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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lucifer: Pilot (2016) – Review

Having your main character of your show be the personification of evil is certainly an interesting choice for Network television, but of course the Lucifer we get here isn’t quite the one from the Bible stories but is based on the version created by Neil Gaiman for his Sandman graphic novel series. He maybe “The Fallen One” but that doesn’t mean he is all bad…or does it?


“I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”

This isn’t the first DC character from their Vertigo line to make it to television, NBC attempted to make Constantine into a television series after failing to get a movie franchise out of the character, but it failed miserably due to the watering down of what is intrinsically a very dark character. Now Fox is giving it a go with Lucifer, and just going by the pilot I think they may heading down that same unfortunate road Constantine took.


 The pilot opens with title card telling us that, “In the beginning the angel Lucifer was cast out of Heaven and condemned to rule Hell for all eternity. Until he decided to take vacation.” This is certainly an interesting idea and whether this show will explore just how he pulled this off remains to be seen (or if it will be cancelled before we find out), but Lucifer walking the streets of Los Angeles could lead to some real fun television.


The show gets points for not using "Sympathy for the Devil" here.

We first meet Lucifer (Tom Ellis) being pulled over by a cop for a traffic violation, he is able to use his “dark powers” to get at the sinful side of the police officer which allows him to successfully bribe him. This is a playful Lucifer, more in keeping with the trickster type of god along the lines of Loki; he seems to be up here for a good time. What is equally interesting is that he is not wandering the Earth in disguise but will introduce himself to one and all as Lucifer Morningstar.  Nobody of course believes him.

Theology Note: The word Lucifer is taken from the Latin Vulgate word meaning "the morning star" so basically he's going around calling himself Lucifer Lucifer.

He runs a bar called Lux and is doing his best to forget he ever ruled Hell. His best friend Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt) is a demon who does double duty as bartender and confidante. She seems unclear as to what her boss is doing here slumming with the mortals. We shortly meet Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) a dark-winged angel of the Holy Host who really despises Lucifer and orders him to get back to work running Hell. Seems Heaven is concerned with what all those demons and tortured souls may be doing without Lucifer overseeing things.


“Dad says, go to your room.”

This begs the question, “If Lucifer can just abdicate his job as ruler of Hell why did he wait so long to do so?” He was cast down there as punishment for rebelling against God, so I'm not quite sure how you can quit that gig. Which brings us to one of the major problems I see coming with this show, the dancing around of the theology of this particular version of God and Lucifer. Is this show’s God the absentee landlord we got in WBs Supernatural? Or are we going to find out that God isn’t allowed to directly influence things on Earth, which I’ve always found to be a big cop out. He can send an angel to order Lucifer back to work but he can’t force the issue himself?


“If he wants me, he knows where to find mind.”

But this show isn’t just about The Fallen One and his family issues it’s also a police procedural, and that’s where it really falters. The “Case of the Week” we get for the pilot is the murder of pop star Delilah (AnnaLynne McCord) who Lucifer at some point in time helped her with her career. She drops by Lux to ask Lucifer if she had “Sold her soul” to become famous. How she wouldn’t know this is beyond me. Did she think she signed away her soul while in a drunken stupor? Regardless while walking out of the club with Lucifer she is gunned down by a drive by. Lucifer is determined to find out the one responsible and see that they are punished.  This is of course showing us a softer side of the Devil than we are use to seeing.


I wonder if I called Dad he’d tell me who did it.

Now we meet the show’s second lead in the form of Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) who is assigned the Delilah murder case. Her ex-husband Dan (Nicolas Gonzalez) is also a homicide detective and he urges her to make this a simple open and shut case (why is never made clear other than to show he is a douchebag), but Chloe wants to do a thorough job which somehow entails teaming up with Lucifer Morningstar. And here is where the premise of the show gets really wobbly. If we let slide that a L.A. homicide detective would cruise around town with club owner, one who claims to be the actual immortal Lucifer, on a case that tangentially involves him is one thing (and that is a pretty big slide we are allowing here), but we are now expected to see her teaming up week in and week out with him on more cases. This makes even less sense than Detective Jane Porter teaming up with a jungle man to fight crime in the 2003 Tarzan series.


She even allows people to assume she is his partner.

I may not be an expert on the criminal code but even I know that impersonating an officer of the law is a big no-no, and I’m assuming at some point her fellow officers are going to ask who the hell that guy is that is helping her out on all these cases. We learn that due to a past event concerning a police shooting she is now ostracized by her fellow officers, and thus no one will be her partner, but I’m sorry a cop cannot have a civilian for a partner. Even in the zaniest buddy cop movie both people involved were actually cops. Even Hooch in Turner and Hooch was a police dog.


This is no 48 Hours.

At one point during their investigation they go to talk to Delilah’s psychiatrist (Rachael Harris) to find out who she was having an affair with, and Lucifer uses his super sexual powers of attraction to get the name from her and clinches the deal with an offer of powerfully sinful sex, yet at the end of the episode he returns to her for not just the promised sex but for her professional help as well. Clearly the writers were fans of The Sopranos.


I wonder, does the Devil have a good HMO?

Now for what works. Tom Ellis seems to be having a lot of fun playing Lucifer, and his chemistry with Lauren German is quite good. How the show develops this relationship will be one of the more crucial things that will decide if the show lasts or is cancelled. At the end of the episode she is not sure how he survived being shot at because she still doesn’t quite believe he is the Lucifer Morningstar, and this kind of thing can get old real fast.  I hope by the second episode she comes to grips with who she is actually working with.


“We can’t tell my mother, she is very Catholic and wouldn’t understand.”

Of course once she finally believes he is who he says he is the next problem will be in giving us a plausible reason for why she doesn’t grab her cute daughter (Scarlett Estevez) and run for the hills.  I’m also not completely sold on them being able to make a solid action drama when one of the main characters cannot be harmed by anything less than an act of God. Kind of takes the tension out of gun play and car chases. So yeah, I’m not quite sure this premise will work over the long haul, as likable as the lead characters are the very premise is just too shaky to function as such. I could be wrong, and really I hope I am, but if this makes it to season two I will be quite surprised.


Unless Lucifer whammies the ratings.

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