Lucifer, the latest comic-to-TV adaptation, turns out to have several virtues.
Lucifer arose from an arc in Neil Gaiman’s seminal Sandman before headlining his own-long running Vertigo series from writer Mike Carey. The original fallen angel Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) decides he’s had enough. He quits as the ruler of Hell and relocates to LA where he runs a night club and indulges his fascination with humans. After a singer whom he’d previously helped is murdered, Lucifer crosses paths with LAPD detective Chloe Dancer (Lauren German). The pair form a prickly bond as they track down the killer. By episode’s end, the devil is poised to become Chloe’s civilian “consultant.”
Along the way, he crosses paths with Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside), a warrior angel dispatched to order Lucifer to resume his former post. Without him, the demons and damned souls of Hell have escaped and there’s no one there to torment the evil. Mazikeen (Lesley-Ann Brandt), a demon who accompanied her boss to LA and tends bar in his club, worries that his growing connection to humanity is changing him.
A TV show with a sympathetic devil as its lead character could be a tough sell. After the series was announced, the expected protests arose over its content and message. The source material that Lucifer is based on used the archetype from theology and folklore to explore “big questions” about fate, free will, redemption, the nature of good and evil, the necessity of Hell and some truly cosmic Daddy issues. So far, the series doesn’t do more than embroider those weighty themes around the edges. Instead, the show is a high concept, personality-driven procedural. Like a supernatural twist on Bones or Castle.
That’s not really a bad thing. The pilot portends some mythology, but more often comes across as an entertaining detective story. The writers inject a lot of humor into the proceedings, especially Lucifer’s interactions with humans, where his ability to get people to spill their guts comes in handy. The interplay between Lucifer and Chloe, the one human who seems immune to his various gifts, is well-done. Based on the pilot, the cases of the week seem like they’ll be fairly standard, but the show makes the most of its characters and LA setting to be diverting.
Ellis does a really good job in the title role. He sells the roguish spirit and disarming wit and intelligence quite nicely and has a lot of fun with the show’s absurdist central conceit. German has a tougher role (saddled with TV clichés like an adorable daughter, a jerky colleague who’s also her ex and alienation from the rest of the force), but she brings a no-nonsense quality to the mix that grounds the proceedings. The duo form a solid center to anchor the lunacy around them.
It’s possible that the various “devil” puns and Lucifer’s exasperation with standard mythology (he wants favors, not souls!) could wear thin over the long haul. But in the pilot, those elements provide a nice bit of winking fun. How necessary regular viewing will be is going to depend on how serious the writers are about unpacking the weightier aspects of the source material. If they go that route, Lucifer might bear closer attention.
But even if it’s just a witty, entertaining procedural, it still seems like it could be a worthwhile alternative for viewers looking for a twist on the genre.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on January 26, 2016.