The Lord of Hell comes to Earth…and becomes a detective in a boring police procedural.
The experience of watching Lucifer, Fox’s newest addition to its drama lineup, is a bit like biting into a stale cookie – you weren’t sure you really wanted it in the first place, yet you knew what you were getting and it’s identifiably bad for you. Sadly, you have a sweet tooth and bite anyway, and the result is as dissatisfying as you knew it would be.
The show follows the exploits of Hell’s most eligible bachelor, now that he’s put himself into retirement on Earth. It’s unspecified how long it’s been since he hung up the horns, but it’s likely he’s been hanging out a while, as he’s had plenty of time to build attachments to people around Los Angeles, most notably a pop star who owes her success to his influence. Heaven is also upset about his absence and need to “fulfill the balance” (this need is always vague and begs more questions, but sure, whatever), but being the rebel he is he blows off his angelic antagonist without apparent consequence.
The story unfolds after his pop star friend is murdered in a drive-by shooting, igniting a desire in Lucifer to track down and rain punishment down on the perpetrator. As it happens, a local cop named Chloe wants to achieve the same thing, and the two bump into each other until Lucifer can convince her he’s worth keeping around, setting up the dynamic for the rest of the season.
The most tired aspect of the show is its need to settle down into yet another police procedural. That it’s the devil who’s being taken on as a partner is obviously what’s meant to be the selling point, but unfortunately Chloe isn’t the only one who doesn’t respond to his charm. He’s essentially a Frankenstein monster culled together from the host of recent material that’s like the show, such as Constantine, in which the devil is suave, well-dressed, with fine taste, who indulges in terror because he has to. Maybe they’d even get away with it, except that this Lucifer is a diluted, safe version. He’s a club-goer, a guy who gets away with small indiscretions like speeding, and the taste we’re meant to believe he possesses is sold on the American attachment to British accents and little more. All menace has effectively been sucked away by the time we’re supposed to believe he’s capable of hurling some fire and brimstone.
So to keep audiences involved, the show mines one aspect of the basic Satan character – the attachment to pleasure and sex. Women constantly tell Lucifer who they’ve had sex with and/or who they want to have sex with. Lucifer’s response is usually to ask if they’ve had sex with him, as he’s forgotten (and it’s implied every woman wants to). His dynamic with Chloe begins with his desire to punish those involved with his friend’s murder, but evolves as soon as it’s revealed she’s impervious to his supposed charm. In effect, this dilutes the Satan character even more, as he’s become basically a player used to having his way with women, and in the cheapest way possible. It makes Lucifer a sleaze more than the Prince of Darkness, and if the show were a straight comedy, maybe that would work. As it is, the effect is to make the show almost feel like a soap opera.
Tom Kapinos, the show’s creator, also wrote Californication on Showtime, which was another show about an ardent hedonist. The salient difference, and what made Californication work for as long as it did, is that the main character in it was a human, with human foibles, who got in over his head and knew it, but at least had the charm to sell the devil-may-care attitude when things didn’t go his way. This character has none of these things, and the show suffers for it.
Towards the end of the episode, those overtly familiar with Lucifer’s background tell him he’s becoming too human. The problem with this show is that he isn’t, except in all the wrong ways. It relies on an established mythology but does nothing to add to it or give it a spin, instead using it as a launch pad to fall back into the same old procedural tropes without spicing them up either.
In short, you can skip it.
Lucifer airs Mondays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
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