Lucifer: Season One

I stopped watching Lucifer after the first couple of episodes, but after it got a second season, I tried again. I'm glad I did.

What happens

[Some spoilers below! There will be a spoiler kitten before I go into massive spoilers.]

Lucifer Morningstar left Hell five years ago and opened a nightclub in Los Angeles called "Lux." When a friend of his is murdered in the pilot episode, he meets Detective Chloe Decker and discovers that he has a talent for crime-solving. Lucifer becomes a consultant to the LAPD and starts to develop a friendship as well as a working relationship with Chloe, who is divorced (from another detective, Dan Espinoza, played by Kevin Alejandro) and raising an adorable daughter named Trixie.

When it began, I thought Lucifer would be a one-joke procedural. The Devil is a nightclub owner in Los Angeles who also solves crimes, ha ha. And at first, that appeared to be what it was. (Which is why I stopped with the second episode.) But Lucifer is an investment series. It slowly improved and drew me in.

What works

The heart of this series is Lucifer himself, played by Welsh actor Tom Ellis, who crossed the pond for the role. He's become my latest television crush. Even though he is physically imposing with piercing dark eyes enhanced with guyliner, it's more how Ellis plays the part that works for me -- particularly the vulnerability he shows whenever that exaggerated smirk leaves his face.

It is obvious early on that Lucifer isn't evil. He acts out with partying and sex (I particularly liked the three Brittanys and the jacuzzi), but when the mask comes down, which it often does, we see Lucifer as a hurt, angry little boy rejected by his father and forced into a role that he despises. His main "superpower" is a helpful one for a detective in training: he can get anyone to talk about their secret desires. Except for Chloe Decker, who is somehow impervious to Lucifer's supernatural charm.

It took me awhile to warm up to Chloe (Lauren German), but I eventually did. The most enjoyable thing about Chloe as a character is that she made a terrible, raunchy movie called Hot Tub High School before she decided on a police career. I also really liked the episode where she got drunk and threw herself at Lucifer, who surprised himself by turning her down.

I have to say that Scarlett Estevez as Chloe's daughter Trixie is the most talented and adorable child actor I've seen in years. Her delivery is perfect and in season one, she held her own in many complicated scenes with adult actors. They even gave her a truly funny plot thread about her own secret desire (secret desires are an ongoing series theme) and a particularly wonderful scene at the Lux with the demon Mazikeen.

I wasn't sure I was all that crazy about Mazikeen (Lesley-Ann Brandt), Lucifer's demon protector and friend, but she became a lot more fun as the season progressed, especially when she became involved with Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside, whom I loved as Principal Wood on Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Ditto for Amenadiel. He was sort of a bore at the beginning of the season when he kept showing up with his wings outspread to tell Lucifer to go back to Hell. Later, he lost the ugly dress and became a lot more fun, especially when he moved into the office next door to Dr. Martin and picked up the nickname "Amenadude."

And Rachael Harris is so wonderfully droll as Lucifer's psychiatrist, Dr. Linda Martin. When the season began, she was so physically drawn to Lucifer that she agreed to exchange psychotherapy for sex with him. It worked because Lucifer actually needs therapy. I really loved that Dr. Martin decided that sleeping with Lucifer was unethical and started treating him as a patient. Adorable.

Like Chloe, Dr. Martin doesn't believe Lucifer is who he says he is. (She's willing to work "within his metaphor.") I kept expecting that to change during the first season, but it didn't.

What doesn't work

Crime of the week. Enough said. And the Palmetto shooting, the big arc of the season, didn't interest me at all, even though Kevin Rankin did his best to elevate the key character of Malcolm Graham.

I like the talented Kevin Alejandro, and I very much appreciated that they gave Dan Espinoza more than just "annoying ex-husband and co-worker" to play. But it still feels as if Dan's character exists solely to assist with the detective scenes and to act as a romantic buffer between Lucifer and Chloe, and that's all. If they wrote him out next season, I wouldn't miss him.

This top section has been light-ish on the spoilers, but I'm going to talk more about specifics below. Beware the spoiler kitten!

Best episodes

As I said, Lucifer is an investment series. It took a few "crime of the week" episodes before they got to one that intrigued me. Which was...

1.4 "Manly Whatnots": Okay, it's not a great episode or anything, but it got me thinking that this show has potential. In "Manly Whatnots," Lucifer accidentally sees Chloe naked and later deliberately lets her see him naked, too. Instead of it being a will-they-or-won't-they thing, the nudity was to show us that Lucifer has two large scars on his back where he had Mazikeen cut off his wings. Lucifer also taunts Chloe into shooting him, and surprise! he is injured, and alarmed that he can be hurt, although he at first doesn't connect it to Chloe.

