WWWednesday: Lucifer, the Series

Today’s column is a single-issue deal, a review.

Giveaway:  One commenter with a USA mailing address will get a copy of The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher.

Tom Ellis as Lucifer

Tom Ellis as Lucifer

Lucifer the series currently runs on Netflix, with the 5th season starting up in August. The show began its life on Fox in 2016, with a dark-haired Welsh actor named Tom Ellis in the title role. (“Dark-haired? But that’s not canon!” say the comic book readers. Trust me. Go with it.)

Readers of  Neil Gaiman’s Sandman met Lucifer when Dream journeyed to Hell to retrieve one of his three totems. Later in that series, Lucifer got fed up with being the warden of Hell and retired, opening a blues bar. His loyal demon lover Mazikeen followed him. The comics subsequently spun off Lucifer into his own book.

The TV series is set in Los Angeles, where Lucifer runs a popular club called Lux. He is AWOL from Hell. An angry, arrogant older-brother angel named Amenadiel has been dispatched to bring him back, and Lucifer must evade Amenadiel’s manipulations. In Episode One, Lucifer teams up with the sexy, tough-minded and right-minded Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) to solve a murder. He decides bringing miscreants to justice will be a fun new hobby. And there’s something about Chloe that makes Lucifer feel vulnerable…

Lucifer is forty-five percent soap opera, forty percent sex comedy, ten percent character study and about five percent philosophical exploration. It is 100% fantasy—by that I don’t just mean angels and demonic beings roaming around Los Angeles. I mean our two protagonists can always find a parking space in Los Angeles.

Oh, wait. Did I mention it’s a musical? Lucifer the character plays piano and sings (Tom Ellis does his own singing in the show), and there have been two production numbers. So yeah, musical.

There are some things the show is not, and you need to know that going in.

This show is not a police procedural. The “murder mystery” is never the main storyline and is usually wrapped up way before the end. And if this really were a precinct somewhere, well, then… Yikes. (And I mean, I’m saying that now.)

The Cast

The Cast

Even though the show features a therapist who works with Lucifer, this is not a show about therapy either. Dr. Linda Martin (the brilliant and hilarious Rachael Harris) is smart, insightful, honest, and a great friend, but she has zero boundaries and seems to only have one or two other clients beyond the parade of Lucifer’s cohort. While she is good at leading her clients to self-realization, she has only one door to her office, and she does not ensure client confidentiality. Oh, yeah, and she broke a potentially dangerous patient out a mental institution because Lucifer asked her to, and she went with Detective Chloe (the cop, remember?) to try to break into Lucifer’s safe while he was gone one time. If I were reviewing her on Yelp, she’d get one star.

It is not an exploration of good and evil, surprisingly enough. Lucifer’s struggle is not to redefine “good,” or redeem himself. To the extent there is a philosophical underpinning to the show, it’s more about free will versus obedience, or free will and its consequences. For the first three seasons, Lucifer struggles to defy God, while desperately puzzling out what his father’s plan is –if there even is a plan. Lucifer get angry when humans blame the devil for their own base actions; but it takes him a full two seasons to admit that perhaps he’s blaming his father for a lot of his own actions.

The show is irreverent toward religion, mostly Christianity and mostly Catholicism. Given the title character this shouldn’t be a surprise. In one case, Lucifer’s disdain for a Catholic priest is shown to be misplaced. Generally, Lucifer is an unreliable narrator when it comes to the question of religion.

Oh… and, generally, don’t try to apply what you know about world religions, even the Judeo-Christian cosmology Lucifer theoretically emerges from. This show changes the basics whenever it needs to in order to create more interpersonal tension—as we see, for instance, in Season Two and again in Season Four.

The series shines like the Lightbringer himself when Lucifer is acting like, well, Lucifer, a hedonistic, deal-making bon vivant who also has a powerfully developed sense of justice and an urge to punish wrong-doers. It pulses with life whenever Lucifer is acting out as the rebellious son he is, trying to tweak his father to get a response, any response. In one therapy session, Lucifer is genuinely hurt and even grieving as he blames his father for making him a torturer. He mourns the part of him, the light perhaps, he believes was suppressed by his father’s demands.

The engine of this show is Tom Ellis, who brings the Lord of Hell to sexy, angry, insightful, tactless, self-centered life. One of the little joys is watching how quickly Lucifer makes any murder, no matter how random, all about him. Another joy—his continual exasperation when people evoke the name of God, or, as Lucifer calls him, Dad.

