Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lucifer (television series) pilot review


    I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman's Lucifer from Sandman and less of the spin-off series which took the basic concept and ran with it in a direction I didn't care for. The premise for those Philistines (just kidding) unfamiliar with Sandman is Lucifer decides to quit being ruler of Hell. He's been at the job for millennium and, bluntly, it sucks. Heading up to planet Earth, he becomes a piano player and leaves all of the damned to their own devices.

    The comic spin-off, not by Gaiman, is a complicated story about Lucifer creating his own parallel Creation to God's and trying to escape predestination. It had a young half-angel girl as a central character and a psychotic Lilin who was probably one of the story's more amusing characters. Eventually, it becomes clear God is absolutely awful at his job and should be replaced by someone better.

    This isn't a show about the latter.

    Thank Elaine (in-joke, sorry).

They open to "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked."
Presumably, they're saving "Sympathy for the Devil" for the season finale.
    The central premise remains intact. Lucifer (Tom Ellis) has decided being the Devil is no fun and moved to Los Angeles to become a nightclub owner. This is upsetting to powers both above and below who feel the universe is grossly out of balance if there's not someone down below punishing the damned. Lucifer, appropriately enough, gives two flying figs about what other people think and is enjoying his retirement. Part of the fun is this Lucifer does all of the usual "deals with the Devil" but they're not for people's souls. He just likes getting doing favors for people and see them scurry around in the aftermath.

    Lucifer's life changes when he meets with one of the few mortals he genuinely likes, though in a sort of vaguely-amused-by-versus love sort of way, and she gets gunned down in his arms. Not omniscient or possessed of any sort of powers we see, save people want to confess their darkest secrets to him, Lucifer decides he wants to find the person who ordered her killed. I like how Lucifer isn't remotely interested in concepts like justice--he's going to find the person who killed his pet mortal and torture the (if you'll pardon the pun) hell out of them.

Heaven really hates when Lucifer goes off-script.
    While conducting his impromptu investigation through Hollywood's elite, he runs into police officer Chloe Decker (Lauren German) who intrigues Lucifer since she's immune to his ability to get inside her head. Chloe Decker is a former raunchy teen-movie actor who decided to do something a little more respectable with her life but screwed up an investigation by trying to do something noble. Ostracized by the police force, Lucifer finds himself intrigued by someone of such strong moral conviction in a world where it's all paper-thin artifice.

    The story proceeds pretty much from there with Lucifer choosing to hang around her despite her best efforts to get rid of him (and his failed attempts to charm her which work on everyone else). In the end, they manage to find the party responsible for murdering Lucifer's associate and there's set up for him deciding to amuse himself by helping her solve other cases. In simple terms, Lucifer is basically Castle except with the Devil instead of a mystery writer.

    So, what do I think?

    I really liked it.

I won't spoil but this entire scene is HILARIOUS. For a short description: Lucifer in therapy.
    Of course, I like snarky anti-heroes wielding dark powers and being a better person than the majority of fake and awful people around them. I wrote Esoterrorism and The Rules of Supervillainy for Elaine's sake. The Castle similarities are a bit too on the nose but, hey, I like Castle just fine. If they can manage a balance between solving murders by the rich and powerful of L.A. while dealing with supernatural weirdness then I think they could have the next Supernatural here. Season 1-5 Supernatural, not everything after not co-starring Felicia Day.

    Fans of the comic book should do their best to leave their expectations at the door. Really, this is more similar to Terry Pratchett's Good Omens with a more adult edge than Mike Carey's seminal work. They do seem to mine it more than I expected, though with Mazikeen and a young girl who might be Elaine Belloc's replacement. I'm of the mind Lauren German's character will prove to be the "Elaine" of the story, though.

Lauren German has a lot of chemistry with Tom Ellis and manages to hold her own despite being the resident Muggle.
    Tom Ellis also channels a mixture of Tom Hiddleston and Neil Gaiman's Lucifer for a figure of mythological evil who has decided to update with the times rather than allow himself to remain a figure of one-dimensional menace. He quips a mile a minute and deconstructs people every other sentence, which is just a delight to watch. I also like Lauren German who is able to hold her own with Tom Ellis on screen even though she's regulated to being the straight woman.

    In conclusion, I recommend this for people who don't mind people playing with Christian mythology in a good-natured way rather than totally reversing it. While its still, fundamentally, looking like just another procedural supernatural-themed cop show--I have nothing against procedural supernatural-themed cop shows.

9/10

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