1.6 "Favorite Son" and 1.7 "Wingman": Which is the story of what happened to Lucifer's wings.

"Favorite Son" began with two terrific scenes: an oddly powerful one of Lucifer singing "Sinnerman" (yes, Tom Ellis sings)...

... followed by an exceptionally adorable scene where Chloe gently interrogated Trixie about some missing chocolate birthday cake.

The Russian nesting dolls (matryoshka) were this season's Most Obvious Symbolism for Lucifer himself. I couldn't guess what Lucifer could possibly be hiding in the shipping container that could be so important to him, until it became obvious. Those wings were a gorgeous prop, and that moment where Lucifer sat on the beach in front of his discarded wings before he set them on fire was a scene that stayed with me. (Lucifer and Amenadiel in tuxes didn't hurt.)

1.9 "A Priest Walks Into a Bar": Definitely the best episode of the season. Colman Domingo, who is currently playing one of the two best characters on Fear the Walking Dead, played Frank, a man with a tragic and criminal past who had found God. Lucifer desperately wanted Father Frank to be a hypocrite and guilty of murder, but of course, there was an obvious parallel between Father Frank and Lucifer himself. Lucifer began to like Father Frank in spite of himself and Tom Ellis and Colman Domingo played off each other beautifully, especially in the piano scene.

This episode introduced the possibility that God wanted Lucifer to rebel, and that Lucifer was acting out because he still wanted God's love. We also got one of the best Lucifer/Chloe scenes when she showed up to give him support as a friend, and they played "Heart and Soul" together on the piano.

1.12 "#TeamLucifer" and 1.13 "Take Me Back to Hell": Which began with a fraudulent Satanist cult that of course Lucifer found wildly offensive, and ended with Lucifer praying for Chloe, and dying for her. (Fortunately, not permanently.) Lucifer and Amenadiel in Dr. Martin's office talking about their problems as brothers was adorable, and so was the way they teamed up to fight a warehouse full of bad guys. I also really enjoyed Chloe teaming up with Mazikeen, sort of like Cagney and Dirty Harry.


-- Chloe's eyebrows seem to defy gravity, but the character and the producers get points for her casual clothes, lack of makeup and untidy ponytail. I assume most real detectives would want to keep their hair out of their eyes.

-- I've lived in Los Angeles, and a detective who isn't independently wealthy couldn't afford Chloe's large, well-decorated house. It actually belongs to her mother, a famous B-movie actress named Penelope Decker (played by Rebecca de Mornay). Which also explained why Chloe made a bad movie when she was young.

-- The big unanswered question in season one is, what is going on with Chloe in a supernatural sense? Why does she make Lucifer vulnerable to harm? One obvious theory is that Chloe's not yet discussed father could be a supernatural being. Is Chloe's father an angel, perhaps? Or does Chloe make Lucifer vulnerable simply because he cares about her? (Any theories? Post a comment!)

-- I liked the 999 key (obviously, they were going for 666) and the "subway token for the damned."

-- I also liked that Lucifer didn't just call Dan Espinoza "Detective Douche" once, but constantly throughout the season.

To conclude

Lucifer ended the season much better than it began, but it is still mostly potential, and I hope that season two will start fulfilling that potential. (They left us with a huge hint that next season's Big Bad is going to be supernatural, not criminal, and I'm cool with that.)

Unfortunately, as Thomas Ijon Tichy recently posted in a comment here on the site, "Fox as a network is a dumpster fire." I hope Fox doesn't screw up this property, but I wouldn't put it past them.

Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.


Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Thank you for this review, Billie! It's well-deserved for one of the more entertaining police procedurals of the year.

In order to enjoy this show you must never compare it to the original comics. It falls short everytime. That doesn't mean it's a bad show, just that the source material is infinitely better.

One think that continued to irk me about 'Lucifer' was Chloe's stubborn refusal to even entertain the notion that Lucifer is something more than a human "bar owner with delusions." Sure, she shot him once and she saw him bleed, but that does in no way erase the number of occasions where she has seen him display supernatural abilities. I finally decided to chalk it up to suspension of disbelief - in the same way that there is a supernatural force that allows Lucifer to be hurt whenever Chloe is around, there is an equal force preventing her from realizing the truth.