Mazikeen, perfectly played by Lesley-Ann Brandt, and D.B. Woodside’s Amenadiel, both face serious adjustment issues too. Mazikeen worries that this extended visit to earth has changed Lucifer. It takes her a while to see how it has changed her. Amenadiel is the antagonist in Season One; a prideful angel living by a rule of protagonist-centered morality. In his mind, he is the Good Guy, so his means are automatically justified by his ends. When he brings a corrupt cop back to life to kill Lucifer, resulting in the deaths of three innocent people, he’s forced to face the reality of his actions. Amenadiel’s character arc deals with power and self-actualization, and he has amends to make.

In Season Two, Lucifer and Amenadiel must join forces to deal with their mother, the Goddess of All Creation (remember what I said about not applying known religious lore to this show?) who has escaped Hell and come to earth. Meanwhile,  a secret about Chloe, deviously revealed, throws Lucifer into a tailspin of doubt. Laurel German, by the way, has lifted eye-rolling and deadpan takes around Lucifer’s antics to an art form. Lucifer would not be half as engaging if we didn’t have Chloe—and Dr. Linda—around to remind us that, yes, he really is that oblivious and self-centered.

Season Three brings in a character from the comics, the first murderer, Cain. By Season Three, I had to take my own advice, especially when Lucifer explains to someone that he doesn’t take people to Hell; they put themselves there, just as they choose their own eternal punishment, from their own guilty consciences. This seems to mean the Silver City, or Heaven, must be packed with happy sociopaths, a loophole I don’t think the show plans to explore.

In Season Four we meet a Nephilim, although the term is never used, and discover that during Lucifer’s absence the locals in Hell have gotten restless and mounted a revolution. The Guest Character this time is Eve, of garden of Eden fame. Eve, the Original Sinner, who was in Heaven (see several disclaimers about religion, above) got bored. She came to earth to hang out with Lucifer. Since ninety percent of Lucifer’s quest throughout the show is about defining himself, Eve represents temptation (obviously); a chance to go back to the old Lucifer. Eve is a well-drawn character. She’s a likeable, sympathetic liar, and genuinely vulnerable. No one would consider her consciously evil, but in her selfishness she sets evil in motion—another character who will be making amends, or trying to.

Mazikeen struggles to be acknowledged throughout the series. Like Lucifer and Amenadiel, who diminish and sideline her, the show seems to sideline her. I hoped Season Five would let us meet Lilith, the mother of all demons. Mazikeen has mentioned Lilith several times during the course of the show, usually as an example of bad mothering. Instead, it looks like Season Five will go in a completely different direction. Mazikeen—Maze to her few friends—is awesome, with many of the best quips of the series. The banter between her and Lucifer, especially in a Season Three episode when he calls on her expertise in torturing, is priceless. The show is, after all, mostly soap opera, so a romantic happy ending for Maze seems unlikely. Frankly, I’m not sure what a romantic happy ending for Maze would even look like. It would probably involve knives. I still want to see her origins explored, and her to get the respect she has earned.

There will be a lot going on in Season Five; existing conflicts, the fallout from Lucifer’s final decision the end of Season Four, and plenty of will-they-or-won’t-theys. Oh, and it’s rumored that Dad makes an appearance. That should make for explosive confrontations, perhaps literally.


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Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town. You can read her blog at deedsandwords.com, and follow her on Twitter: @mariond_d.

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13 comments

  1. Never watched it, for many of the reasons mentioned. I am glad you cleared up some misnomers about the show. Will check it out for sure.

  2. Mary Henaghen /

    I miss Lucifer. I wish I had netflix!

  3. Noneofyourbusiness /

    I especially like Mazikeen’s friendships with Linda and Chloe.

  4. Lady Morar /

    Another reason we sometimes talk about getting Netflix.

    I’d like to be chilled by “The Twisted Ones”!

    (Oh, ‘Netflix and chill’. That was unintentional.)

  5. The Distinguished Professor /

    The original Lucifer comics series is now being printed as omnibuses under ‘The Sandman Universe Classics’.

    • Thanks! I’ll seek them out, since I’ve liked the few I’ve read.

      • The Distinguished Professor /

        You’re welcome! They’re also re-printing the original Books of Magic comics under that branding. I hope they do the original Dreaming, too.

  6. John Smith /

    I have yet to watch the series, but it’s one I hope to see. Tom Ellis was quite quirky and funny in a small role in the series “Suburban Shootout,” a show which is a favorite of mine!

  7. I watched a season or two of Lucifer before it moved to Netflix. Not a bad show, quite fun actually.

  8. You’ve tempted me to rewatch the entire series, Marion. I enjoy this show a great deal, even though, to my mind, it has very little relationship to the Neil Gaiman comics — which are well worth reading as well, and maybe now I need to read those again, too.

    You didn’t mention that one good reason to watch this show is to gaze upon Tom Ellis, who is VERY easy on the eyes.

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