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.

Lucifer: As you were

Next thing you know, she’ll be wearing those in the bath

Last week, my ongoing less-than-impressed attitude towards the Lucifer TV series was rocked on the final two minutes of episode 6, by the theft of – and also the reaction by Lucifer to the loss of – his wings. Angel wings, broad, luminous, strong, a concoction of feathers, and not the leathery, burnt, batwings usually associated with the Devil.

Much would depend on how the series managed this latest development, but suddenly the opportunity was there for the whole thing to be ramped up beyond the silly, sniggering, cheap sex-joke milieu it had offered to date.

I should have known better.

There were two stories running in tandem this week, with minimal overlap, that is until an unexpected and still potentially interesting twist at the end. Lucifer wanted his wings back and, in order to secure them, was willing to call on the assistance of not just Detective Chloe but also brother Angel, Amenadiel.

And Chloe was under pressure over her Palmetto case, the one that’s got the entire Homicide Department hating her, you know, the one that’s been all but forgotten since being brought up in the pilot.

To be perfectly honest, Chloe’s case, and what was happening with it, was more important that Lucifer’s wings. The wings? They’d been stolen by a crooked auctioneer of (mostly fake) religious artefacts, to be sold at auction. No better reason. No significant reason. Lucifer wants his wings back because they’re his. The FBI are going to raid the auction and will seize the wings for 30 days, returnable on proof of provenance. And Amenadiel plans to take them back to heaven, where they were made, where they were wrong.

I should have known better.

Meanwhile, the Palmetto case. In case we don’t remember, this involved the shooting of a hero cop, Malcolm, who’s been on life support ever since. Chloe is alone in believing Malcolm was not a hero but a dirty cop. Now, she’s suddenly got a deadline: in 24 hours, Malcolm’s wife is going to pull the plug. If Chloe doesn’t close her case, his widow and child will miss out on his pension, his benefits.

Dan weighs in to help Chloe re-investigate, with rather more seriousness than Lucifer. We get a flashback, a meeting with a druglord, Malcolm counting out cash when he’s suddenly shot. Lucifer pertinently observes that the druglord (who got killed, along with his bodyguard) had no incentive to kill his bent cop, his golden goose, but there was no-one else around.

The two cases crossover where Chloe turns up at the secret auction to warn Lucifer the FBI are about to strike. When this happens, the auctioneer gets away through a secret exit, whilst Lucifer discovers that the wings on display are fakes: the auctioneer couldn’t bear to part with the real things, he couldn’t live without them. One assumes Lucifer sympathised with one side of this argument.

But the secret exit leads Chloe and Dan back to the warehouse on Palmetto Street, where she finds a trapdoor to another set of stairs. There was someone else there who could have shot Malcolm. And what does she find, left behind? A Police 999 key. There is a dirty cop. It’s just that it might not have been Malcolm.

So, publicly, Chloe closes Malcolm’s case, exonerates him. The hunt for the real dirty cop will be conducted in secrecy (but we all know it’s going to turn out to be Malcom’s ex-partner, the loudmouth making a speech at Malcolm’s living wake, the one so violent about Chloe, don’t we?).

Meanwhile, Lucifer has found out that there is after all something more to the theft of his wings than a cheap profit. Someone tipped the auctioneer off to the existence and whereabouts of the wings. Who else could it be but Amenadiel?

It was all about manipulation. Reunite Lucifer with his wings, let their divine force influence him, remind him of his true identity and position. What Lucifer resents so much is that it nearly worked. But instead, he’s extending his vacation. He’s never returning to Hell. And to ensure the way back is removed from his power, to Amenadiel’s shock he burns the wings to ashes.

(Apparently Angel’s wings, made in heaven by God, burn like fire accelerant if you drop a lighted fag-end on them. Oh really?)

Now the gloves are off, and Amenadiel swears to do anything to get Lucy back to hell (yes, that’s right, we have sunk so low as to diminish Lucifer Morningstar, the Devil, the Prince of Evil, to the cute nickname of Lucy).

Having flattened the episode so thoroughly, the show made an attempt to liven things up with a few stacked possibilities teased in the final moments, as profuse as red herrings in a SkandiCrime series. There’s Detectives Chloe and Dan concealing their campaign to root out the dirty cop. There’s Lucifer, almost apologising to Mazikeen for denying her a return to Hell: she re-swears her total allegiance to him but, lawks! she has a rescued Angel’s feather in her purse.

And there’s Detective Malcolm’s death-bed when the plug is pulled. The beeps come to an end, the lines flatten, the widown sobs, and a hand caresses the window to the room. The beeps restart. Detective Malcolm starts breathing again, on his own. And as the staff rush to the room, we see the back view of Amenadiel walking quietly away.

