Lucifer (2016) review
Lucifer is based on the character created by Neil Gaiman in the Sandman comics and developed by Mike Carey for DC. The background to the action is that Lucifer Morningstar led a rebellion against God (his father) and was banished to Hell to torture evil humans (after their death) for eternity. 10 billion years later Lucifer believes the punishment too harsh and leaves Hell to hang out in Los Angeles as a nightclub owner with his friend and protector Mazikeen.
When a murder happens outside his nightclub, Lucifer becomes obsessed by a female detective, Chloe, and the idea of punishing evil doers on Earth instead of in Hell. Chloe fascinates him as she seems immune to his devilish charms, unlike every other human woman he has met.
One Million Mom’s campaigned to get Lucifer off the air, based on a mistaken idea that it glorifies Satan (trivialises would be more accurate), and Gaiman’s brilliant public response, on Tumblr, is worth repeating. “Ah. It seems like only yesterday (but it was 1991) that the “Concerned Mothers of America” announced that they were boycotting The Sandman because it contained lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans characters. It was Wanda that upset them most: the idea of a trans-woman in a comic book… They told us they were organizing a boycott of The Sandman, which they would only stop if we wrote to the American Family Association and promised to reform. I wonder if they noticed it didn’t work last time, either…”
The series doesn’t glorify Satan, but the story shows God, at least through Lucifer’s eyes, as an abusive father and Lucifer as the traumatised son. In fact the further into the show we get, the more about abusive relationships it becomes. Not only between Lucifer and God, but also Chloe and her estranged husband.
In episode 6, Lucifer discusses his anger and frustration about his father in a speech to his therapist, which includes part of the dialogue used in Sandman when Lucifer was complaining to Morpheus.
You also rule a world, Morpheus. A world of sleepers and dreamers, of stories. A simple place compared to hell. I envy you. Can you imagine what it was like? Ten billion years providing a place for dead mortals to torture themselves? And like all masochists, they called the shots. ‘Burn me.’ ‘Freeze me.’ ‘Eat me.’ ‘Hurt me.’ And we did. Why do they blame me for all their little failings? They use my name as if I spent my entire day sitting on their shoulders, forcing them to commit acts they would otherwise find repulsive. ‘The Devil made me do it.’ I have never made any one of them do anything. Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for them.”
With all the controversy, is the series any good? I believe it is. While trope follows trope in the subplots of each episode, the devil acts like a spoiled creep with a permanent boner, and the female characters are shown merely as supporting characters, sex objects, for Satan to lust over (Chloe), service (Linda) or obtain women for him for spectacular foursomes (Maz) there are some very interesting themes developing. The abusive father/son relationship between God and Lucifer, and his smug brother, Amenadiel, who uses guilt and gaslighting techniques (via Lucifer’s therapist, Linda) to try and manipulate him into returning to hell.
Chloe’s ex-husband, also a police detective, who seems to think he has the right to criticise her behaviour under the guise of being a caring father to their daughter. And, in episode 6, the case of Lucifer’s stolen wings and how this impacts on his feelings about the choice he made versus his desire and ability to reverse his decision.In the foreground, we have murders and criminal underground intrigue to keep the plot chugging along, but for me it is Lucifer’s choice and the question of what is happening to the souls of dead evildoers, now he has left hell, that makes the series so dark and fascinating. We are faced with a devil who can either continue to ignore God’s demands or sacrifice himself again to the role he has been given.
Lucifer is portrayed as mischievous, charming, playful, honest and non-judgemental (except when it comes to true evil). On the flip side, he is shown as the naïve and entitled white man who expects everything to be easy. It is fun to watch his ego crushed week to week, but at the same time, it seems impossible not to feel some sympathy when he rages against being blamed for everything wrong in the world. The parallels between this character and today’s angry white American dude who wails against feminism, black rights movements and the word privilege, because they make him feel that he too is being blamed for everything, are patently obvious. It’s patriarchy and Christianity shown at its most basic and openly questioned. That, for me, is the true strength of the show and why I keep watching.