People like to tell me things, those deep, dark, naughty little desires….
Lord of the Underworld, Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, El Diablo, Satan – he goes by many names, but is known to all as the Devil, or as he’s called in the title of Fox’s devilishly delightful new show, Lucifer. So, what does one do when they’re bored as hell of presiding over Hell? Well, come to Los Angeles, the City of Angels, of course. (Oh, just got that, nice.) While running a nightclub called Lux, Lucifer ends up investigating the death of a friend, or rather, someone he’s helped get ahead in life, and during the course of his inquiries, he pairs up with a female detective who, unlike everyone else, is immune to Lucifer’s persuasive and seductive charms, which fascinates him to no end. Together, she can put the bad guys away, while he can punish those most deserving. It’s a match made in heaven, and hell.
We’ve seen the Devil portrayed on screen plenty of times before. It’s generally a role an actor can really sink their teeth into and have fun with, which is why you get performances on film from acting legends like Robert DeNiro in Angel Heart, Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate and Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick. While playing Satan on the big screen offers a large enough challenge for an actor, portraying him on the small screen is an even tougher task, as the Evil One must have some appealing characteristics in order to be welcomed into people’s living rooms each week. Past incarnations of the Dark Lord on television have included animated versions on South Park and the excellent short-lived NBC show, God, the Devil and Bob. John Glover played him in the extremely dark and awesome one season of Brimstone. Ray Wise did a terrific comic, yet evil turn, in the two seasons of Reaper. And Mark Pelligrino is wonderfully wicked when he pops up on the long running Supernatural.
Naturally, a show like Lucifer, which already has an intriguing premise, rests its shoulders on its lead actor, and in this case, has found the perfect one in Tom Ellis. The Welsh actor is equal parts charming and dangerous, and clearly relishes delivering lines like, when speaking to a priest who’s about to pray, “While you’re at it, say hey for me. it’s been awhile.” Or when enticing a police officer with a bribe, “Why wouldn’t you, it’s fun. It feels good to get away with something, doesn’t it?” Lucifer’s partner/adversary is Chloe Decker, an L.A.P.D. homicide detective with an ex-husband, who’s her superior, and a young daughter, who takes a shine to the Unholy One. Chloe is played by the beautiful Lauren German, who you may know from an unforgettable appearance in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Eli Roth’s Hostel, Part II , as well as starring television roles in the mysterious Happy Town, and as a paramedic in NBC’s Chicago Fire. Here, she brings depth to her role as someone whose past is affecting her present, and is the perfect foil for Lucifer, not just because her no-nonsense, by-the-books approach is the complete opposite of his, but because she is the only one resistant to his allure. Let it be said that she provides quite an alluring look herself, and we’re glad to see her back on TV in a regular role worthy of her talents.
Rounding out the cast are a number of familiar faces. Kevin Alejandro, best known as Jesus on True Blood, plus the CW’s Arrow and Kevin Smith’s Red State, is Chloe’s ex-husband, who takes an instant dislike of Lucifer, and vice-versa. Lesley-Ann Brandt, who you might know from the Starz series, Spartacus and the SyFy movie, Zombie Apocalypse, plays Maze, bartender at Lux and Lucifer’s closest confidante. It’ll be interesting to learn more about her character as the season progresses. Landing the role of angel, Amenadiel, is D.B. Woodside, known previously for Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Principal Wood in the show’s final season, and as White House Chief of Staff and eventual President on 24. Here, he plays antagonist to Lucifer, trying to convince him to resume his duties in Hell.
Lucifer comes to us from Tom Kapinos, creator of the David Duchovny-starring Californication, and is based on the character originating in Neil Gaiman’s comic, The Sandman. As mentioned earlier, the Devil has been portrayed on screen before, but not in the starring role. In order to make that more palatable for audiences, this Lucifer seems less evil and more mischievous. As Maze tells him, “I’m worried the humans are rubbing off on you. Stop caring, you’re the Devil.” It’s an interesting approach making the Devil likeable. Furthering the aim to make Lucifer appealing to audiences is having him work to take down criminals. It’s reminiscent of Dexter, where they made a serial killer digestible for viewers by making him a serial killer of serial killers. Make a guy more likeable by having him go after those less likeable. It is this direction which has angered some who feel the Devil should only be shown as the immoral, vile, evil one he’s supposed to be, going so far as asking Fox to refrain from airing the show, or advertisers to pull their ads. While it’s OK to protest something you don’t agree with, they should realize it’s just a television show, a work of fiction. And there are those who consider the Devil himself nothing but a work of fiction.
If these protestors actually bothered to watch the show, which they undoubtedly haven’t, they’d see that in the pilot episode, Lucifer takes on those who are committing sinful acts. When a hip-hop artist (a form of music he detests), tells Lucifer a girl drove him crazy, Lucifer explains that “women can do that, doesn’t mean you should beat them up, does it?” And when confronting a young girl that’s been bullying Chloe’s daughter, he delights in saying, “Hello, mean girl. Did you know there’s a special section of hell reserved for bullies? So, have fun,” before scaring the hell out of her with his demonic eyes.
The show has fun with its premise. Lucifer drives a convertible with the license plate, FALL1N 1. Songs used in the pilot include Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” by Cage the Elephant, while David Bowie’s “Fame” serves as an intro to L.A. Hopefully, we’ll also hear some obvious choices down the road like AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” and Van Halen’s “Running with the Devil.”
Paired with Fox’s return of The X-Files on Monday night, Lucifer is in excellent company and off to a great start. While the Lucifer we see so far is enjoyable in this more appealing version, the Gore 4 does hope he gets to show his more devilish side in future episodes, maybe by snapping a neck or removing a limb or two. After all, he’s the Devil, not an angel.