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More often than not, explaining to the average viewer that a show called Lucifer is better than it seems at first glance is a real challenge. Lucifer — which first aired on Fox in January 2016 and is based on DC Comics characters created for the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, and Mike Dringenberg — had what can fairly be called a rocky start. The show gained a cult following over time as it found its footing, though, and when Fox announced the series would be canceled after Season 3, fans made enough hubbub online that Netflix swooped in like an avenging (fallen) angel to pick it up.
With a larger budget and no broadcast constraints, Lucifer unleashed hell (sorry) in the best way possible in Season 4, cranking up the stakes and leaning into a world that often felt so separate from and unencumbered by our own that it came across as an entirely different planet. For this, Lucifer Season 4 got quite a bit of love, but if you ask me, not enough, which is why I'm calling it a hidden gem — literally every person in the world should watch it, and since that is not yet the case, my decision stands.
The best way I’ve found to explain Lucifer is this: Think of just about any binge-worthy procedural cop show with groan-worthy one-liners and interdepartmental drama — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Criminal Minds, NCIS, what have you — and add the devil as a civilian consultant. But in this case, the devil isn't evil and he's not looking to create chaos, per se. He’s hilarious and he knows it. And his name is, I s**t you not, Lucifer Morningstar, because no one’s ever accused him of being subtle.
For fans of Gaiman's Good Omens, think of it as a show about Crowley if he discovered cocaine, moved to LA, teamed up with the police, and took a few stand-up classes.
As played by Tom Ellis, Lucifer’s Lucifer is a dark-eyed, impish British man who wears thousand-dollar suits, owns a nightclub in downtown Los Angeles, and has a bad habit of projecting his incredibly deep-set daddy issues onto police cases. The moments in which you do see Lucifer’s true form — his fire-and-brimstone “devil face” — are played up as being so disturbing for the humans who witness them that they often go mad. The mere sight of Lucifer’s hellfire-red, scarred skin is enough to convince humans that the devil is very real.
Not that Lucifer necessarily hides who he is. In fact, he’s more than happy to tell everyone all about it, regularly announcing that he is the actual devil, king of hell. His father is God. He rebelled and was banished from heaven. Then he got bored of ruling hell, so he abdicated his throne and is currently in the middle of an extended vacation on Earth. It’s all very reasonable.
Naturally, everyone thinks he’s delusional, including his therapist, Dr. Linda Martin (Rachael Harris), who sees Lucifer’s insistence of his being the devil as a coping mechanism, and his LAPD partner, Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German), who just thinks he’s crazy. Not that their doubt stops him from making giddy comments about heaven and hell and laughing at his own devil jokes. Because he does. Constantly.
The only people who really know Lucifer’s true identity from the beginning (and believe him) are his self-appointed protector and hell’s best torturer, the demon Mazikeen, aka Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt), and Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside), an angel and Lucifer’s brother. While these characters develop and grow throughout the show, they are, at first glance, cut-and-dry. Maze is prickly, overtly sexualized, and loves knives; Amenadiel, serious and prone to self-righteous lectures, is on a mission from their father to convince Lucifer to return to hell.
Lucifer, though, doesn’t take too well to being told what to do by his dad. He’s his own devil and he’ll keep doing what the devil does best: Convince people to throw away their inhibitions and act on their free will. Lucifer certainly does. But because humans are deeply imperfect creatures, they often get themselves into a lot of trouble when doing so.
It’s actually Lucifer’s own dealings in human affairs that bring him to Decker, an actress-turned-detective and single mom. In the first episode, she and Lucifer meet after a pop star Lucifer helped becomes famous and is killed in front of him. Lucifer, being the devil, is all about the quid pro quo of favors, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t sympathetic to humans. In fact, he kind of adores humans — often similar to how humans adore their pets. So when Decker is assigned to the case, Lucifer helps out with his powers of persuasion.
And they are literal powers, though Decker and everyone else just marvels at how convincing he is. All Lucifer has to do is hold eye contact with someone, ask them what they desire, and their deepest, often darkest impulses come bubbling to the surface. Sometimes people cop to murder; other times a grown man will admit he always dreamed of being a ballerina (a goal to which Lucifer would give his full support, by the way).
While Lucifer’s involvement with the LAPD is as a civilian consultant, he quickly entrenches himself within the department and latches on to Decker, who is bemused and irritated by Lucifer in equal measure. At first, Lucifer sticks around because he wants to woo Decker into sleeping with him and because he finds this whole “solving a murder” thing fun. Eventually, though, he can’t see himself doing anything else, and the other members of the LAPD simply accept his constant interruption around the precinct.
A guy who insists he’s the devil works for the LAPD, and that’s that.
Without giving anything away: Lucifer is a story about forging your own path. As these so-called mythical creatures, angels and demons and, eventually, much more, strike out on their own and stray from their appointed lots in life, they struggle with finding anything to fulfill them. When you were personally made by the creator of all life in the universe and given a specific task, why would you do anything else?
If you ask Lucifer, it’s because life’s just more fun that way.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.