Fox’s “Lu­cifer” some­how man­ages to make the Devil seem mun­dane

The Denver Post - - ARTS & CULTURE - By Alyssa Rosen­berg

What­ever else he is, or what­ever other name he goes by, the Devil is sup­posed to be fas­ci­nat­ing. And be­cause sin takes a dif­fer­ent form in ev­ery gen­er­a­tion, part of that mes­mer­iz­ing qual­ity is sup­posed to come from what the Devil tells us about our­selves.

In an­cient Alexan­dria, the Devil stood in for early Chris­tian heretics, while in John Mil­ton’s time, Satan was a way to re­flect on the un- wis­dom of re­bel­lion against the Bri­tish monar­chy. More re­cently, Charles Man­son took on a Satanic taint be­cause of what he stood for, a so­ci­ety spun dan­ger­ously out of con­trol af­ter the so­cial ex­per­i­ments of the late 1960s.

In this con­text, the most strik­ing thing about Fox’s new show “Lu­cifer,” which premiered Mon­day night, is just how dull Lu­cifer Morn­ingstar ( played by the equally blandly hand­some Tom El­lis) is, and how lit­tle he tells us about our own time. It didn’t have to be that way: Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel por­trayal of Lu­cifer, from which the show is the­o­ret­i­cally drawn, makes more in­ter­est­ing use of some of the same charm Fox tries to de­ploy here.

The Devil is a home run of a char­ac­ter. Strik­ing out with him this quickly and this dra­mat­i­cally is a sign that some­thing’s gone very wrong.

Fox’s vi­sion of Lu­cifer might have been in­ter­est­ing if tele­vi­sion weren’t al­ready pop­u­lated by a raft of char­ac­ters who— though they may not be ex­iled Lords of Hell— have all too much in com­mon with him. Come­dies and dra­mas alike have been in the midst of an ex­tended ro­mance with char­ac­ters who fall at a very spe­cific place on the so­cially stunted spec­trum that makes them fo­cused enough to solve seem­ingly in­tractable prob­lems, but that ren­ders them mys­ti­fied by the rules of hu­man be­hav­ior in a way that will later pay off in amus­ing ro­man­tic and so­cial com­pli­ca­tions.

Lu­cifer doesn’t have the same di­ag­noses th­ese other char­ac­ters do; he’s just not hu­man. But oth­er­wise, he’s got the req­ui­site scruff, bland good looks and rough- edged charm to fit neatly into their ranks.

So, what is the Devil for un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances?

There are tiny threads of some­thing in­ter­est­ing in Lu­cifer’s con­tacts with the po­lice. Stopped by a cop for speed­ing in the movie’s open­ing scene, he per­suades the man to con­fess, “Some­times I put my siren on and drive re­ally fast for no rea­son at all, just be­cause I can.” Lu­cifer is de­lighted to find this crack in the man’s fa­cade. “Right, and why wouldn’t you?” he tells the cop, de­lighted. “It’s fun! Feels good to get away with some­thing, doesn’t it?”

Later, af­ter a trou­bled ac­tress ( An­naLyn­neMcCord) whom Lu­cifer has be­friended is gunned down in the street, he pushes the de­tec­tive as­signed to the case, Chloe Dancer ( Lau­ren Ger­man), for ac­tion. “What will your cor­rupt lit­tle or­ga­ni­za­tion do about this?” he de­mands.

Given that Lu­cifer is a long­stand­ing sym­bol of de­fi­ance, it might have been fas­ci­nat­ing, in this cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment, to see him bump­ing up against the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment.

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