Lucifer Season 1 Episode 1 Review: “Pilot”

Lucifer pilot

Since House left the air in 2012, Fox has struggled to establish a dynamic procedural show, offering up high profile bust after high profile bust (remember Terra Nova?), with only the brief-lasting success of Sleepy Hollow to bolster its dramatic profile in recent years. Attempting to right the ship with a Neil Gaiman property would be considered a novel, ambitious attempt to reboot its drama brand; unfortunately, Lucifer‘s first episode is an absolute mess, a classic Trying Too Hard network debut, a pilot so pilot-y, it drowns whatever small interesting moments it conjures under an avalanche of laughably bad punch lines, cardboard characters, and a plot so incomprehensibly dumb, it makes the freaking devil look worse for partaking in it.

“Pilot” gets off to a decent start, introducing Tom Ellis as Lucifer Morningstar, son of the almighty devil who abdicated his throne next to the larger throne of his father. It pays instant homage to Gaiman’s Bowie-like character (created in his likeness at Gaiman’s request back in 1989) with a little bit of “Fame” – and then instantly goes downhill, as we learn of Lucifer’s compassionate hooker-turned-druggie-turned-pop-star-turned-druggie-again best friend who gets murdered in cold blood seconds after talking about how hard her life is. Then ol’ Lucy (as his angry brother calls him) meets Chloe, an overworked, under-appreciated single mom detective who had a baby/was married to her boss, and also once starred in a movie where she was famously (and completely) naked…. wait, what?

Chloe’s arrival really marks when “Pilot” flies off the handle. Written by Californication creator Tom Kapinos, it’s easy to see the tone “Pilot” is trying to strike with its two main characters, creating the “complex” puzzle Lucifer has to slowly try and seduce through the first season (though the long shots of her googly-eyes at him already suggest it is on like Voltron). Instead, it just creates a woman who falls into so many stereotypes, primarily the one that needs a suave, slightly bad boy-ish man to come in and tell off her jerk ex-husband, make her toothless kid smile, and save her life when she gets shot by a murderous music producer (who used to be friends with Lucifer; at one point, he interrupts his wedding to a 20-year old)… it’s really just as gross as it sounds, 45 minutes of him slowly wearing her down with his selfish attitude, impeccable taste, and undeniable charm, which doesn’t actually work on her as it does on regular humans, but still is powerful enough to make her consider him as a viable procreational candidate in the near future (again, the multiple eye ball shots of Lauren German).

And it moves on predictably from there; get your Supernatural Pilot checklist out with a nice sharp pen, because Lucifer runs through them all. A whitewashed cast, an incoherently-hinted at Larger Overarching Universe, a scene where the supernatural character does something weird with their eyeballs… if you’re into Pilot Bingo, this first episode is a real knockout. And at times, it honestly does feel like it’s having fun with the formula; when Chloe is actually asserting herself around the Lucifer-motive running through every scene, there are glimpses of Lucifer that feel like a show offering some panache on the tired cop formula. There are also moments where it feels like Lucifer could be the completely bats*** crazy show it really needs to be to survive on a network; when we meet the loyal demon Maze, she’s getting pleasured by someone behind the counter, while she’s serving drinks to customers.

But even that moment isn’t presented with the wild audacity one would hope; it’s one of those overly constructed Cool Moments, the kind where characters have to literally point out to the other person what they were just doing, dulling the impact of the hilariously outlandish visuals preceding it (not to mention how unnecessary it is; do we not have two eyeballs?). At no point does Lucifer ever feel loose or relaxed; it sticks so rigidly to the one or two bullet points it has for each character and story, there’s never a moment for anything to breathe – and when it does “breathe”, it’s to fill characters’ lungs with so much expository nonsense, it never feels like two characters are actually talking to each other in any scene. There’s a fun nugget of an idea for a procedural drama in Lucifer; but how blatantly and lifelessly it tries to rehash old archetypes and storytelling formulas makes it another forgettable drama bound to be quickly lose in the excesses of the modern television landscape.

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Lucifer would love Pusha T. That detail really bugged me.
  • Lucifer is such a creature of desire, he apparently considers every single comment a woman makes a sexual inquiry or suggestion of some sort. How charming.
  • It took Delilah less than 20 seconds to say “I’m a mess”. She then dies, and it takes about four scenes before we find out the real female counterpart is a single mom who slept/married her boss. Way to be original, Lucifer!
  • Part of the first conversation Lucifer has with Chloe involves his testicles. Again; how charming!
  • Another detail that makes no sense: Lucifer doesn’t understand the concept of stunt doubles in Hollywood?
  • Maybe throw one more chain on Too Vile the rapper; the massive dookie chain AND platinum chain didn’t look Fake Gangster enough.
  • The movie Chloe’s body starred in was called Hot Tub High SchoolLucifer tries so hard sometimes – and yet, often it’s trying so hard to do so little.

[Photo via FOX]

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