Lucifer First Impressions
I’m really getting tired of these movies and TV shows that have some things I like but still have a lot of problems. Fox’s pilot adaptation of Mike Carey’s Vertigo Comics series Lucifer is another one of those. There’s a couple of things I really like, and some things I REALLY don’t. Read on for more.
This is normally where I talk the plot, but I don’t really want to do that for this one, and I will get into why later. Instead, I will talk about the things I liked first. The biggest pro for this series is Lucifer himself. Tom Ellis plays Lucifer Morningstar with a surprising range of expressions and emotions beyond simple charming seduction or smug arrogance. It’s unclear how much of this character is in the writing and how much is in the performance and direction, but given that the writing everywhere else is so poor, I’m going to give it to the latter. Some of the characters come off okay, but they don’t really get any chance to shine in this episode.
The plot goes as follows. Satan has taken a vacation from Hell (just go with it for now), and is running a club. He runs into a faltering pop star he helped in the past who is abruptly murdered by a drug dealer who then dies in a car crash, but not before admitting he killed her because he was paid to. He is interviewed by LAPD, namely Detective Chloe Dancer (Lauren German), who is told by her superiors to quickly close the case and not dig into it so as to not repeat an apparent mistake in a previous case. The rest is every buddy cop TV show ever made just with the Devil.
As stated above, the biggest problem with the pilot is the writing. This episode’s script is awash in cop TV clichés (not surprising since it’s produced by Jerry Bruckheimer) and does not really take advantage of its supernatural elements yet. The crime isn’t supernatural, the criminal isn’t supernatural, and it goes through all of the procedural stuff at warp speed by simply having Lucifer use his powers of influence to have suspects say what they would normally say in an episode of Law and Order after some evidence is collected. The closest we get to anything supernatural is that an angel named Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) who apparently hates Lucifer is ordering him to return to Hell or face a potential war (which is also rather cliché at this point) and that the bartender at Lucifer’s club is a demonic companion named Mazikeen (Lesley-Anne Brandt) who is worried that Satan is starting to care too much about humans. That’s about it.
Normally I wouldn’t be that upset about cliché and boring writing like this. As a matter of fact, CBS’s Supergirl started with painfully cliché writing and that series turned around once it got past its awkward beginnings. However, this is Lucifer Morningstar, a character spin-off from Neil Gaiman’s famous Vertigo Comics Sandman series. Much like how Death has such a compelling and interesting characterization in those comics, the same is true of Lucifer. The idea of a Satan suffering an existential crisis of both desiring to torment and punish the wicked who truly deserve it while still genuinely liking people and questioning whether his betrayal of God was of his own accord or just some decision that God made for him to fit into a specified role is fascinating. Some of that characterization is coming through in Tom Ellis’s portrayal, but the writing of the plot is so pedestrian and standard that it hardly allows any effective use of this compelling character. Also, outside of the fact that Det. Dancer is immune to Lucifer’s seductive powers, there is nothing interesting going on with the extended cast so far.
I want to give Lucifer a chance. There are some ideas set up for subsequent plot threads for the rest of the season, and Tom Ellis relishes everything he gets to do with this complex character. However, the plot is so bog standard and the supporting cast are subsumed by the cop clichés that define them. Might be good going forward (I’m honestly still surprised how much Supergirl has turned around), but this isn’t the series putting its best foot forward.