In the Bible, the devil is described as a red-colored, horned being with a pitchfork and a malevolent spirit. But in pop culture, the devil has taken on many more distinctive appearances. Al Pacino played Satan disguised as the evil head of a law firm in the 1997 thriller “The Devil’s Advocate.” Actor and comedian Jason Sudeikis parodied the Biblical figure in several Weekend Update segments on “Saturday Night Live,” wearing a cartoonishly bright red devil outfit and talking about inventing every terrible attribute of the Internet. In the 2013 apocalyptic comedy “This Is The End,” the devil was depicted as a gigantic, CGI demon that butt-fucked Jonah Hill. This year, the devil is once again taking a new form, this time as a womanizing British nightclub owner named Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis, “Miranda”) in FOX’s mystical crime dramedy “Lucifer.” And it may just be the best on screen portrayal of the devil yet.
Adapted from the character of the DC Comics series “The Sandman,” “Lucifer” transcends its familiar police procedural format by employing sleek visuals, a charismatic lead and stylish production values. Bored with ruling the underworld, Lucifer decides to live in Los Angeles (the “City of Angels,” get it?) and successfully manages an upscale nightlife hotspot called Lux. But after witnessing the death of his close friend, beloved pop star Delilah (AnnaLynne McCord, “Nip/Tuck”), Lucifer seeks to punish her killers — as well as the rest of the human scum on Earth — with the help of LAPD Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German, “Chicago Fire”). The premise sounds very conventional and somewhat derivative, but given its comic book roots, “Lucifer” is bound to boast some enthralling material.
Though most of the script is bland, there are some moments of captivating dialogue, especially with Lucifer and Detective Decker. The two have a fun banter and the sexual tension between them is evident, but what’s even more alluring about their relationship is how Decker is immune to Lucifer’s telepathic ability of uncovering people’s deepest, darkest secrets. This is what keeps Lucifer — and the audience — intrigued, and it’s arguably the strongest aspect of the series thus far. “Lucifer” ’s incredible alt-rock soundtrack is also surprisingly apt for the show; it includes songs like Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut,” Cage the Elephant’s “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and The Black Keys’s “Sinister Kid.”
At times, however, “Lucifer” can be scattershot and tonally uneven. The camera captures some beautiful shots with unconventional angles, but the choppy editing stagnates the show’s pacing. Additionally, the show doesn’t seem so sure of what genre it wants to stick with; it shifts uncomfortably from comedy to thriller to drama. While Ellis makes a few clever, snarky quips, some of the supposedly “funny” parts of the show are cringeworthy, particularly in the scene in which Lucifer seduces Delilah’s therapist Linda (Rachael Harris, “Suits”). Unfortunately, the action sequences aren’t spectacular either and far from thrilling, as they utilize the slow-motion effect to a fault.
But unlike other darker and sillier versions of the Devil in TV and film, “Lucifer” and its protagonist are much more developed. Ellis brings both the sex appeal and pathos for a character who’s a notoriously cruel, unforgiving force against the most sinful and depraved of people. He’s similar to David Tennant’s sinister Kilgrave from Netflix’s “Jessica Jones,” except with a little bit more empathy and likability. Underneath Lucifer’s smug confidence (he’s immortal, after all), his sympathy for Decker and refusal to live in the underworld again give him an emotional edge. Even the striking Lauren German brings energy and skill to her role as Detective Decker, which could have been another cookie-cutter cop sidekick.
Considering its genre and content, “Lucifer” may draw comparisons to other supernatural/crime TV shows, like the CW’s “iZombie” or FOX’s “Sleepy Hollow.” When juxtaposed with the light-hearted cleverness of “iZombie” or dark aesthetics of “Sleepy Hollow,” “Lucifer” is a second-rate program. But once it learns to find its footing, “Lucifer” can hopefully join the high ranks of those two shows and the rest of television programming.