Fox’s new fantasy cop series Lucifer is set to premiere Monday, Jan. 25. Here’s our spoiler-free impression of the first three episodes made available for review (which might not actually be the first three episodes to air, but still)!
Fox’s new DC-based series Lucifer has no right to be as good as it is. Seriously.
Loosely based on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic, the series follows Satan after he decides to take a break from calling the shots in Hell and heads for the sunny climate of Los Angeles to open a bar. Oh, and for some reason he decides to start working with a cop to solve crimes. Yeah, it’s not that enticing as far as a logline goes, but in actual execution it just works.
Having seen the first three episodes of the show, I can say that it doesn’t take long at all to find its rhythm. Tom Ellis was a perfect casting choice to take up the mantle of Lucifer Morningstar, and he brings a charming darkness that really helps make this ridiculous premise believable. The pilot is entertaining as hell, and easily accessible. You really have a good sense of the series’ vibe by the end of the first episode, and they smoothly use Lucifer’s powers to fill in some of the obvious narrative leaps.
As for how he gets roped into working with LAPD Detective Chloe Decker? Basically, he gets bored of kicking around L.A., and after stumbling into a murder investigation, charms the police chief into letting him serve as a civilian adviser. His evil skill set, including the ability to get people to reveal their innermost secrets and desires, certainly comes in handy in the homicide division. Sure, it's a far cry from the show comic fans might have expected, but it really manages to soar as its own thing.
Beyond the straight-up procedural elements, Lucifer also does an excellent job of building its own mythology across the first three episodes made available for review — leading up to one heck of a good mystery. Lucifer is joined on Earth by Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt), his closest confidante and devoted ally (she also doubles as his de facto bodyguard). There’s also an angel, Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside), kicking around, who is trying to convince Lucifer to return to Hell and restore the balance between good and evil. As for that big mystery? We won’t spoil it, but it definitely ups the stakes considerably.
One of the biggest concerns when word broke that Fox would be adapting the comic is how they’d pull off the edginess on a major network. Which, sure, is Lucifer as dark as it could be if it were on FX or HBO? No, not really. But, it’s just dark enough to work, and that’s all that really matters. Ellis’ Lucifer has a brooding nonchalance brewing under the surface, along with a weird type of honor and kindness that goes just far enough to make him relatable, but not hokey. Heck, one subplot actually finds Lucifer trying to hash out his issues with the help of a therapist (who he’s also sleeping with, because he is the devil), which makes for a refreshing approach to exposition. Again, it shouldn’t really fit, but Ellis charms the pants (literally at times) off of this role.
Here’s how Ellis described his take on the character to the Toronto Sun:
“This guy likes to have fun. When you believe, one, that you're immortal, and two, that you're just better than everybody else, it lends itself to fun. The role doesn't have any of the classic things that one would assume about the devil. But there also was a flip side in that there was a kind of kindness to him. It's the thing that maybe people won't expect. Lucifer himself says (in the first episode), 'Am I the devil because I'm intrinsically evil, or am I the devil because dear old dad decided I was?' That's the crux of where we find him in the show.”
If you’re looking for a point of comparison, Lucifer is a spiritual sibling to everything from Angel, to Castle, to Constantine, to Moonlight. But, thanks to the fact that the character has a truly skewed moral compass, it gives the show a different kind of vibe. In a good way. Lucifer can veer from feeling betrayed because someone broke a deal (with the devil, literally), to giving less than a care about a dead security guard on a separate case. He’s working with the cops for the thrill and entertainment of it all, and makes no qualms about it. In a weird way, that apathy is kind of refreshing.
It's worth noting: Fox hasn’t had much luck the past few years with genre-tinged procedurals, with Almost Human and Minority Report failing to reach a second season, while Sleepy Hollow has seen its ratings tank (after a promising debut, to be sure) and the low-rated Second Chance has already been sentenced to its own Friday Night Death Slot. Dumping Lucifer out at midseason doesn't bode entirely well for its chances, I'm sorry to say.
Lucifer has a hard road to walk, no doubt — but this is a show that is definitely worth watching. Which is really all that matters, right?