Ever since the cliff-hanger finale of Season 3, the fate of Lucifer has been in jeopardy. Fox cancelled it after the revelation that detective Chloe has seen Lucifer’s true face and is grappling with the knowledge that he is in fact the Devil incarnate, leaving the characters and the fans without any sense of closure. A long campaign led by fans mostly on Twitter, brought the show’s situation to worldwide attention and Netflix fortunately picked it up. Of course, Netflix’ involvement brought its fair share of speculation. Would it take new risks or stick to the former PG-13 rating? Would we see a darker side to Lucifer and Chloe? Would the procedural crime format that has been repeatedly criticized as the show’s weakest point, undergo a change? Would we miss the show’s trademark campy humour?
And the answer for the most part is an overwhelming no. And that’s both a good and bad thing. The most striking difference between Netflix’ and Fox’ way of handling things was that the former condensed the latter’s sprawling 20+ episode per season into a tightly written and cohesive ten-episode narrative arc. Other than that, there is virtually no difference, except for two noteworthy additions to the familiar cast.
Tom Ellis’ delectable Devil, as we learn, has been moping in his nightclub, playing the sombre piano tune of “Creep” by Radiohead over and over, throwing the regular upbeat party-goers off the mood. Meanwhile Chloe and Trixie have embarked on a trip to Europe, without notice, to better process the truth that the Devil, along with God and demons and other elements of Christian theology are real and has always been real, and affecting her mortal life in significant ways. During her travels and while still conflicted about Lucifer’s ambiguous morality, she encounters the priest Father Kinlay (portrayed well by Graham McTavish) who convinces her of the Devil’s inherent evil and gives her a potion that will swiftly dispatch the drinker to hell.
We are also told that there is a prophecy, that if the devil meets his first love, evil shall be let loose on the planet, making Chloe’s secret mission just a bit more urgent. And to complicate matters, the Devil’s first flame, the original sinner and “bad girl” Eve has returned to Earth and is ready to rekindle a sizzling romance with him.Just as the first episode ends, and the characters settle into their usual routine, we witness the familiar tropes play out, once again. If the third season tested Chloe’s love for Lucifer by bringing in a new distraction in form of the charming police-officer Pierce aka the Biblical Cain, it is clear that Eve is also here to serve a similar purpose and compel the Devil to choose between his lustful instincts and his capacity for empathy and compassion, which for some reason are posited as binary opposites.
And that is a disappointment.
Because Eve is a gloriously gorgeous and refreshing character and played to perfection by a sultry Inbar Lavi. She is naive but isn’t stupid, and her passion for Lucifer is undiluted, bubbling and full of vitality. Yet she spends much of her screen-time being defined by the male character she hopelessly adores who must ultimately for plot reasons choose the “good girl” Chloe. Lauren German’s daftly-handled Chloe who is steadfast, modestly-dressed, and would rather solve a case than give into a night of debauchery. In fact, Lucifer who would rather have both of them, is constantly reminded by his therapist Linda (Rachael Harris still going strong) and other characters that he must choose either one as “opposite” urges would tear him apart, that to quote an episode title, he must not and cannot wear his “orgy pants to work”.
Meanwhile Lucifer’s saintly brother Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside being his usual brooding self) is suddenly coming to terms with the prospect of fatherhood, with the possibility of being a Black father in a world torn apart by racism and gun violence. In one episode, he befriends and saves a young black kid from a bleak future only to watch him die before his eyes as a result of police brutality. His angelic powers have no use in a world where identities are compartmentalized by the colors of one’s skin and this revelation is not only late in the show (Amenadiel has been a character on the show and spent time on Earth since Season 1) but also because it has little impact on his other white friends (celestial or otherwise) who surround him. It is perhaps Netflix’ tokenistic attempt to introduce political relevance into a show that despite its pretensions to be a crime drama, is far from realistic.
As stated earlier, Netflix barely makes any changes to the show. Every episode there is a new corpse whose cause of death must be investigated by the lead duo (with Lucifer projecting his personal issues onto each case with little or no awareness, derailing the case and annoying everyone else) and whose culprit can easily be guessed before it is finally revealed. In fact, the mystery of the missing killer barely drives the show and it is the inter-personal relationships among Chloe, Lucifer, Eve, Mazikeen, Dan and Ella that render it engaging to watch.
In fact, it is the conclusion that gives some sort of freedom and agency for its secondary female characters, with both Eve and Mazikeen, after being jilted by their loves, realizing their own potential, and separately embarking on a quest for self-discovery. However it would have been nicer to have seen more of Ella and her quirky brand of morbid cheerfulness on screen and if the fantastical elements (the demons, the realm of Hell, the magical artefacts) had been more pronounced rather than giving the idea that the production team ran out of its allotted CGI budget.
But as for the main slow-burn love story between the Devil and his mortal detective that encapsulates the real reason for the show’s enduring popularity, there are finally some much-anticipated developments. Yet Netflix too concludes on a bitter-sweet cliff-hanger finale, as the last notes of Claire Wyndham’s “My Love Will Never Die” slowly fade out. The fourth season of Lucifer by Netflix is thus, an almost-love letter to its fans and works precisely because it delivers what the fans are used to and therefore will most definitely like, even as it shuns from trying new things, fully aware that fans will eagerly binge-watch this, even if it appears a tad stale.