Have you ever watched a grown man chase a chicken while another grown man looks on and laughs in delight? Would that scene be more or less intelligible to you if I told you those two men were angelic brothers stuck on the human plane while working through an existential crisis? Lucifer is the kind of show that doesn't care about the answer.
Lucifer's basic building blocks are absolutely batsh--, and that's exactly the point. On one level, it's a typical odd-couple police procedural. But because it's adapted from a Neil Gaiman comic that's part of the DC universe, one half of the pairing is no-nonsense cop Chloe Decker (Lauren German) while the other half is Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis), King of Hell and the Devil himself, who ends up consulting with the LAPD after ditching the underworld to enjoy Los Angeles. While working cases with Decker, Lucifer uses his devilish powers to compel people to reveal their deepest desires. That tempting power — which often leads to case-cracking confessions from criminals — works on everyone except, of course, his gorgeous, straight-laced partner, who gained fame as a teenager for her starring role in the raunchy flick Hot Tub High School.
Any one of those elements alone could have made a decent, if basic, drama on Fox, where Lucifer originally debuted. But all of them together, set in an ever-expanding universe of biblical lore held together by Party City costume feathers? If this seems like a mess, that's because it is. Lucifer is the definition of a show that's doing too much.
Yet Lucifer was able to accrue legions of fans whose vocal outpouring of support inspired Netflix to save the show after a post-Season 3 cancellation by Fox. With a Netflix production budget and the freedom to deviate from the mystery-of-the-week structure, Lucifer rose to even greater — and hornier — heights than previously imagined by its fandom. (God bless Netflix's looser censorship rules.) The loyal became the devoted, and earlier this year, Netflix renewed the show for a fifth and final season with an expanded episode order.
It's an unlikely journey for a show that dressed one of its leads in Hot Topic bondage gear for two whole seasons. And I certainly never expected to get sucked into this intoxicating fever dream. The first time I watched, I wanted to heckle it, but Lucifer always got there first. The cast and creators' blissful self-awareness of how just extra the series is results in transcendently funny moments, like Lucifer binge-watching Bones, another Fox procedural, out of sheer boredom and slight depression. And then he keeps up a running commentary about much he and Decker are like the mismatched investigative team on Bones. Reader, I was clocked.
Not only does the Bones bit continue throughout the series — Lucifer at one point confuses a case on Bones for a case he solved in Lucifer — but in nearly every episode, there's some sort of come-to-Satan moment where the show coyly winks at the audience to let you know they're in on the joke. Before I knew it, I was suddenly two seasons into the show, watching Lucifer accidentally make out with his celestial mom who had been body-hopping, and loving every moment.
But the thing that makes this kitchen sink disguised as a TV show so addictive is that while it never takes itself too seriously, it always takes it characters seriously. In between all the silly moments where Lucifer, a very talented piano player, is busy doing things like improvising his own theme song, there's delicious character growth that's spurred by very grounded relationships. One of the best creative choices the show ever made is that Lucifer never lies about his real identity. Despite his tales of God's machinations, the rebellion in Silver City, and his experience ruling over a demon horde while doling out eternal punishment, no one in Lucifer's life takes his stories about being the Devil seriously. Lucifer's delusions are written off as just that, even by his therapist.
Slowly over the course of the series, however, more and more people in Lucifer's life come to understand his true nature. And their reactions — from betrayal to horror to slow acceptance — make Lucifer question what his true nature actually is. He spends a majority of the show railing against his father, God (lmao), for throwing him out of the Silver City and trapping him in Hell. His time in the underworld turned Lucifer into a brutal and efficient punisher, and it's what he does even when he escapes to L.A.; the criminals the LAPD are after often get more than they bargained for when Lucifer works their case. Lucifer believes that the devilishness in him was put there by his father. But when the people in his life, people he's come to respect and rely on, see his worst and still choose to be his friend, Lucifer begins to wonder if maybe he's not intrinsically evil after all — that maybe what makes him good or bad are his own choices. With that realization, he starts to make better ones and builds a real family for himself.
Lucifer isn't the only character afforded that kind of arc. His former demon minion Maze (Lesley Ann-Brandt) breaks free of their toxic friendship and becomes a woman driven by her own purpose. His therapist, Linda (Rachael Harris), ruins her friendship with Maze over a man, and the show follows her as she painfully rebuilds it. Lucifer's brother Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) evolves from a loyal foot soldier for God to a father of a half-human baby, questioning his faith and becoming all the more empathetic for it. Decker navigates a troubled co-parenting relationship with her ex-husband Dan (Kevin Alejandro) as they learn to be honest with each other in a way they couldn't be when they were together.
I could not have been more surprised when I finished watching the fourth season and found that I deeply cared about these characters' happiness. We have to stan rich interpersonal conflict and evolution! And on top of that, I get series-long bits, alternate-universe episodes, and a frankly beautiful dance number set in the police station for no goddamn reason.
There's just no way to resist falling in love with a show that can do all that. I don't have a piano to play myself off, but trust that if I did, I'd be singing that Lucifer has the range.