Lucifer’s Rachael Harris Kills it as Dr. Linda Martin
It is no secret that I have recently become a huge fan of Fox’s Lucifer. There is something utterly charming about the premise, the acting, and the humor. It is an easy show to watch, made easier by the wonderful writing.
Over the back half of season two there has been one character that has stuck out to me above the rest and that’s Rachael Harris’ Dr. Linda Martin. A perfect combination of good writing and good acting has quickly earned her the title of “favorite character.” Sorry, Lucifer. I love you, but there’s something about Linda I love more.
There are two primary components making Dr. Linda Martin an extraordinary character: excellent writing, and Rachael Harris’ gentle yet fierce portrayal. These two pieces wind together to make every single scene with Linda a pleasure to watch. I think she is a prime example of what all accompanying characters could be, but often aren’t. She receives just as much care in development as Lucifer or Chloe, and that makes the difference.
To start, the writers hit it out of the park when they write the therapy scenes. I’m a social worker and previously was a crisis intervention worker, deeply embedded in the world of mental health. As such, my opinions on the portrayal of therapists or counselors in television and movies are generally critical. Therapists in film and television are often written based on misconceptions or stereotypes, contributing to the general disdain the public has for them. To be honest I cannot blame them – if I thought that’s what therapists were really like I would probably give them a wide berth.
Dr. Linda Martin, however, conducts her sessions in a way that mimics reality. She purposely refrains from telling her clients what to do. Linda is adamant that she does not have the answers. Instead, she wants to act as a guide to help her clients come to their own conclusions. This approach to her therapy was highlighted in Sympathy for the Goddess when, after her license was suspended, Linda told Lucifer that she was speaking to him as a friend and not a therapist. With that made clear, she proceeded to nail him with all of her observations and thoughts – things usually kept out of the session – and told him what he had to do.
It is a small but important distinction that lends itself to Linda’s credibility as a therapist. Those little things stick out to me as a practitioner because they are real and in Linda, I feel like the writers get it. They have successfully portrayed a small part of what it is to be a therapist, the good and the bad, and there’s something satisfying about it that I have not found to be the case in most media portrayals of therapists.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Linda is not a picture perfect therapist. If she were, Lucifer would be a very different show. For example she slept with him at the start of their therapy, which is a big ethical “nope.” She sees him outside of their therapy sessions. She is both his friend and his therapist. These are things that don’t typically go together in the professional world but, and this is a big but, the world of Lucifer is not a perfect mirror image of our world. Therefore it makes sense that the writers had to take Linda on a journey to process the reality she lives in, and if I were in her position with the devil as my client? Who knows what choices I would make.
The other key to her unethical behavior is the fact that the writers wrote in consequences. I cannot tell you how often therapists in film and television do sketchy things and it flies under the radar. Now, I imagine it happens in the real world as well but I don’t think it is going to be to the same degree as it is shown in television. The worst part? The actions don’t usually further the story in any meaningful way. At least Linda’s questionable actions push her as a character and work toward her development. She is not just a throwaway joke. All of these little things matter and contribute to a well written character.
Outside of her role as a therapist, Linda is written as an important representative of the audience. While Chloe and Dan play that part too, they are an incomplete representatives because they do not know that Lucifer is really the devil. Linda, on the other hand, was brought completely into the dual world that Lucifer creates. She has to navigate the absurdity of the premise just like the audience and along the way connects the heavenly beings back to reality through friendship and her counseling relationship. In a lot of ways Linda acts as an anchor and through her relationships can help make sense of the wild world we have entered into.
The second component is Rachael Harris’ acting because I am not quite sure anyone else could pull off riding the line between drama and comedy as well as she does. Linda’s complexities as a character require an actress who can “do it all” and Harris nails it week after week. Whether she is embodying the role of a thoughtful, sharp therapist or is acting as a friend and helping Lucifer break out of a psychiatric hospital, everything she does is believable. She gets to flex her acting muscles because the writers give her a full range of emotions and situations to deal with and I think I appreciate Linda so much because she is real.
I mean, if Lucifer were to flash his freaky real face at me I would probably have a full blown meltdown too. Then, after the dust settled, I would probably be so absolutely fascinated that I would not want to look away. No matter what the writers throw at her, Harris finds the truth in every scene. She digs down and provides a connection that resonates with the audience who are going through similar reactions. I think this really hit me in one of the final scenes from the season two finale.
**SPOILERS FOR THE SEASON FINALE BEYOND THIS POINT**
Leading up to this moment, Linda had been seriously injured as a result of Lucifer’s mother’s rage. She was tortured into giving up Lucifer’s plan to toss his mom back into heaven and shut the gates behind her and things looked grim. Thankfully Amenadiel found his powers again and was able to slow time long enough for Maze to get her to the hospital, but Lucifer still felt immense guilt. He believed it was his fault, that he had put her in danger, and went to visit her at the hospital to apologize.
I think the scene in the hospital ranks as one of my top five favorite Lucifer scenes so far. Lucifer and Linda have a special relationship and that profound sense of friendship was palatable as they shared a moment together post-chaos. I am not keen enough to describe in words what exactly it was that Harris did which added a certain weight and depth to their conversation but whatever she did hit the mark.
Beaten up, bandaged, and laying on a hospital bed she looked Lucifer in the eye when he apologized and told him that she had made the choice to be his friend. She exerted free will, a theme that is played out over and over again throughout the series, and knew what she was getting into. Despite the danger and the insanity which she could have reasonable run away from at any moment, Linda showed Lucifer that she valued relationship over fear. Love, even the platonic friendship kind, wins again.
This is one of the bigger reasons as to why I love Lucifer so much as a show. These are real relationships being tested by unreal circumstances and at the end of the day it is people that matter. Rachael Harris’ Dr. Linda Martin is a small but powerful part of the larger narrative that makes Lucifer such a compelling and refreshing show. She represents the beautiful place where excellent writing and superb acting talent meet. I am sad to see season two come to its inevitable conclusion but am wildly excited for what comes next.