Lucifer S01E01 “Pilot” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Amazon Prime Instant Video, new episodes every Tuesday
Writer: Tom Kapinos
Director: Len Wiseman
Essential Plot Points:
- The devil, Lucifer Morningstar, is bored of tending Hell just because his dad told him he had to, and takes a vacation.
- He becomes a night club owner in LA (the city of Angels now has a bona fide fallen angel).
- He’s a very benign devil. Although not averse to using his powers of persuasion to his own advantage he also likes helping those he likes to achieve their potential. Even if this sometimes means tough love.
- So when a woman he helped to become a pop star is murdered outside his nightclub by hired hitmen he is determined to track down whoever paid them to do it.
- In the process he teams up with Chloe Dancer, a cop who used to be an actress, who’s also investigating the case.
- Lucifer recognises her because he’s seen he topless in Hot Tub High School.
- But her breasts aren’t the main thing he finds fascinating about her; she is also immune to his powers.
- Eventually they find the culprit; the pop star’s record producer who figured her death would increase sales of her album and his royalties. When they try to arrest him he repeatedly shoots Lucifer who remains unharmed. Chloe finally believes he may be the devil… especially when she gets fatally shot too and he saves her life.
- (Side details: Chloe has a daughter who instantly adores Lucifer despite the fact he hates kids; she also has an idiot of an ex who’s also a cop and who constantly tries to belittle her.)
- Oh, and another angel, Amenadiel, keeps turning up and trying to get Lucifer back to hell where, apparently, things are going to… erm… hell (sorry).
Lucifer is a comedy drama. On the basis of this first episode it’s nailed the comedy part of that combination but may have some work to do on the drama. There’s no denying this opening episode is massively entertaining, but the by the end of the pilot we have yet another investigative duo comprising a “quirky” male and a female cop, like we haven’t have enough of them already (Castle, The Mentalist, Sleepy Hollow, etc, etc, etc…). Which wouldn’t be so bad if the case-of-the-week had something special to offer. It doesn’t. It’s serviceable but ploddingly linear.
Luckily the show has a central character more than capable of carrying the show in the absence of a thrilling plot. Hell, not just carry it, but throw it into the stratosphere. Admittedly, a horny devil (gag © The Witches Of Eastwick) is an easy character to write, but Tom Ellis’s posh public schoolboy take on old Nick oozes charm, even when he’s being a complete dick. There’s the definite sense that without his powers his chat up technique would be deeply creepy but also that Lucifer himself is unaware of this, and the resulting misplaced self-confidence becomes oddly appealing in itself.
If anything, this devil is like Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor (but with more of a sex drive); not quite as in touch with the world as he thinks he is, not quite as tune with what makes people tick as he thinks and charming in a childlike way. Never is this parallel clearer that when he tells Chloe that he hates children, then remembers that she has one, and backtracks,“Yours is fine. I’m mean, nothing to crow about but nothing to be too embarrassed about either so that’s quite good, isn’t it?” But also when Chloe’s ex tells him, “I don’t know whether to laugh or shoot you,” and he replies, “Surprise me,” he sounds suspiciously like a certain Time Lord. Maybe it’s the accent. Even Chloe asks if he’s from “Planet London.”
Lauren German impresses in the more difficult “straight man” role. It’s actually quite refreshing to spunky female character who isn’t all kick-assy. Sure, she waves a gun on occaions, but Chloe’s more interesting because of her obvious inner grit and determination and he ability to call Lucifer out when he acting like an idiot. She casts a spell over the viewer every bit as much as the devil does.
So it’s slick, witty, glossy, sexy, fast-paced fun with a hint of will-the?/won’t-they? and the occasional smuttiness. But for once, the devil is not in the details; this is not a show that deals in subtlety. From the reveal that bar-demon Mazikeen is being pleasured down below during her opening conversation with Lucifer, to Lucifer pondering out loud, “Now do you think I’m the devil because I’m inherently evil or just because dear old dad decided I was?” and Amenadiel threatening all-out war in the coming plot arc, this show lays it on thick.
But you know what? If future episodes remain as beguiling bonkers as this opening one, it’ll probably get away with paper thin plots and gear-crunching plot mechanics. Sometimes broad comedy is preferable to deep themes.
- It’s very funny in places. The comedy highlight has to be the way Lucifer convinces 2Vile’s butler to let him into the house:
“I’’m here to see the man sadly known as 2 Vile. Is he in?”
“I’m sorry sir, he’s unavailable. He’s in mourning, I’m afraid.”
“I have narcotics for him.”
“Right this way sir.”
- Though you have to love the fact that Lucifer doesn’t moderate his language with kids:
“My name’s Beatrice. But everybody calls me Trixie.”
“That’s a hooker’s name.”
- The psychiatrist is hilarious too.
- Tom Ellis makes a very amusing, roguish and charming Lucifer with just enough cracks in the veneer to stop him being a complete caricature.
- Lauren German is great as Chloe Dancer too. Better yet, there’s a great chemistry between the two of them. Let’s hope they don’t get too mushy too soon because the Moonlighting-style bickering leads shtick is very watchable.
- The police procedural plot is wafer thin. If the show’s going to be case-of-the-week it’ll need to sharpen up in this department.
- Lucifer describes himself as, “I’m like walking heroine. Very habit forming. It never ends well.” Which is an excellent line but actually he seems more like walking Rohypnol, using his charm to make overpower women and make them want to sleep with him. Okay, this may be taking things to a PC extreme – and he is the devil, so he’s supposed to be a dodgy geezer – but there’s something a little distasteful about the way women throw themselves at him. Hopefully Chloe will call him up on it in a future episode.
- Occasionally it tips over from funny to downright stupid. The 2Vile scene could only work in a comedy because it would never play out like that in a straight drama.
And The Random:
- Lucifer is very, very loosely based on the character created by Neil Gaiman for The Sandman comics, though the series owes more (though not an awful lot more) to the Lucifer spin-off series written by Mike Carey.
- Director Len Wiseman also helmed the four Underworld movies, plus the pilots for Sleepy Hollow and the new version of Hawaii Five-0.
- DB Woodside is previously best known for playing Principal Robin Wood in the final season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Wayne Palmer (brother of President David Palmer) in 24 and Jeff Malone in Suits.
- The symbol of Christ on one side, and symbol of the Devil on the other. Two sides of the same coin, geddit? This show really doesn’t do subtlety.
- And talking of not doing subtlety… FALL1N1… fallen one…?
- Dear lord, what is that mutant Duckman/Spider-Man plastic statue thing? It’s freakier than a season of Hannibal.
Review by Dave Golder