All Hail 'Lucifer' – The Best TV Show of Our Time
How a show that features the devil is actually about love, acceptance, and second chances.
These days, with multiple networks overflowing with content, TV shows are a dime a dozen. Most are meh, some pretty good, but it’s rare to find one that is simply outstanding; Lucifer is one. On the surface it might seem that its sole purpose is to entertain, but there is so much more to the show. It is because it has so many layers, the writing is so good, and it has such a powerful message on top of being plain good fun that I love it so devotedly.
I’m a latecomer to Lucifer. If it was ever aired on regular TV here in New Zealand, I missed it and only recently noticed it listed in my Netflix recommendations. I assumed it must be a show about some blood-thirsty vigilante seeking violent retribution, so I gave it a pass. Then I stumbled onto the trailer for season 4 and discovered that the show was actually more of a spoof, and as I was going through a bit of a dark patch at the time and in need of some dark comedy, I decided to give it a go.
I was a devoted fan within the first two minutes of episode 1, season 1 and binge-watched the first three seasons within a week, effectively curing myself of my dark mood. Spoiler alert, the humor in Lucifer isn’t really dark—it’s more witty and irreverent.
By the time I had finished season 3 I learned that there very nearly wasn’t a season 4. The show had been cancelled by Fox at the end of season 3 and it was only after a huge campaign by fans to keep the show alive that Netflix came to the rescue. Like everyone else, I was completely dumbfounded at how the Fox powers-that-be could choose to ax such an amazing show. Thank Lucifer’s dad (not that he had anything to do with it) Netflix saved the show. As I missed the whole #SaveLucifer campaign, which I would most certainly have been a part of, this article is my contribution towards campaigning for a season 5, if not more, of the show.
The story in a tightly-stuffed nutshell
If you’re not familiar with the show then let me outline the basic story. After rebelling against his dad, God, the angel Lucifer is banished to hell to live out eternity doling out punishment to sinners. Every so often he takes a vacation to Earth and we enter the story on his latest vacay after he’s been living in LA (it is the city of angels after all) for the last five years and has no intention of returning to hell—he’s had enough of being blamed for all evil and being forced to punish—so he’s enjoying life as a nightclub owner indulging in wine, women, and song. When one of his lady friends is murdered, he is drawn into the investigation where he meets Chloe Decker, the detective on the case. She is strangely immune to his devilish charms and this intrigues Lucifer to find out more. Thus, in exchange for a favor (something he does well—you know, the whole "deal with the devil" thing) he gets himself appointed as consultant to the LAPD homicide division—he does have a rather unique talent for drawing out confessions. As he spends time with Chloe, he discovers that she makes him vulnerable and realizes that this means he can change, that he doesn’t have to be what history has painted him as and that he may have a chance at redemption, and so with the help of his therapist, Dr. Linda Martin, he starts on a path of self-reinvention while struggling with the conflicting aspects of who he is—devil and angel, punisher and protector, celestial being and man.
If it’s about the devil, it must be anti-religion, right? Wrong.
If you are a rigid devout Christian, then yes, I guess any comedy show with characters from the Bible is likely to offend. However, if you’re open-minded and give the show a chance you’ll see that it’s anything but anti-Christianity. It doesn’t mock or criticize Christianity—rather, it calls out those who profess to be religious but fail to follow Christian values, those who use religion for profit or as justification to spread hate yet lack real faith in their so-called beliefs. In this age, when people are quick to blame anyone but themselves, the show’s message is about taking responsibility for one’s own actions.
This scene, which is one of my favorites, puts it perfectly.
A show can have an all-star cast and big budget, but to me it is caliber of the writing that sets a show apart and the writing in Lucifer is outstanding. There are so many layers—comedic, heart-warming, thought-provoking. For a wordsmith such as myself, watching the show is like sipping a fine wine—the flavor, the depth, the dialogue, the imagination, the wit, Lucifer’s eloquent use of English—so exquisitely satisfying. And so clean; it’s not crude or littered with foul language. The only swear words used are the occasional impeccably-placed "bullocks," "bugger," or "shit."
To the writers of the show, I salute you.
Okay, so the devil does indulge in life’s guilty pleasures, though despite the shameless sexual innuendos, the many scantily-clad women parading through Lucifer’s nightclub and apartment and the frequency with which Lucifer appears shirtless or drops his pants, the show is surprisingly devoid of full-on sex scenes. Remarkably refreshing when some shows’ sex scenes teeter on borderline porn. In a time when very little is left to the imagination anymore, Lucifer succeeds in the forgotten art form of titillation. As Tom Ellis has put it in several interviews, the show is "naughty, cheeky without being gratuitous." It’s the kind of show you can watch with your parents without feeling awkward.
To this end, one must thank Tom Ellis for creating such a yummy character for us terminally-single ladies (or whatever your gender orientation, the show is entirely inclusive) who need to get our eye candy from somewhere… mmm, that luscious chest, that perky bum. And I am awfully partial to a handsome man in a suit and as Lucifer doesn’t have anything else in his wardrobe, I’m never disappointed. Oh and that proper English spoken with his beautiful accent is quite the aphrodisiac, not to mention the disheveled look when an errant wisp of hair brushes across his forehead—one might actually spontaneous combust. [Oh dear, did I just say all that out loud? Clears throat. Hmm, where was I?]
Hell – we're already there.
The way the show portrays the concept of hell is simply brilliant. In the Lucifer world, hell isn’t all fire and brimstone, but rather sinners are confined to cells where they continuously relive the moment from their lives that they feel most guilty about, in a kind of virtual reality loop. Essentially, they end up punishing themselves with their own guilt over and over. In addition, Lucifer says that there are no locks on the doors and that people could leave hell any time they want, yet they never do.
