’s dad were having trouble conceiving, which would technically make Chloe a scion. Which suddenly explains why Lucifer’s considerable power fades whenever he’s near Chloe. And that means that, if the two of them should decide to hook up…well, Charlotte seems to think it’ll lead to her reentry into heaven, and the technical term for that would be “shit going WAY down.”

I think if you’re pessimistic, you can find a million ways that this could still go bad. But with “Quid Pro Ho,” I saw a really good show walk up to the precipice of being something lame. I then saw it jump and take flight into something great.

Episode Highlight: Last week, Maze watched Espinoza be seduced by Charlotte, which is how Charlotte learned of a key piece of evidence that allowed her to dismantle the prosecution’s case against the warden. Once this becomes clear to her, Maze goes on what must be one of the most epic pun runs in the history of scripted television, as she dances around what she knows in the run-up to her, Espinoza, and Lucifer’s confrontation with the Triads, turning what would be a tense scene in any other show into an absolute laugh riot. For sure, Lesley-Ann Brandt is quickly turning into the breakout star of this show.

Joe Stando is watching…

Season 1, Episode 9, “The Well-Tempered Clavier”

Westworld, like the eponymous theme park, is a lot of things to a lot of people. I know some people are very into the mysteries of the show, and trying to unwind and untangle them ahead of the show’s schedule. I know others are turned off by this focus on twists and reveals, and that it’s viewed as a substitute for real stories.

Personally, I’ve given up trying to theorize on the nature of any given element of the series (outside of my theory that the park uses a currency called “cowboy dollars” with Anthony Hopkins’ face on them). In general, I’d rather relax, and let the show reveal what it wants to reveal to me, and withhold what it wants to withhold. This approach suited me well this week. “The Well-Tempered Clavier” seemed to mostly confirm some theories (it looks like the Dolores/William arc may well be in the park’s early days) and reveal other twists (Bernard is a robot OF Arnold), but what really stuck with me was the smaller grace notes of emotion.

I’ve praised Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright before, but the whole cast wrings a lot out the little cues, from Thandie Netwon’s look of pity as she realizes Bernard doesn’t know he’s a host to Jimmi Simpson’s calm, broken moments of sociopathy at the end of the episode. It’s true that it can be hard to form a connection to characters who can be killed, resurrected, and rewritten week to week. But we’re at the point where we know these people (of varying degrees) well enough that even the smallest bits become meaningful.

I don’t know what the finale holds. I imagine we’ll get the big moment of confirmation that the Man in Black is indeed an aged William, as well as a couple other twists and shockers. But for the past two weeks, I’ve found myself thinking about Westworld at work in a melancholy way, with fewer theories and more of an appreciation for the beauty and tragedy of it all. If they can maintain that, it’s all I ask for.

Episode Highlight: The aforementioned reveal, that Bernard is a replacement Arnold that Ford built to help him work, was handled well, in that it was seeded enough that you could get there on your own, but there was still plenty of emotional weight to all of it. The moment that stuck with me the most wasn’t Bernard’s tearful goodbye to the memory of his son, surprisingly enough. It’s the small notes of relief and emotion that creep into Hopkins’ voice as Bernard comes online. Ford knows better than anyone that the hosts have their limits, and that Bernard is going to be a pale imitation of Arnold. Nevertheless, seeing an approximation of his deceased friend is comforting, in its way.

That’s what we’ve been watching this week. What are you tuned into? Let us know in the comments, post on our Facebook page, or tweet us @DeadshirtDotNet!

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