Oh to be young, handsome, in the City of Angels, and in love. Being the Devil doesn’t hurt, either.
The premise of Lucifer is simple – it’s Death Takes a Holiday crossed with your choice of Castle, Sleepy Hollow, or Elementary.
Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) has left Hell and headed for Los Angeles, where he runs a swanky nightclub, LUX, assisted by his demon protector/bartender, Mazikeen, aka Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt). Into their decadent life comes the murder of a human Lucifer cared about and, immediately after, Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) who’s an atheist and as far as we can tell the only woman immune to Lucifer’s charm. Due to Lucifer’s confusion over this, he ends up seeing a psychiatrist in the form of Dr. Linda Martin (Rachel Harris). Oh, and his brother, the angel Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) is around to basically tell Lucifer to get back to the work of running Hell lest Amenadiel take some nasty measures to get Lucifer back where he belongs. Meanwhile, all this caring and taking an interest in human lives is affecting Lucifer who is slowly losing his powers and becoming mortal.
Chloe has a case that she just can’t let go that, of course, is going to destroy her and everyone she loves if she continues to pursue it. She also has an estranged cop husband, Daniel (Kevin Alejandro, last seen by me on the far superior Arrow) who a) hates Lucifer, and b) has a lot more to do with Chloe’s issues than anyone realizes. Chloe and Daniel have a precocious daughter, Trixie (Scarlett Estevez) who instantly likes Lucifer. Chloe, meanwhile doesn’t instantly like him so much as need him around to help her solve crimes.
Lucifer is up front about who he is only, of course, no one believes him, Chloe least of all, despite her seeing things that are technically impossible for a human to do. Basically only Maze and Amendadiel believe a guy named Lucifer Morningstar is actually the Devil. And yes, for those of you who just went, “Oh, like Cupid, from several years ago”, yes, just like that.
I really enjoyed the pilot, but I said at the end that this show had two ways to go – it could either focus on the Devil’s Redemption (which was evident from the start) and have some fun with supernatural stuff going on in LA (ala Sleepy Hollow or Angel) or it could end up being a police procedural with the Devil becoming a police consultant, aka standing in for either a famous author (ala Castle) or a brilliant but troubled consulting detective (ala Elementary). Sadly, Lucifer went for the latter, though the redemption part is definitely in there. The supernatural fun part, however, is not.
The problem I have with the show becoming a police procedural is that everything related to that we’ve seen a hundred times before, and done better. Chloe is another in a long line of police detectives who doesn’t have a partner or anyone else she works with, other than her estranged husband. This doesn’t happen in real life. It doesn’t happen in most good cop shows, either. Look, I get it, it’s TV. However, the LAPD has precincts, just like the NYPD and every other police department of any size. Therefore, no one is calling in Chloe to cover a case in the middle of Hollywood and then calling her to a different, totally unrelated case in Long Beach. It just doesn’t happen. Also, there is apparently no traffic in LA (you know the #1 worst traffic in the US for the last 30 years running) anywhere, ever.
But okay, we say that the Devil takes care of all of that. But that still leaves the cases that, due to this being a procedural, take center stage. The cases are rudimentary in that you can guess who’s the killer, if you even care, long before the detective does. Lucifer barely uses the one power he hasn’t lost, which is to draw out what someone’s deepest desire it. Also, said desires are vanilla. They always somehow relate to the case at hand, versus that person’s true deepest desires. Desire is not the same as “life goal”, though that’s how this show is handling it.
But what kills the show for me is Chloe. I cannot stand this character, and every time I watch the show I like watching her less and less. I have no idea if German is being forced to have only one expression for 99% of her camera time or if she just can’t manage a change. She’s been working for years so I’m willing to assume that the direction she’s been given is to be unrelentingly grim until there’s a 3 second moment where she gets to smile. She has zero chemistry with Ellis, which doesn’t help.
She actually has chemistry with Alejandro, but their screen time together is limited and totally fraught with that big, bad case. Which is just like Castle, only with far less chemistry between the leads and a far less enjoyable supporting cast. The little bits of supernatural stuff we get (like Lucifer’s wings going missing) is great, but it’s getting less and less as the show goes on. I’m not saying that this show should have been Sleepy Hollow: 2016 or Supernatural, but it sure could use a lot more of Lucifer, Maze, and Amenadiel using their powers. Presumably the budget doesn’t allow for that too frequently. Maybe that’s what killed Constantine. Which this show could also be a lot more like.
Tom Ellis is great, and he could be Tom “Sleepy Hollow” Mison’s brother (let’s hear it for long, lean, dark haired British men hanging about on our TV shows), but he’s stuck wavering between being the Prince of Darkness and whining about Daddy Issues. I don’t want my Devil whiney, call me old fashioned. The character is also wildly uneven. In the pilot he cares about the murdered girl so much that he goes after clues to find who’s responsible. A few episodes later, though, and all he’s doing is complaining about his Dad and being annoyingly and mostly unhelpfully rude. The consultant is supposed to be along because the detective couldn’t solve the crime without his/her help, not to turn every single investigation into a “it’s all about me” session. Yes, we get it, Lucifer is selfish. Only, he’s not. At least not all the time. But the selfishness comes and goes at the writer’s will, versus in a consistent pattern.
Basically, Lucifer doesn’t seem to know what tone it’s going for. Is it a religious show? A sly stab at faith and redemption? Just a fun romp with a real devil-may-care playboy showing us around LA? A supernatural thrill ride? Or just a mix of a lot of other, better, more interesting shows? Sadly, I’m thinking it’s the last one.
There are flashes of a really good show, especially in the pilot and the “A Priest Walks Into A Bar” episode, which really got in depth in terms of what’s going on with Lucifer from a religious aspect, which, considering we’re talking about angels and demons on Earth, is definitely there. There have been a few good twists, too. But too many episodes give us supposedly intelligent people behaving really stupidly for no reason other than that the writers need them to be stupid right “here” so that all these “other things” can happen “there”. But the point of a long-running storyline is that it weaves in and out of the show in a natural way. Castle was originally right on with this but overdid it by Season Five. But Lucifer’s overdone it in Season One.
Bottom line: your ability to enjoy this show will probably rest with how much you do or don’t like the leads and whether or not you adore police procedurals regardless of the quality of the mysteries they’re solving. I like one of the leads (and I adore D.B. Woodside) which is why I’ve lasted this long. But unless the Devil stops whining, I may not be around to watch him assist the Grim Detective while they solve uninteresting crimes using only his Power of Selfishness, her Power of Woodenness, and their Spell of Mutual Bickering.
Rating: 3 Stars