Lucifer: The Would-Be Prince of Darkness Review

It would seem the third time’s the charm with Fox’s guilty-pleasure procedural, Lucifer.

This Lucifer review contains spoilers.

Lucifer: Season 1, Episode 3

I know I’ve been tough on this show, but I have to admit that tonight’s episode of Lucifer was the best one of the season so far. It was impish and clever, doling out cheeky quips and asides in equal measure. This is not to say the show was without its issues, because that’s not entirely true. Problems still abound, but they’re not as egregious as they could be, and that’s progress of a sort, no?

Just as before, the case of the week is a means to an end, throwing Lucifer and Chloe together as an unlikely pair of crime-solvers. This is all well and good, but the writers need to find a more organic way of bringing these partners together. True, there were glimmers in tonight’s episode of working past that. It’s obvious each is an enigma to the other. For Chloe, he’s the ultimate nut in need of cracking. Clearly he has a way of charming the pants off people, both figurative and literally. Weirder still, he seems bulletproof, which would be understandably baffling to someone who doesn’t buy the whole Lucifer shtick. Except it’s not a shtick, as we all know — and being in on the ongoing joke is part of this show’s allure. So it’s this peeling back of the onion’s many layers that keeps Chloe hooked. Lucifer is a man of many secrets, even if he’s not one for secret identities. He’s familiar with stolen identities, however, but more on that in a bit.

As for what keeps drawing Lucifer to Chloe — it’s that same enigma angle. Chloe Decker is still a mystery to him. And, indeed, it appears that all humans are enigmatic to him, not just Chloe. As I’ve said before, the devil should be the best student of human nature, steeping himself in the foibles that define fragile mortal egos. That’s not the tall order it sounds like. After all, this is the very progenitor of temptation we’re talking about, the literal devil on the weak person’s shoulder, willing them to make ruinous choices. We actually get a glimpse of Lucifer fulfilling this role in the episode’s opening moments, as he encourages a woman to leap to her death from the roof. This quickly turns out to be a bit of misdirection, but it made me long to see Lucifer live up to his true potential as the Prince of Darkness.

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This is something Maze and I have in common. No one wants to see the devil squander his talents for committing twisted acts of unadulterated malevolence, and yet Lucifer can’t seem to let go of his inhibitions. I appreciate the irony of the devil wrestling with his demons, but I don’t know if his existential dilemma is enough to carry a whole series — especially not past its first season.

The procedural aspect of the show is certainly not its strongest suit — not yet at least. Tonight’s whodunit involves a squeaky-clean star athlete named Ty Huntley who’s framed for murdering one of his partygoers. The case contains the usual plot twists and red herrings that are essential to the genre, but, again, solving crimes is incidental to this show and its appeal. These weekly murders are just an excuse for throwing Lucifer and Chloe together. The two played well off each other tonight, locking horns (as it were) over actual procedure versus simply breaking the law in order to uphold it. Lucifer has a knack for tracking down leads…and Chloe has a knack for following his trail of breadcrumbs. Was the killer Ty’s possessive ex-girlfriend? Was it his jealous agent? Does it even matter? The actual “why” of it matters on procedurals like CSI, where the breadcrumbs themselves often share the spotlight with the diligent investigators.

I found the storyline about Lucifer’s stolen identity to be the more interesting case, even if the actual confrontation with the impersonator was a bit anticlimactic. But that’s the point — watching Lucifer’s anger suddenly dissipate like the smoke of only so much brimstone. Maze’s disappointment in him is palpable. And this again is where the series walks a fine line in the way it portrays its main character. What makes for better television — an antihero who avenges the innocent, or a true antagonist who acts in his own selfish best interests? Lucifer can’t have it both ways.

His therapist puts a nice bow on this week’s epiphany when she explains that he seems to be seeking justice for the good guys, rather than simply punishing the evil ones. This would be fine if the show were satirizing the idea of therapy itself, but if so, it’s very tepid satire at best. I like Rachael Harris well enough, but her Dr. Martin character just isn’t right for this show. Better to leave the devil to his own devices, to fend for himself in the confusing world of troubled humans. Don’t spell out his problems (and their solutions) for us every week. To do so is a disservice not only to a potentially complex character, but to Lucifer’s viewers as well. Kill your darlings, as the saying goes.

All in all, I’m happy to see the show take a turn for the better, and would like to see it build on the idea of a devil hell-bent on justice for the just.

Some closing thoughts:

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Seriously, why is Lucifer never a suspect in these cases, especially if he always turns at crime scenes? More to this point, why would Chloe ever enlist the aid of someone she thinks is not mentally stable?

There were a few good lines tonight, including an exchange between Lucifer and Chloe in which he insists he doesn’t want to be stuck with a bunch of miscreants. To which Chloe retorts, “These are your people!”

Another interesting bit was Lucifer declaring he didn’t want his impersonator, a second-rate lothario, diluting the “Lucifer brand.” I like the idea of a devil concerned with staying on brand. More of this cheekiness, please.

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3.5 out of 5