Am I going to get fooled again?

One more thing to point out as to the general level of mental cheapness being employed about this series. I’ve already touched on Amenadiel calling Lucifer ‘Lucy’ and the Angel’s wings igniting from a mere cigarette butt, but the show really revealed its true level at the outset. It’s all go at Lux and there’s Mazikeen pouting sexily at this handsome guy, who follows her upstairs to the library jacuzzi (who on earth has a jacuzzi in their library?). Maze clearly wants it from handsome stooge: she’s already in the Jacuzzi. He strips off and jumps in, but the kiss she wants isn’t on the lips, or at least not on the lips on her face (snigger, snigger). That her front bottom is well under water and she’s expecting oral sex from someone who’ll be busy concentrating upon drowning is simply stupid in itself, but, mother, she’s still got her criss-cross black-lace top on. How alluring. How ludicrous.

I should have known better.

Lucifer: this just got interesting…

Reconsidering. Maybe…

I’ve already commented a couple of times on the Lucifer TV series, and in uncomplimentary terms as well. My tendency to regard the series as a cheap, juvenile embarrassment unworthy of the character as established by Neil Gaiman and Mike Carey was only strengthened by re-reading the Lucifer series. I don’t recant a word of what I’ve said, and I’d say it all over again in respect of the first thirty-eight minutes of episode 6 this week.

But oh, the last two minutes. In that short space of time, the series changed out of all recognition, and Lucifer became something serious, deadly serious, and extremely dark as well. If this is what they propose for the second half of the series, people,  we – or at least I – have been seriously suckered.

Next week is going to be pretty crucial in terms of what direction they adopt, but if the showrunners intend to seriously follow up on this new development, then I’m going to be eating some serious crow.

To set the scene: as of last week, Lucifer had inveigled his way into the confidence of Detective Chloe’s Lieutenant, to the extent of being made an official civilian consultant to the LAPD, and pretty much partnered with the reluctant Detective. He did not make a great beginning of it, proclaiming himself bored with their first murder, a security guard strangled in a warehouse at the docks, a container stolen.

That was until Mazikeen pointed out that it was Lucifer’s container that had been stolen.

Things progressed as I expected them to progress, with Lucifer unable to contain his simpering, giggling and childish behaviour in the investigation. Since the warehouse in question turned out to be a known repository of contraband imports, Chloe decided Lucifer was a crook, but an investigation of Lux and its books proved to be supernaturally clean.

Eventually, Lucifer came clean on the contents of the container: Russian dolls. And when it was recovered (after the thief committed suicide before spilling to Lucifer who he was working for), he obligingly opened the container to show Chloe a wooden chest packed with Russian dolls.

Then, when she had gone, he opened a secret compartment at the end of the container, which proved to be empty. At that point, I had a flash of correct insight as to what had actually been taken.

Dial things back a moment to Lucifer’s dealings with his therapist, Doctor Linda. Just last week, the Angel Amenadiel, pretending to be a fellow therapist, moved into the office next door, all smiles and bonhomie and volunteering to assist with difficult patients. It appears that Doctor Linda has been gabbing outside the Oath of Confidentiality, for the good unDoctor is here suggesting she follow the line of dealing with Lucifer’s ‘delusion of identity’ by taking it wholly seriously, by talking to him as if he really were the lord of Hell.

Which is where we’re at when the episode clicked into its final two minutes. Linda’s new approach unsettled Lucifer badly, especially when she recites other names he bears. The most disturbing of these is his first name, Samael, the Lightbearer. Lucifer rejects it, doesn’t want to hear it. Linda presses the line that he was God’s favourite son, entrusted with the most difficult task, that of ruling Hell. Lucifer unleashes some very painful thoughts about Hell, using the very lines Neil Gaiman wrote for him during the Sandman story, ‘Season of Mists’. His discomfort is building by the second. It reaches a peak when Linda presses upon him that Angels can not merely Fall, but also rise. But Lucifer cannot, because they’re gone. He punches a hole in the wall and leaves.

Only back at Lux, in the final seconds, is what I suspected immediately made explicit. What has been stolen from Lucifer, stolen from the Devil, is his wings.

And we are now in a completely different story entirely. And I am really looking forward to episode seven.

Lucifer: the four episode test

This one.

