This Lucifer review contains no spoilers.
Lucifer had a long road to Netflix. After Fox cancelled the procedural comic book adaptation in 2018 for the crime of having a consistent fanbase of mediocre numbers, the streaming service picked it up in a shock acquisition, and its strong fourth season appeared to do quite well in its new home. Lucifer fans were convinced that the show and its stars, Tom Ellis and Lauren German, would be back for a triumphant fifth season, but more mixed news arrived instead: Season 5 was a go, but this time it would be Lucifer’s last hurrah.
Bracing themselves for this summer’s final season, fans accepted that perhaps Lucifer had finally run its course – there was no huge resurgence of 2018’s invigorating #SaveLucifer campaign, Ellis wouldn’t be touring conventions and talk shows hyping up the possibility of another revival, and the cast presumably started looking for new roles elsewhere. Just as reality sunk in, though, reports started circulating that maybe Lucifer wasn’t quite so dead after all. Eventually, Netflix confirmed those reports and announced that a sixth season was happening, along with renewed assurances that this time it would definitely (definitely!) be the end of the road.
Season 5 already has a lot to live up to. The series’ fourth run on Netflix finally gave Chloe a chance to accept Lucifer for who he really was rather than keeping the truth just out of her reach. Then the show threw a spanner in the works with the arrival of Eve, who was said to be Lucifer’s first love. Eventually, Lucifer realized that wasn’t true, but he and Chloe’s long-awaited embrace turned into a devastating goodbye when he was forced to reaffirm his reign over Hell to protect those closest to him, and stop a potential demon invasion of Earth.
This season’s themes are set up deftly. The writing team is at the top of their game by now and know exactly how to construct each episode of the show. Before we know it, we’re sinking our teeth into the first case of the season, even as some gnawing interpersonal problems between the main players start to stack up in a typically frustrating fashion.
We’re used to finding the gang treading water in their own unique way as each season opens, and Season 5 quickly blesses us with that familiarity again. Dan is adorably insufferable, Maze takes every personal mission about fifteen steps too far, Chloe pretends everything is just fine, and Amenadiel tries to pick up the pieces and assert his usefulness.
Season 5 also offers our characters some interesting new challenges, and remarkably fresh dynamics emerge between them. It’s clear that the writers felt emboldened in their ambitions while they had an endpoint for the series in sight, and a spectacularly fun black and white noir episode in Season 5 takes some previously unseen risks with its storytelling – Lucifer’s ‘case of the week’ format is really starting to strain at the seams.
It feels like the erstwhile ‘finality’ of the show gave the cast a lot more permission to explore their characters. Not only are they clearly having a blast, they’re given room to flesh out what each of them mean to each other in a way they never have before, with Lesley-Ann Brandt in particular putting in some truly award-worthy work in the first set of eight episodes. Aimee Garcia’s endlessly-lovable Ella also gets to sink her teeth into an extended storyline, albeit one that will make you anxious for her the whole time it’s playing out.
In Season 5, Lucifer continues to hold up the flaws of humanity as a mirror to his own personal failings, and learns a little more about what it means to exist in a moral middle ground that’s neither heavenly nor truly evil. Part of the enduring appeal of the series is that nothing is ever as black or white as any of us wish it were, except for the purest love that we’re able to offer each other.
Lucifer certainly doesn’t linger in Hell for very long, but things are a little different by the time he absconds again. From his point of view, he’s been gone for thousands of years, and while he’s been away his identical twin brother Michael (yes, that old chestnut) has been determined to wreck the connections he still has on Earth, especially if he can’t snatch them for himself.
Of course, this series is rarely better than when star Tom Ellis gets free reign to shine, and Lucifer’s fifth season gives him twice the opportunity to do so – why have just one Tom Ellis on screen when you can have two for the same price?
Unfortunately, the addition of Lucifer’s twin brother Michael is a bit of a let-down compared to the show’s previous villains. In this first half of the season, he doesn’t get to be as delightfully manipulative as he potentially could have been. It’s a shame, but there’s much more to come in Season 5, as teased in its final twist. If the back half continues with the same level of ambition, we’ll be in for quite a ride.
In the meantime? Thank the Devil …it’s good to be back.