When I referenced FOX as a dumpster fire I was referring to the ratings. The ratings collapse of FOX for the last year has no precedence in television history. The actors are apparently clamoring for a second season focusing "more on the supernatural" and moving away from the old, tired procedural setting. If that were to happen, the series could improve by an order of magnitude.

Billie Doux said...

Fox lost me after the way they treated Firefly and they just ruined Sleepy Hollow, so call me skeptical.

It's probably obvious that I don't read comics and am completely unfamiliar with the source material. I got through Buffy season eight, but that was pretty much it.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Sleepy Hollow, oh God. What a trainwreck.

Patrick said...

I was glad to see this review get posted, as I found Lucifer to be one of the surprises of this past TV season. I honestly wasn't expecting much from it, but then I was able to watch an early cut of the pilot and liked more than I thought I would(the only real difference in the early version was that "Detective Douche" was played by a different actor), for two main reasons. One, Tom Ellis was clearly having oodles of fun playing Lucifer, and Trixie is just SO freaking adorable. Thankfully, both of those things remained consistent throughout the season. Lauren German wouldn't be the first actress I'd think of to play a detective, but I thought she did well, and like Billie I'm glad they chose not to glam her up(it's not like she needs it anyway).

Billie, I think you made excellent choices for which episodes to highlight, though I also have to point out one of the best Trixie moments, when she wanders off to Lux to find Lucifer, and ends up talking to Maze. So much fun.

I'm really enjoying the way they've chosen to portray the Devil in this show. The idea that Lucifer doesn't actually make anyone do anything, and is pissed off at how much of the evil in the world he gets blamed for was interesting to me. It may not coincide with my personal beliefs, but watching Tom Ellis portray him that way was fascinating.

It's not unheard of for shows to start out feeling like little more than a police procedural with a twist, only to grow and evolve into something more down the line. Fringe and Person Of Interest are two shows that immediately come to mind. Hopefully the big tease at the end of the season finale will help expand the mythology of the show.

Diogo said...

While I mildly enjoy the show on its own, I get sad how it has virtually next to nothing to do with the brilliant comic book series that inspired it. The idea of the Devil quitting hell, creating his own cosmos (where the only rule is that everyone must be an atheist, they cannot worship even him), and going against enemies such the heavenly host, the Japanese pantheon, eldritch abominations and an omniscient sentient deck of tarot card, sometimes with nothing than his machiavellian intellect... Maybe it was all too awesome for a TV show (which should have been on HBO, given all the sez and swearing in the comic). It also had a terrific cast, which included a MUCH MORE interesting Mazikeen, a pair of hilariously cynic fallen cherubs and Lucifer's half-human niece, among others.
Although it would be weird to see a real Lucifer TV show without its parent series, the Sandman (my favorite book of all time) being adapted first. Eh, maybe in a few years from now...

mazephoenix said...

I love this show, and I've read the comics..It's more light-hearted and I think I'm okay with that. Ellis is such a charmer, and he can be scary too.
Love dr Linda and little Trixie..
It's fun to see DB Woodside again and the ending was intriguing..
Next season should be fun.

Onanymous said...

This was also my biggest surprise from the past season. I agree that the first few episodes felt a bit too much like just another police procedural for my liking, but Tom Ellis' Lucifer was so much fun to watch, that I kept coming back.

Lucifer projects this smooth, charming and sarcastic veneer so well, that the few times it did start to crack was incredibly powerful.

That last little tease really has me excited about the next season. It's a direction that I've never quite seen explored in this kind of story before.

Thanks for a great review. It made me want to start watching the season all over again.

Maiden Aya said...

To be honest I don't hold out hopes for Fox doing this show right, ESPECIALLY the longer it airs. I just hope we get at least 2 or 3 good seasons out of it.

So many great Fox shows would benefit from 13 episode seasons, and less filler (while enjoyable, too many shows get saturated with them.)

It will always be too soon to mention what they did to Sleepy Hollow, much to osoon.

Tom Ellis is what lured me to Lucifer and he is convincing in his role as petulant, resentful, vulnerable, and wanting to be independent. Dude rebels, and STILL obeys his Father running hell lol. He's like a young adult who finally gained his freedom, who is aware he may be making a bad mistake but wants to strike out on his own anyways.

And the whole wing storyline, turned the show for me from a funny show with great one liners, to a show that has great potential.

All the side characters have their charms as well. Love the therapist. And Luci and Ammendiel relationship makes me smile when they get along.