The Netflix show “Lucifer” is in its fifth
and final season. Update: a sixth season is planned, assuming the coronavirus doesn’t delay production forever.
I’ve been a fan since the pilot. There are some things about it that bother me. The gratuitous violence, car chases that are boring, stupid and don’t serve the plot because apparently Hollywood must have them…and as of the current season an ableist subplot. (More on that in a minute.)
That said, “Lucifer” is an exuberant show that defies the stereotypes that make most of TV so gawdawful. It plays around with everything from the Bible to sexuality and has some fascinating characters we want to follow around and learn more about with each episode.
I’m sorry to see it end, even if the final season did jump the shark a bit. Oh, and the ableism I’m referring to is that Lucifer’s evil twin Michael has a twisted spine. There is some hope he’ll turn out to be more than just a baddie as there are episodes that haven’t been released yet. Still, showing his one shoulder higher than the other as code for “evil” is a low blow to disabled people. For shame.
With that one exception, the show does many things well.
Here are the top ten:
10. Two of the main characters are bisexual
Bisexuals are often portrayed as evil, or at best, fence sitters who make straight and gay people’s lives miserable. Not so here. Both Lucifer himself and Maze are openly bi. In Maze’s case, it’s not just a sexual thing, either. She may be a demon from hell, but she falls in love—deep, true blue, heartaching loooove.
It’s harder to tell what’s going on with Lucifer. He is the devil, after all. Most of his lovers describe being with him as “just sex.” His two main partners are women. That said, his bisexuality is discussed on multiple occasions, and nobody bats an eyelash. These are the most positive portrayals of bi people I’ve ever seen on TV.
9. Women are portrayed as strong, complex, and intelligent
Every female character on the show is, well, a person. Chloe is a tough homicide detective who’s smart as a whip. She also has self doubt, a tender side, and is capable of love. Linda is a gifted therapist, caring mom, and also kind of messed up—neurotic, sometimes confused about what she wants, and even unethical (she sleeps with Lucifer in lieu of payment). Ella is brilliant, nerdy, insecure and has a fatal weakness for bad boy types. Even Maze, who’s not human, is all too human. The women aren’t portrayed as backstabbing, overly competitive with each other or manipulative. They get along with each other, for the most part, and—as in real life—provide each other a support system. Refreshing!
8. Monogamy isn’t treated as the highest and best option
It’s true that the show is, at its heart, a love story. It wouldn’t work without that. But the show offers a number of alternatives to traditional monogamy and makes no judgments about the validity of each option. For example, Amenadiel and Linda are co-parenting baby Charlie, even though they’re no longer a couple. Although we know that Chloe is Lucifer’s true love, he sure does get around for most of the series. He and Eve have an open relationship, and although he sometimes doubts whether this is right for him, he also revels in it. And she wouldn’t want it any other way.
7. BDSM is devilish but harmless
The fact is that in the real world many people are into some kind of kink or other. The show reflects this reality. In one scene, Lucifer’s apartment is so full of PVC clad kinksters there’s no room to move. He pulls out a sex toy (it looks like a butt plug) and waves it around. There’s no retribution, divine or otherwise, for all this kinkiness. In fact, the only person who wants to do that is a priest, and he’s a no goodnik who gets his just desserts.
6. Male characters have feelings and get to be real
Each male character is conflicted in some way. Tom Ellis, who plays Lucifer, does an amazing job showing this shifting inner landscape through the smallest facial expressions. Dan is a tough cop, but he must grapple with self doubt, grief and much else. He doesn’t mind playing second fiddle to Chloe at work, staying at his desk while she goes out and gets the glory. Amenadiel can fight like a superhero, but he doesn’t do it unless it’s necessary, and is otherwise gentle. Both Dan and Amenadiel are caring fathers who don’t mind taking on the less manly parenting tasks. Even Cain, who has arms like tree trunks and is the boss at the station, goes through inner torment. In short, the male characters are complex and never come off as macho or cartoonish.
5. Plot lines are fun to follow
So much of TV is predictable. I’m enough of a mystery addict I can often guess who done it on cop shows like this. But Lucifer often has me stumped. It’s not Agatha Christie, but there are enough surprises that it pleases a pro like me. Then there’s the twisty, turny, upside downy supernatural aspect. Not to mention the bed hopping, changing loyalties, and other ongoing soap operas. The fact these genres weave together so well is remarkable—and damn good entertainment.
4. It’s got a wicked sense of humor
Yes, yes, lots of TV shows are funny. But how many have this many elements and also make you bust a gut? Often, the humor is nothing more than an aside. But that’s why it works. The pairing of Chloe and Lucifer often sparkles with wit worthy of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant.
3. There’s just the right amount of swearing
It might escape your notice, but there’s a four letter word or two in many episodes. And it’s tough to make swearing work on TV. It’s easy to go overboard and throw F bombs out in every scene. It’s also tempting to leave them out altogether. Even though the FCC can’t touch Netflix on this count, the show was made by 20th Century Fox. Given all this, they struck a balance. Though sparing with the salty language, it slips out here and there, often for dramatic or humorous effect.
2. The hidden hand of Neil Gaiman is apparent
For Gaiman fans, this show is a treat. The show was concocted by a team of writers, and he was one. Then, as if we weren’t happy enough, he comes on as the voice of God himself (who else?) and narrates an entire episode. The fact that there’s so much playfulness with these supernatural beings has to be down to his influence. And of course the fact that biblical characters are tossed in a salad bowl, with good and evil all mixed up…well, just read and/or watch “Good Omens.”
- The central theme is vulnerability
Almost from the get go, we learn that Lucifer is changing from the devil he’s been to someone more human. This becomes clear in one crucial scene in Season One. He tells Chloe to shoot him…and it hurts. The theme comes bubbling up all over the place. Hard as nails demon Maze falls in love, and the rejection hurts. She forms a bond with Chloe’s daughter Trixie. Hardly demonic behavior. Kids need you to be real with them, which means opening up. Cain is immortal until he falls in love, something that makes him vulnerable. And so on. It’s not easy to make something like this work. The temptation is to stick with the tried and true—larger than life superheroes, evil villains, poor victims. Instead, we learn that, as Brené Brown says, “you have to walk through vulnerability to get to courage.” In other words, the more you open up, the fuller your life. This marks “Lucifer” as something special and different from almost everything on TV. It’s fun, binge worthy fare, but it hides a deeper message that’s affirming and real.