Lucifer: Season One (DVD Review)

Lucifer ThumbFrom WB Home Entertainment, based on the DC/Vertigo comic book series comes the first season of “Lucifer,” which originally aired on Fox earlier this year. The series stars Tom Ellis (“Rush”) as the titular character Lucifer Morningstar, the literal devil, who is taking a bit of a vacation from running hell in order to explore the pleasures of an earthly existence as the owner of a posh club in Los Angeles. When he is encountered by police detective Chloe Decker, played by Lauren German (“Chicago Fire”), as she investigates the murder of a pop star friend of his, Lucifer becomes intrigued by the detective’s ability to resist his normally irresistible charm. When Lucifer is deemed useful, Detective Decker invites him to help her solve murders over the course of the season.

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Rounding out the other characters in the series are Mazikeen, played by Lesley-Ann Brandt (“Spartacus: Blood and Sand”), Lucifer’s trusty bartender and ally who left hell with him, Amenadiel, played by DB Woodside (“24”), Lucifer’s angel brother who is set on convincing him to return to hell, and Dr. Linda Martin, played by Rachel Harris (Natural Selection), who agrees to see Lucifer as a client in her psychology practice in exchange for sex. The show plays out like a police procedural, with Lucifer and Chloe working to solve one murder per episode as they encounter witnesses and chase leads. Lucifer often only takes real interest in a case when he stands to learn something about himself or make someone truly punish for committing the crime.

“Lucifer” is not a very good television show. It has a lot curb appeal with its fun premise. The two leads have a fun interplay as Lucifer is so irreverent and carefree, while Chloe is serious and driven. And Tom Ellis portrays Lucifer with charm and some great facial expressions. But, when all of that wears off, there is just a boilerplate police procedural underneath it all. Lucifer and Chloe go and solve crimes, yet they bring nothing really new to the “irreverent guy and serious female detective” crime-solving game. “Psych,” “Lie to Me,” and even “Castle” do almost everything this show does with more humor, more interesting crimes, and more interesting character interactions. It is somewhat baffling that with a stellar comic book to pull from, series creator Tom Kapinos (“Californication”) decided to go with such an oversaturated and tired setup for the characters. Here is Lucifer, the fallen angel, who is on earth to engage with humans and find something less boring than overseeing hell, and he ends up having a Twilight-level fascination with a human who is immune to his power of seduction, so he follows her around on crimes.

Despite the series being imbues with the comedic douchery of Lucifer, it ends up being a fairly boring affair. Anything that resembles a twist is so safely telegraphed that the viewer ends up figuring everything out a few episodes prior to the reveal. The vast and interesting mythology of a Satan figure isn’t explored with enough depth to really help the series move forward. The questions of free-will and the nature of existence that are touched on in the series aren’t explored deeply enough to end up being interesting. There isn’t a big episode that brings everything together, as instead of having a season-long mystery or secret, the series gives up the most intriguing multi-episode sub-plot in the ninth episode in order to force in a villain for Amenadiel, Mazikeen, Decker, and Lucifer to all team up against in the finale. This leaves the viewer with nothing in which to really get invested, since Lucifer’s “personal growth” that we are supposed to be following through his therapy sessions is usually both very specific to the case of that episode or so simply spelled out to the audience, that it just seems like lazy writing instead of characterization.

The acting is the show’s only saving grace. Tom Ellis is fun as Lucifer, Lauren German’s portrayal of Chloe Decker is imbued with enough bounciness and skepticism to keep her standoffish and serious detective character from being too much of a trope. What aids her is the frequent interactions she has with her daughter Trixie, played very well by Scarlett Estevez. Rachel Harris is the real standout as therapist Dr. Linda Martin as she gets to play serious advice-giver while simultaneously giving Lucifer desirous, leering stares. It is just too bad that she and the other performances are in a show that is otherwise so underwhelming.

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Encoding: MPEG-2

Resolution: 480i

Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Encoding

Clarity/Detail: DVD quality is never really going to be the clearest, but there are no glaring errors here.

Depth: There is sometimes an off-putting flatness to the episodes. It can be baffling at times, but perhaps that is how TV production goes.

Black Levels: Black levels seem black.

Color Reproduction: Color seems bright and colorful, but with a DVD, there isn’t going to really be that same pop.

Flesh Tones: Flesh is accurately produced.

Noise/Artifacts: No noticeable artifacting or noise beyond what can be reasonably expected from the more grainy look of a DVD.

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Audio Format: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French

Dynamics: Good use and effect of sound dynamism throughout the season.

Low Frequency Extension: The sub doesn’t get a very good workout in this show, but gunshots and music have a tendency to hit with accurate-sounding lowness.

Surround Sound Presentation: Surround sound is used to beneficial effect throughout the season, but never becomes distracting.

Dialogue Reproduction: The show is incredibly dialogue-heavy, so it is good that dialogue is reproduced accurately and clearly.

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Deleted Scenes – A handful of scenes that didn’t make the final cut. Usually, the dialogue of the scenes had been worked into later episodes. None of them are very interesting.

Character Profiles – Very short vignettes where the actors describe the characters they play in the show. None of these is longer than 2 minutes long and since they are on the third disc of the DVD set, one has likely already watched the whole season before watching these and they add nothing that isn’t already gathered from just watching the show.

Gag Reel – A needless and rarely funny collection of on-camera slip-ups. This seems to have been added to the disc purely for the enjoyment of those who worked on the show itself, since it isn’t necessary or interesting for viewers.

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Summary Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-_5Dexter-0Dexter-0

The existence of “Lucifer” as a safe, Fox, buddy-cop police procedural television series is somewhat baffling. It was very difficult for me to try to determine to whom this show was made to appeal. Fans of the comic on which it is based will immediately pick apart its divergence from the books, fans of police procedurals will very quickly see that it doesn’t add anything to the genre, fans of modern portrayals of the devil will be underwhelmed by Lucifer’s averageness, fans of female detectives can have more fun with almost any other detective show. If Warner Bros. wanted to bring the wit and deep existential questioning that comes with Vertigo’s version of the devil to TV screens, they, like Satan himself, fell a little short.

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