This Lucifer review contains spoilers.
Lucifer: Season 1, Episode 2
Fox’s new devil-may-care series Lucifer stumbled out of the gate with its pilot, giving us a half-baked Satan and a lot of squandered potential. The concept is simple: Bad guy solves crimes. And not just any bad guy — the bad guy, the guy who got all of humanity off on the wrong foot and forever booted out of Eden. On paper, Law & Order by way of Dominion with a dash of Supernatural and a pinch of Constantine should be quite a romp, brimming with quips and the occasional otherworldly scares. But this show doesn’t quite have its wings yet — and I wonder if it will ever ascend to genre-defying (or at least genre-defining) heights.
I fault the writing for a lot of this. Giving Satan a bit of an identity crisis is a good start. So is giving him a bad case of empathy. But while a more emotionally complex devil is a good thing, this is also where the show grapples with its own identity crisis. Is Lucifer a procedural show? Is it a supernatural drama? Is it a tongue-in-cheek study in human nature vis-à-vis the lens of evil incarnate? Even if the latter were true, the show doesn’t trust its viewers to reach their own conclusions about Lucifer, and so chooses to telegraph and/or spoon-feed vital character insights via clunky, heavy-handed dialogue and exposition.
Whatever the case may be, that the show’s main character is the devil was incidental to tonight’s episode. Basically, he’s a walking plot device, showing up at various points in the story when it’s convenient to have a character reveal some vital piece of information that would otherwise remain buried. And tonight’s whodunit of the week, about murderous paparazzi, wasn’t very compelling. Which meant either Lucifer or Chloe’s storylines had to take up the slack, which they failed to do.
In Lucifer’s case, he’s still grappling with unexpected feelings for Chloe, the one person still not taken in by his charms. She’s an enigma to him, and it’s driving him a bit batty. Meanwhile, his would-be partner still doesn’t believe Lucifer is who he claims to be, even after surviving being shot several times and suffering no ill effects from said fusillade. There’s a similar moment in tonight’s episode, when Lucifer seems to magically appear behind Chloe in the blink of an eye. There are only so many times this sort of thing can happen before it grows predictable.
And while we’re on the subject of Chloe — she’s still a cop with something to prove. But, again, she is not given to moments of keen deduction. Instead, we’re presented with a LAPD detective with a credible lead, namely a possible suspect who’s been posting photos from a party in progress for the last hour. But rather than heading straight to this party, she instead decides to track down Lucifer at his club where she confronts him about his aforementioned resistance to bullets. Really? It’s hard to root for someone who makes such obviously terrible choices. A real cop (with something to prove) wouldn’t give a delusional person like Lucifer the time of day. If anything, she’d try to distance herself from him as much as possible. To be fair, she’s clearly intrigued with him, too. There’s no real chemistry between these two, though, no playful spark. In the end, they just rub each other the wrong way.
The best part of tonight’s episode was its opening scene, in which Lucifer confronts a street preacher who claims the devil walks among us but refuses to see that he is staring Old Scratch right in the eye. But Lucifer doesn’t suffer liars or charlatans. He sets the preacher straight, of course, much the same way he set John Pankow’s Jimmy Barnes straight last week by showing him the true face of evil. But I can see even this sort of thing getting old, too.
At the end of the day, Lucifer needs to decide if it’s a show about human nature with an evil streak, or a show about evil with a human streak. Right now it’s neither. Even the devil himself deserves better than that.
Some closing thoughts:
Miranda Rights? We don’t need no stinking Miranda Rights. The things Lucifer gets away with by altering crime scenes and barging into interrogation rooms would have made characters’ heads spin over at producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s now-defunct CSI.
Does it bother anyone else that we never get to see the angel Amenadiel fly off? All we get is a quick camera cut and the sound of flapping wings. Maybe I’m spoiled by two seasons of Dominion, but I really need to see Lucifer’s brother spread his wings.
Hearing Lucifer tickle out “King of Pain” on the old ivories was cute, but these sorts of references may soon wear out their welcome.