Most of the regular TV I watch nowadays comes from American series that, with the still-enjoyable exception of The Big Bang Theory, are based on comics I have read and enjoyed at one time or another. To keep track of these, I use tv.com. When it comes to new series, the site operates on the principle of giving them four episodes before assessing them. By that time, you should know what the show’s about, how well the cast are performing, whether the writers have a clear idea of what they’re aiming for, and generally, whether it’s worth your time.
This week, Lucifer, based on the DC/Vertigo Comics version of the Morningstar as framed in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and gloriously realised by Mike Carey in his own series, broadcast its fourth episode. I am assessing it in the manner of tv.com. My instincts suggest that every foot of film shot so far should be digitally erased, every writer, producer, director and actor even peripherally involved with the project be sacked and then either do a radically different version of the show or, better yet, forget the whole thing completely. Use hypnotism if you have to.
The basic problem for me is that, from the moment the TV series was first announced, I have known that it would be impossible to translate the elements that made the comics series so great onto television. I’m not talking effects and budgets, I’m talking about the storylines, the essence of Lucifer Morningstar, first and proudest of Angels. I’m talking about themes that stretch deeply into religious areas, into issues of Free Will versus Predestination, and ultimately about a rejection of God so deep that no TV network in any at least nominally Christian country could ever broadcast.
Carey’s Lucifer is a genuine subversive figure. You couldn’t put him on the screen.
So I knew, from the outset, that the TV Lucifer couldn’t even remotely resemble the Lucifer that impressed me so, and even before I learned that the TV Lucifer was to be a Police Procedural, case-of-the-week, amateur-shows-up-the-cops of the kind that we have seen dozens of times over, no different in concept than, say, Castle, where the Police rely, week-in, week-out, on a crime fiction novelist.
Ho hum.
I did, at least, hope that they could capture something of Lucifer’s voice, something of his effortless arrogance, his disdain, his irony and his unbending superiority. At least that would have given us dialogue that cut, that would sharpen itself on other people’s pretensions and foibles. Alas, no.
The TV series does draw, very superficially, on the comics for its setting. Lucifer, though he already existed within DC continuity, was first used by Neil Gaiman in Sandman 4, when Dream, visiting Hell to retrieve his stolen helm of office, aroused Lucifer’s enmity, causing the Morningstar to swear to destroy him.
This set up the later ‘Season of Mists’ storyline, when Dream returns to Hell to free a prisoner he had unjustly condemned. He expects reprisals from Lucifer, but is stunned to learn that the Morningstar has used Dream’s visit as a pretext to close Hell, to send away the dead, the damned and the demons, and to end his reign. His revenge is to give the key to Hell to Dream, making him responsible for what next happens to it (what an unbelievably evil idea!). Lucifer has had enough.
Mike Carey would make even more of this, and it would be the underlying theme of his entire series. Lucifer had, after millennia of rule in Hell, long since recognised that even in rebellion, he was fulfilling the role created for him by his father, God. Dream’s approach was the catalyst for Lucifer rejecting the manipulation that had governed his entire existence.
Having renounced his part in the Divine plan, after Hell had passed under direct Angelic control that subtly altered the nature of the domain, making it worse, Lucifer retired to run a nightclub in LA, called Lux (Light). His series was set in motion by the visit of his brother, the Angel Amenadiel, bearing a commission from God, seeking Lucifer’s aid in a task. In return, Lucifer would be given a Gateway, out of creation.
This is the only thing Lucifer would accept. He itches under the fact that he has been created, that he is beholden to another. This time, he is seeking the ultimate rebellion, the complete escape beyond all reach of God, of his Father. Lucifer is self-willed, arrogant, puissant beyond belief, insistent upon his independence from all but his own will. He faces vast and powerful forces seeking to exploit a time of great change, forces that, in the end, will destroy all creation, Heaven, the Silver City and the Primum Mobile, despite all the efforts of Lucifer and his demiurgic brother Gabriel.
You can see why TV can not only do that justice, it can’t do it at all.
What has TV actually done with this idea?
The short answer is that it has cheapened and trivialised it out of all recognition. Lucifer has not closed Hell, he has not resigned his post, Hell has not been changed at all. He’s just taking a vacation. Lucifer simply got bored, that’s all.
He’s brought with him Mazikeen (who, until this week, has simply been referred to as Maze). In the comics, she is a complex character with a long history, who has a massive role to play both as an adherent to Lucifer and independently. On TV, she’s a demon with no apparent reason to have accompanied Lucifer, and who wants him to go back to his day job. That’s all Amenadiel wants, too.
