Sympathy for the Devil?, by Ryan Clark
A Belated Critique of “Lucifer,” the Show That Won’t Die
Lucifer is not for everyone. It’s fraught with clichés, lacks the panache of more refined cop dramas, and is dreadfully – or delightfully – “judgy” towards the more sanctimonious viewers. It’s also old news at this point, having just been rescued by Netflix for a fourth season.
To be honest, however, I’ve been a fan of this off-beat dramedy from the beginning. Tom Ellis’ performance as the Devil is enrapturing in and of itself. His role is that of a perpetual man-child; he “rebels” against his “father” for a chance to live the glamourous lifestyle of the rich and famous, deep in the heart of Los Angeles. Lucifer drinks. He smokes. He does drugs. He has racked up a sexual score with more women, and sometimes men, than any real man has ever dared attempt without fear of ridicule or dying of a mix of dehydration and exhaustion. In short, he’s a walking ego problem, and fans all over the world love him for it.
The show itself, whilst entertaining, is a little lacklustre. As far as premises go, the show swims at the shallow end of the idea pool. Satan becomes bored and spices things up by working as a civilian consultant for the LAPD. He then proceeds to offend and sear all his relationships in the pursuit of self-understanding. Of note, one of the most novel ideas is his realization that he needs help with this – before actually going to see a shrink for said help!
So why does the show both disappoint and enthral its loyal viewers so? Are we simply being “bad?” Do we indulge in the show because we cannot indulge in the pleasures it offers in real life? Some of us do, perhaps. Something struck me, though, when I re-watched season one for the second time. Sixty-five plus percent of the country thinks spirituality and/or religion are important to have in life. For us, no matter what version of God we subscribe to, Lucifer allows us to engage with him or her in a different way.
I can speak only for myself, but throughout the show Tom Ellis has the same gripes with the Almighty that I do. They can be boiled down to a single question: Why? At one point during the first season, Tom’s character forms a bond with a priest – after espousing the pre-requisite paedophile jokes and dogma, of course. Without too many spoilers, something happens that deeply affects Lucifer and he begins a rant towards God. My mother was taken from me. Cancer was the cause, as if that was a surprise. After watching my life systematically implode since the age of FIVE, I’ve had only one question since the beginning of this year, when she was diagnosed. That would be this: why, Goddammit, why?! Most of my thoughts can be summed up in that rant.
That’s why I believe this show refuses to die, despite lower than average ratings. It allows all of us, no matter our beliefs, to engage with our God(s)/Goddess(es) in a more personal way. After all, not a single person I’ve encountered hasn’t wanted to know the answer to the only question that matters – why?
On a more general note, I can only hope that this show will continue to provide a sounding board for our questions. If this article is a major misstep and does send me to Hell, I pray someone mirrors his character’s taste for expensive brown liquor, flashy clothes, and fancy cars.
by Ryan Clark