This says so much about how we live our lives right now—beating ourselves up over choices we make and our own self-perceived failings. At any time we could forgive ourselves and move on, yet we prefer to indulge in endless cycles of self-flagellation and self-pity.
The masks we wear to please others
A lot of this self-flagellation comes from the efforts we go to, to live up to others’ expectations and hide who we truly are.
Throughout season 1 and the beginning of season 2, Lucifer’s therapist believes he is talking about himself as the devil as a metaphor to avoid facing a hidden truth. It never occurs to her that he is being completely honest. He trusts and respects her, so when he does finally reveal his truth self, the hurt he feels at her initial reaction is painfully palpable and so relatable.
Like Lucifer, most of us have a part of ourselves that we keep hidden, afraid that if others see it they will reject us. If we do let it show and we’re rejected for it, it only reinforces the belief that we are flawed and undeserving of love. Eventually we might come to hate ourselves for those things or for how much we change ourselves to please others. We might even push people away, rejecting them before they have a chance to reject us. We all face the conundrum that Lucifer faces—who are we really if we keep parts of ourselves hidden and become someone we’re not just to please others?
One of the problems of always trying to please others is that we see the word "no" as a bad thing. I felt the pressure to never disappoint my parents from a very early age—it stems from being an only child and being the sole focus of your parents’ hopes and expectations. Later, in addition to trying to please my parents, I went on to trying to please my teachers, friends, bosses, colleagues, partners… I ended up exactly as Dr. Linda warns Lucifer: if you try pleasing everyone, you pull yourself in different directions and eventually you tear yourself apart. You end up having no idea who you truly are.
I’ve wasted a lot of my life trying to please people only to realize that in the end they never appreciated my efforts and I only ended up disappointing myself because I allowed myself to feel ashamed of the things I valued most about myself. I sacrificed my dreams to make others happy and I only have myself to blame because I was too scared to say the word "no." Watching Lucifer has been good for me—we have very similar daddy issues and struggles with self-identity—so I paid much attention to his therapy sessions. It’s like Dr. Linda was talking to me too. I’m taking a lot of her advice to heart—no more feeling guilty about who I am, no more hiding the true me, no more sacrificing what I want. From now on I’m following the WWLD system—what would Lucifer do? Lucifer has inspired me to hope that it might not be too late for me to follow my dreams. If Lucifer, evil-incarnate, can be given a second chance, can redeem himself, then maybe I can too. [Just to be clear, I don’t consider myself evil, rather my "sins" are of being an idealist, a dreamer, feeling "too much," and being "too intense."]
To love means being vulnerable
Sadly it’s in romantic relationships that we often hide our true selves the most and of course that never ends well.
At its heart is a deeply-touching beauty-and-the-beast-style love story about two complete opposites who bring out the best in each other. Lucifer annoys Chloe greatly with his often childish antics, yet she sees in him a great capacity for kindness and honesty, and as for Lucifer, Chloe makes him want to be a better person. But, there’s more to the story here too.
When Lucifer is near Chloe, he becomes vulnerable—able to be physically injured and even at risk of having his immortal existence brought to an end. Yet, unlike most men I’ve dated who have made a speedy exit with those trite ripcord “I’m no good for you” lines when they realize entering a relationship would mean having to be vulnerable, Lucifer stays, choosing to put himself in mortal danger to be with her, to protect her, and ultimately to love her.
Today, in this time of growing openness and acceptance, vulnerability is sadly still seen as a weakness and I think this is why so many relationships continue to fail. Too much vulnerability in a woman scares men off and for many men opening themselves up, allowing themselves to be vulnerable is so hard that they prefer to walk away.
Yet Lucifer, the embodiment of the non-committal detached macho male stereotype, allows himself to be vulnerable in the extreme, opening himself to getting hurt, not just emotionally, but even physically, for love. To love and be loved, you have to be allow yourself to be vulnerable.
One awesome cast and crew
On a final note before I bring this treatise to an end. Whenever I come across a show I enjoy I always head to YouTube to see blooper reels and behind-the-scenes clips. I like to see the real people involved. Like many other shows it’s evident that this cast and crew are all down to earth and get along really well, and it shows through on the screen. In fact I don’t think the show would be such a huge success if the team didn’t get along in real life and the Lucifer bunch have got it right. The behind-the-scenes just ooze love and that makes me love the show even more. I really envy them—all the comradery and laughs. Being part of a great team on such an awesome creative project would totally be a dream come true for me [one of those sacrificed dreams I spoke about earlier].
I’m also touched by the way the show interacts with its fans. It’s thanks to the fans that the show was renewed, and that has created a strange kind of bond between cast, crew and the fans. It’s like we’re all friends who just haven’t met in person yet. Tom has said in several interviews that it’s like “the fans are shareholders in the show”. It’s true and being able to connect through social media is amazing – so much different from when I was a kid and the best one could hope for was to be lucky enough to be sent a postcard from a star’s fan club in response to your fan mail (I still have the one I got from Tom Selleck's fan club, the only one I ever received).
And thanks to Internet streaming, when season 4 launched on Netflix on 8 May it meant that millions of fans worldwide were able to watch it and comment simultaneously. It was a wonderful experience being part of a global celebration and I’m pretty chuffed to be one of the lucky ones to have received a digital postcard in response to my comment on Facebook.
Thanks Lucifer, love you guys too. ;-)