And what does Lucifer want to Do On His Holidays? He wants to have sex. That’s all, basically. A quick shag here, a quick fuck there, the Prince of Hell can have any woman he wants, but in  the cheapest of nasty traditions, he doesn’t want more than sex. Once you’ve had someone, they cease to beat al interesting.
(The same goes for Maze, it appears, at least in the pilot, though she seems to prefer tongue to cock. Women, huh.)
Actually, episode 4 is a very good illustration of the hollowness of all this, in more ways than the showrunners intended. Crime of the week is the disappearance of shy, sweet, hayseed girl Lyndsay, probably murdered after attending a party thrown by Cameron Cruz, proponent of the lifestyle of a ‘Player’, the worst kind of arsehole male chauvinist shag-’em-and-leave-’em git (whilst watching, I had this insight: leaving out the pathetic aspect, is there any kind of life more boring?).
In an entirely foreseeable twist, it turns out that Cameron is in actual love with Lyndsay but she’s scamming him with a fake kidnap scheme. All to which is beside the point when the show has Lucifer stand up during Cameron’s presentation, querying the Rules and pointing out how pathetic he and everyone else is, since Lucifer doesn’t need these rules to be ever better at pulling birds than all of them put together. The lack of self-understanding is enormous, but the show drops itself badly in it in a little scene shorty before this.
Lucifer is trying to deflect a security guard from throwing out Lyndsay’s brother. He pulls the usual stunt of directing the man’s attention to all the gorgeous, scantily-clad women wandering around, and asks him what his desire is. The guard, who is gay, replies that it’s Lucifer. Oh boy does the show give itself away here. Lucifer, the sexual magnet, the one who can have anyone, visibly recoils. Sex, it appears, is only for heterosexuals, no gays need apply. Even though Tom Ellis plays the Morningstar as an absolute collection of outmoded gay stereotypes in his nervous, fluffy, innuendo-dripping, giggling manner.
But what of Ellis’s co-star, Lauren Graham, who plays Lucifer’s unwilling side-kick, Detective Chloe Decker, struggling to make her way in a Homicide Division which includes her ex-husband, the surprisingly sympathetic Dan. Chloe is an attractive woman, but suffers from the handicap that she is a) the daughter of a famous actress and b) has briefly acted herself, primarily in a cheap Hot-tub comedy in which she took her top off. Needless to say, Detective Chloe has credibility issues.
She is introduced in episode 4, musing about all the weird things that have happened around Lucifer since the pilot (Chloe, being an atheist as well as a cop) does not believe in the Devil, despite Lucifer’s openness about who he is, to everyone he meets.
Needless to say, Chloe is doing this musing, in slow motion, under the shower, where she is perforce naked. This is no hardship, given that Lauren Graham is, unsurprisingly, an attractive woman, nor do we see anything that Network Standards & Practice won’t allow (if you were to believe network TV, no woman, no matter how long married she has been, has ever removed her bra to have sex).
However, Chloe is disturbed by noises off, and goes to investigate in just a loosely-wrapped towel and a police revolver. Of course, it’s only Lucifer, breaking in to make breakfast, and no sooner does Chloe find him in her kitchen than the towel falls to the ground (like any good cop, she is far more concerned about keeping hold of her gun). Lucifer gets an eyeful, so cue comments about how she’s kept herself in shape since the Hot Tub film that a fourteen year old boy would find embarrassingly juvenile.
To Lucifer’s great surprise, Chloe wants him out (even before Dan and seven year old daughter Trixie unexpectedly return and Dan jumps to the obviously erroneous conclusion). So Lucifer nips off to his psychiatrist.
Yes, the Morningstar is seeing a psychiatrist. She’s a cuddly, peroxide-blonde, older woman with the hots for Lucifer, who is paying her with cock (the show skates around this, turning it into yet another cheap sex-gag, but lets be straight about things). And she’s being seriously analytical about ol’ Lucy here, suggesting that he is being defensive, displacing his issues with snappy patter, because he’s changing. That he’s turning good.
Lucifer, naturally runs away from this idea, fixating on his belief that he will learn to understand, and therefore promptly forget, the enigmatic Chloe by,what else, fucking her. That Chloe doesn’t want to fuck him, not now, not ever, is irrelevant to anything except the overall arc of the series.
The whole mish-mash winds up with a climactic scene in which Chloe, from offscreen, somehow shoots Cameron’s gun out of his hand without the special effect of the gunshot being added to the soundtrack. Lucifer then confronts her, inviting her to shoot him, since it won’t kill him, will just being a light tap. Pressured, she fires, hitting him in the thigh. It hurts. It actually hurts. In fact, Lucifer bleeds.
What the (small h)ell is happening?
There are nine more episodes to go. I shall probably watch them, even though I can’t separate the two Lucifers in my head, and Tom Ellis’s version is so painfully inadequate. But if I decided not to bother, as I did last year with Constantine, for roughly similar reasons (at least that wasn’t so adolescently sex-obsessed), I won’t lose any sleep over wondering what’s going on.