Lucifer is the kind of show you either get or you don't. A kitchen sink disguised as a TV series, Lucifer is a basic Fox procedural drama -- with all the obligatory will-they-won't-they between the two leads -- cosplaying as a Neil Gaiman character marooned somewhere in the DC universe that crossovers can't quite reach. The show's protagonist, Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) -- aka the Devil, the King of Hell, the banished son of God, the archangel with the power to discern your true desires -- is a nightclub owner side-hustling as a LAPD consultant who works with a beautiful, no-nonsense detective. For inexplicable biblical reasons, Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) can't be compelled by Lucifer's powers, a fact which mainly serves as a device to ratchet up their sexual tension. The main cast consists of archangels who are all powerful babies made of pure id, demons clawing their way out of toxic relationships, and hapless humans caught in a loose narrative web held together by Party City angel feathers and murder. If you enjoy consistently whispering what the ever-loving f--k to yourself as you mainline your content, Lucifer is extremely your s---. If you don't, then stop reading right here, because Lucifer Season 5 is even more chaotic (and horny) than ever before.
It's really a blessing for fans that the series was saved by Netflix after its cancellation by Fox with just three seasons in the books. Season 4 of Lucifer, unburdened from a strict murder-of-the-week format and blessed with a production budget worthy of its bats--t narrative choices, rose to a level that fans had never quite seen before. There were hints of greatness occasionally throughout the series; Lucifer's greatest strength has always been that while it never takes itself seriously, it always takes its characters seriously. But in Season 4 the series not only broke past the biggest narrative block of its Fox incarnation -- Decker finally understood and accepted that Lucifer is *actually* the Devil -- allowing for the kind of character growth that had been repeatedly stymied previously, but also served up Tom Ellis's butt cheeks in high definition. A triumph in fandom building, Season 4 seemed impossible to top particularly after its finale saw Lucifer and Decker confess their feelings, kiss in a dramatic pre-apocalyptic setting, and then be torn apart as Lucifer finally accepted his responsibilities in Hell to keep the mortal plane safe.
I am thrilled to announce that Part 1 of Lucifer Season 5 -- eight episodes which drop Aug. 21 on Netflix -- is set to clear the very high bar set by the show's first Netflix season. Yes, of course, there is more nudity, so let's take a moment to congratulate Tom Ellis who is 41 and somehow has the jouncy derrière of a twenty-something British prince. But more importantly, the first half of Season 5 delves into its characters' emotional journeys with unprecedented depth. The series has always done that, but only managed successful arcs for a handful of characters -- most notably Linda (Rachael Harris), Lucifer's therapist, and Maze (Lesley Ann-Brandt), Lucifer best friend and minion from Hell -- due to available screen time, budget, and story restrictions. In Season 5, it feels like the show finally balanced the right amount of biblically driven chaos and soothing procedural precision to allow for consistent character growth from all its characters over the course of the first eight episodes.
Without spoiling too much, Ella (Aimee Garcia) figures out why she's not great at relationships in the middle of a rave at Lux; Dan (Kevin Alejandro) succeeds at ritual human friendship behaviors in the middle of Three Men and a Baby fanfic; Maze actually asks for help (!!!) after getting a black-and-white noir tinged look at her past; Linda kicks ass at coparenting and drinking herself under the table; Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) figures out an entire clue; Lucifer goes full Criminal Minds and discovers a whole new skill set that includes presenting the profile; and Decker, well, we'll get to her in a second.
There's really only two unsuccessful parts of Part 1. First, is the series introduction of the archangel Michael, Lucifer's American (???) twin. Michael, who had the potential to become one of the show's most compelling series villains -- two Tom Ellises for the price of one! -- was so underutilized in the first half that I was left wondering if the real threat was the shakiness of Ellis' Yankee dialect. (If I'm being honest, hearing Ellis dip in and out of some kind of vague transatlantic Maggie Smith impersonation only added joy to my viewing, but I can't argue that it was convincingly sinister in any way.) But the finale of Season 5 Part 1 ensures that Michael will be back in a huge way in Part 2; his potential is unfulfilled, but still very much there.
The second major weakness of Season 5 Part 1 ties back to the show's original sin: German's casting as Chloe Decker. This season finally gives Lucifer and Decker a chance to be together for real, with no lies, by omission or otherwise, between them. The writers tackled the challenge of transitioning a seasons-long will-they-won't-they into a real relationship admirably; in fact, the early speed bumps Decker and Lucifer hit should be the most grounded and compelling part of the season because of how carefully and specifically they were constructed to force the characters into being honest with each other. But what should be an emotional catharsis four seasons in the making falls flat time and time again because German, admittedly limited, rote love interest material when the show first began, can't seem to find a version of Chloe Decker that experiences joy convincingly. Season 5 makes it starkly clear that the sexual tension and the romantic chemistry of this couple is predominantly carried by Ellis's natural impishness, and when German has to match his energy, instead of providing a steady counterpoint, the scenes feel forced, as if the spark that should be growing is already fading. The actors' lack of chemistry was easy to hide when the series revolved around Lucifer gazing longingly at Decker, but now that they're finally looking at each other with clear eyes, it's impossible to ignore. (I spent a lot of time imagining what Season 5 would have looked like if Nicole Beharie had been cast on Lucifer instead of Sleepy Hollow.)
No matter what its failings are though, Lucifer will always be the show that gave us an archangel chasing a chicken while the Devil laughs in the background and Season 5 is going all-in on the parts of the show that make it such an addictive watch. With surprising character growth, a delicious level of self-awareness, and unhinged joy at the prospect of creating chaos, Lucifer Season 5 Part 1 demands an immediate binge watch.
TV Guide Rating: 4/5
Lucifer Season 5 Part 1 premieres Friday, Aug. 21 on Netflix.