End-of-Term Report: Lucifer


An all together more convincing Devil

Having already made my opinions clear about the TV version of Lucifer, in no uncertain terms, an End-of-Term Report may be regarded as otiose. Lucifer has come to the end of its thirteen episode first season, and it has been renewed for a second season. After the current season finale, it would appear that substantial changes are on the way, with two cast members being rendered hors de combat (though there’s nothing to stop the series coming back to Malcolm in Hell next year), and we were treated to a final word cliffhanger climax that gave us the line for season 2.

Nevertheless, I will not be playing in this particular sandpit next year.

I knew from the outset not to expect the TV Lucifer to emulate the Mike Carey/Neil Gaiman character from the Vertigo series. Those were, and still are, just not the kind of stories that can be adapted to television with any fidelity, and that is not going to change in my lifetime.

They deal with profound and fundamental issues concerning Predestination and Free Will, and a relationship between Lucifer Morningstar and God, his Father, that in the nature of the two beings/entities, was plainly incapable of resolution. Lucifer’s pride, his arrogance, every atom of him demanded something that could not be given: he could not cease to be, or ever have been, the creation of his Father. All Lucifer could, eventually achieve, was to remove himself, to go forever beyond the reach and presence of his Creator. He could not uncreate that Creator.

Carey’s series dealt with heavy issues, issues that many of the religious could not have helped but see as blasphemous. Fox were prepared to deny the Christians enough to present ‘Lucifer’ as hero/anti-hero, but not to tackle anything serious whilst they were at it.

No, all I hoped for was Lucifer himself, Lucifer as defined by Carey, and Gaiman, and John Milton before them. Cold, callous, invincible, reeking with ancient authority, superior, never at a loss, calm, polite, gracious, consumed by himself and his wants alone. In Carey’s hands, Lucifer was in control, supercilious and often tremendously funny in how he allowed no pomposity or presumption, not even in himself.

But that’s not the Lucifer we were given nor, in retrospect, do I think that portrayal was ever possible. That would to have accorded too much to the Devil, to have drawn down too much disapprobation, of a kind that couldn’t be shrugged off or laughed away.

So Lucifer was not, and was never going to be what I wanted it to be. Was what it was any  good in itself?

Well, I’ve already made it plain that I don’t think so, not for a second. It was hard to try and see Lucifer for itself, let alone judge it, and I’m afraid I never managed a clear-eyed look. Because Lucifer the tv series was, from start to finish, a cheap giggle, a deeply unserious thing, daring to believe it was transgressive, when in truth it never exceeded the level of a twelve-year old virgin who still found wank-jokes to be the height of humour.

Well before we reached the depths of having the Lord of Hell, the Prince of Darkness called ‘Lucy’, Tom Ellis’s portrayal was of an ultimately shallow, fayly-giggling, retarded adolescent who combined an unheathily juvenile interested mainly through blatantly obvious knob-jokes, overlaid by a nudge-nudge, wink-wink air of perversion that was outdated in the dark ages when homosexuals were fairies and pooftahs and all behaved like that.

TV Lucifer’s evil and transgressive nature was reduced to toilet-wall sexuality, whilst its serious side, when it came to the crime-of-the-week was if anything even more demeaning. Lucifer’s ageless intelligence, his infinite subtlety, was reduced to that of a brainless clown shrieking around, banging his head on a completely irrelevant brick wall that everyone his inferior  has already identified as propping up somebody else’s kitchen in a different city. Lucifer’s complete blindness to what has been going on around him has been embarrassing to watch: satanist cults should really have been suing for defamation long before now.

Along the way, there were a couple of moments when the show stepped out of its limited and grubby little pen to deal with things of higher moment. The thing  with Lucifer’s wings came to absolutely nothing, at which point I lost all hopes I had for it ever getting better, and there was a potentially interesting scene in the penultimate episode which was swamped by the morass of what had gone before.

This involved Lucifer hurt, rattled, despairing of ever escaping the blame for sin and evil. Lucifer is not himself Evil: he is Lord of Hell because that is how he was punished by God, but he is not evil, he does not solicit evil, he is there solely to punish. Lucifer is the victim of the longest ever misappropriation of blame.

Too little, too late to turn the tide of what had gone before, and too implausible in the light of the horrified boy scout act Lucifer was putting on at the sight of cultists killing people. I’m sorry, Lord of Hell, punisher of Evil for how many millennia is it, and you’re trying to sell me on your feeling shock and disgust at one ritual slaying? Oh, no.

The final episode, which began with Lucifer under arrest by Chloe Decker for a murder of which he was being framed was, quite frankly, an incomprehensible morass, with neither the writers nor the show-runners knowing what to do except throw in several stainless steel kitchen  sinks and hear them go crash! It was desperately stupid from every angle and I don’t propose to try to explain any of it.

As for the set-up for next year, at one point Lucifer is killed and goes back to Hell, only for God to grant his request for a favour and restore him to Earth, provided Lucifer re-enters his service and hunts down a single escapee from Hell. An escapee who frightens Lucifer. Who is this season 2 big bad? Why, it’s Mummy.

Lucifer clearly has its fans and they can enjoy the show without me. I confess that I only stuck it out to the end just to see what the end would be, and I have no qualms about steering a wide berth in season 2. The teaser doesn’t tempt me, far from it, and I will leave you to come up with your own reasons for why, on every possible level there could be, it is such a dumbfuck idea to have your Big Bad be Mrs God.

Good luck.

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