“I didn’t leave Hell just to step into another one,” huffs Fox’s newest crime solver Lucifer, complaining about being called in to investigate the murder of a security guard who’s neither interesting nor handsome.
Yet while series star Tom Ellis (Rush) infuses the devil with enough roguish charm to leave the audience more amused than aghast at such naughty one-liners, the unfortunate fact remains that the case-of-the-week aspects of Lucifer sometimes feel a bit like torture.
That’s a big problem for a comic-book adaptation that, despite its high-concept logline — Lucifer defies God, takes a vacation from Hell and teams up with a hard-edged Los Angeles detective (Chicago Fire‘s Lauren German) who’s somehow immune to his powers — is ultimately a procedural, fashioned in the mold of so many eccentric-outsider-assists-straightlaced-law-enforcer series that currently populate the airwaves (think Elementary, Limitless, even Bones).
The supernaturally good looking Ellis and the affable German — playing Lucifer Morningstar and Det. Chloe Dancer — display an instantaneous and easy chemistry right from the pilot episode, and even manage to make tolerable the “uptight lady professional just needs to do some shots and loosen up” philosophy that feels a decade past its expiration date. Watching the lord of the underworld squirm in the presence of Chloe’s daughter Trixie (Scarlett Estevez), meanwhile, is more amusing than you’d anticipate.
Still, in the three episodes screened for critics, the cases tackled by Chloe and Lucifer (who eventually gets hired as an official civilian consultant) follow a deeply rote formula: Somehow Chloe winds up on a case with ties to our titular devil; he uses his power to get people to confess their desires and secrets right around the time Chloe gets fed up with his disregard for procedure; an “a-ha!” realization comes out of nowhere, Lucifer flashes his devil eyes at the guilty party, and it’s all wrapped up in 42 minutes.
The show’s supporting players — in particular, D.B. Woodside’s Amenadiel, sent down from Heaven to insist Lucifer go back from where he came, Rachael Harris as Lucifer’s shrink, and Lesley-Ann Brandt as Maze, Lucifer’s ass-kicking assistant — hint at the possibility of a more interesting show (as does a closing twist in “Favorite Son”). Until or unless the show’s writing staff digs down and explore those darker instincts, however, Lucifer feels stuck in creative purgatory.
The TVLine Bottom Line: The Devil is smokin’, but there’s no real fire to Lucifer.