In the past, TV was thought of as the place for low budget, easily digestible escapism. That perception changed as shows started giving us stories about psychologically complex mobsters, existentially depressed school teachers, mysterious advertising agents, nihilistic policemen and morally grey knights. These captivating characters attracted the biggest stars, biggest budgets and most talented writers. The so called ‘Golden age of TV’ has given audiences an impressive library of complex and powerful stories, many of which rival the best cinema has to offer. A humble police procedural doing what it can with a TV budget seems like a distant memory. Evidently, a show like Lucifer (2016 – Current) sticks out like a sore thumb, as it’s exactly the kind of fluff many networks stopped making in the mid 2000s. However, is that a bad thing?
Based on DC Comics characters created by Neil Gaiman, the show follows the adventures of Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis), the actual Biblical Devil, who has left his thrown as the King of Hell to live as a nightclub owner in Los Angeles, the ‘City of Angels’. He spends most of his time as a police consultant and partner to Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German), using his devilish powers to catch criminals. Over the four previous seasons, Lucifer has battled with bad guys, biblical figures and people trying to banish him back to hell. Throughout it all, Lucifer and Chloe have grown close, constantly on the edge of becoming an item. Sadly, Lucifer is back as the King of Hell following the events of Season 4, leaving Chloe and his various friends alone in LA. Things aren’t going to get easier, as Lucifer’s twin brother (the archangel Michael) has arrived, intent on taking Lucifer’s place on earth.
TV show concepts don’t get much more bonkers than a crime fighting devil. There is something inherently ridiculous about the idea, which the show has been keenly aware of ever since it found its footing in Season 2. When you think of Devils, Demons, Angels, Heaven and Hell, the first things that come to mind are robes, wine, wafers, churches and prayer. Lucifer has other things on it’s mind, shining a light on leather jackets, alcohol, sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, nightclubs and musical numbers (often performed by the Devil himself). The dissonance is key to the show’s appeal and continues to be its greatest strength, as there’s plenty of fun to be had seeing these biblical characters make a mess of things. Additionally, it’s quietly clever seeing how these immortal angels and demons change with the times, as punctuated by a standout episode which flashes back to the 1940s.
Lucifer has always been at its best when it embraces the humour in its premise. This first half of Season 5 doesn’t disappoint, as it goes all out on the show’s trademark style of cheesy comedy. It’s barely a police procedural anymore, as it’s less concerned with a chilling mystery than it is the laugh-out-loud antics of a devil and angel taking turns to manage an angel/human hybrid baby. The comedy has never been stronger, as the show has essentially jettisoned much of the drama from every story arc. This has resulted in nearly all the characters acting as their own comic relief. While this does make for enjoyable viewing, it can be hard to see where the story is actually going as the constant slapstick can feel aimless. Happily, we’re still mostly invested in characters at this point, many of whom continue to be charming.
Tom Ellis embodies the character of Lucifer just as effortlessly as Christopher Reeve embodied Superman. For all of the show’s nonsense, it’s still wonderfully addictive seeing Ellis’ cheeky performance, as he displays a near perfect marriage or good and evil. Lucifer is the hero and he almost exclusively does heroic things, but it’s fascinating to note that Ellis still plays the character as infectiously evil. In any other setting, you’d immediately think that Lucifer was the villain. As far as TV anti-heroes go, it’s a slightly subversive performance and highlights Ellis’ talent. As an added bonus, Ellis even gets to play opposite himself as the archangel Michael, which results in some enjoyable sequences when they get into a brawl. Despite giving two very different performances, Ellis isn’t the most valuable player this time around.
The previous four seasons mostly focused on Lucifer’s arc, as he would often equate whatever mystery he’s wrapped up in to be directly related to his crisis of conscious. It’s still his show, but the spotlight has shifted to Lauren German as Detective Chloe Decker. Many of the plot threads of the previous seasons have come to a head, resulting in Chloe being aware of her role in Lucifer’s world. It’s a nice change of pace to give Chloe the driver’s seat, as she has more agency than ever before and is the main source of what little drama there is. It’s not a complete home run, as her added character motivation has led her story into having some eye-rolling clichés. Granted, it has also led to some monumental payoffs audiences have been clamouring for since the beginning of the show. There’s every chance that Part 2 will wrap it all up in a satisfying package.
While the show is still providing viewers with comedy, action, fun and heart, it has taken a few steps back in terms of the police procedural aspect. The various cases and criminal mysteries aren’t given the the same level of attention as the celestial adventures. Many of the episodes follow an easily predictable villain of the week structure, which was always the show’s weakest element dating back to Season 1. Season 2 and the brilliant Season 3 managed to use the template to its advantage, crafting episodes which displayed many standout storylines. To be clear, Season 5 Part 1 isn’t without unique episodes, but the best the show has to offer is clearly being held back until Part 2 (Not to mention the pandemic halting production). With that in mind, the best moments from this first half prove that Lucifer’s best adventures are still coming, which is of course a good thing. Besides, this Season’s action sequences rival any of the show’s climatic fights.
In the sea of dark, brooding, and morose TV shows, it’s kind of funny to consider that the one about the devil is light and breezy. No one is accusing Lucifer of being high art, nor is it trying to be. It’s a show that knows it belongs in an older time and takes full advantage of that fact. It leans into the cheese and doesn’t care if it’s not your thing. That kind of passion is hard to ignore and is definitely the reason why Lucifer is so addictive. Sometimes its nice to watch a show that wants you to just kick back, relax, have a laugh and enjoy all the cool things you liked when you were 12.
Best way to watch it: With a beer and lots of junk food.