A gentleman endowed with a charming British accent and an easy-on-the-eyes face decides to quit his profession and retire to Los Angeles, where he opens a nightclub and consorts with women that would make Sinatra green-eyed. Side note: He’s the Devil.
Tom Ellis (“The Strain”) plays the titular character who, after being cast out of Heaven and condemned to rule Hell, decides to take a vacation. Adapted from a DC comic strip, the show debuts with a boatload of panache. Lucifer exudes a suave demeanor — think Neal Caffrey of “White Collar” meets James Dean — and uses his much-hyped power of extracting hidden desires to evade a speeding ticket and ruin a wedding. Oh, the perks of divinity. “Must be something about this face,” he quips.
But the Devil is bored. Being alive since the inception of time can do that to someone. Cue Chloe Decker (Lauren German, “Chicago Fire”), a detective investigating the assassination of Lucifer’s friend and protégé. Chloe instantly intrigues him. She doesn’t fall for his charms and definitely doesn’t believe he’s Satan. This, coupled with his talent for revealing what people want the most, compels Lucifer to assist the LAPD’s homicide division.
Therein lies the show’s potential cause for cancelation. Satan solving petty crimes is briefly amusing, but the mysteries are so juvenile they are about as engaging as the end credits — less “Castle,” more “Scooby Doo.”
Ellis, however, renders criminals and audiences powerless under his gaze, convincing the viewer to have sympathy for the Devil — bad pun fully intended.
And where the scriptwriters failed in casting the show as a weekly crime procedural, they flourished in their portrayal of Lucifer, thankfully realizing that Beelzebub leaving his post has ramifications.
His absence from the underworld agitates some — particularly his faithful companion Mazikeen (Lesley-Ann Brandt, “Gotham”) and Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”), a dapper dark-winged angel who encourages Lucifer to return to Hell. Lucifer declines not so politely — “I’m free from the seventh of never through to the 15 of ain’t-gonna-happen,” he says.
The whole “Devil-made-me-do-it” syndrome perturbs him as he constantly reiterates that he stirs desires but cannot induce people to sin. He questions whether he is inherently evil, or evil simply because God made him so. And while Lucifer faces an internal existential battle, the over-arching suspense of his identity reveal to Chloe and other supernatural consequences keep the audience riveted.
The most delightful part of the show is its soundtrack, which features songs that gleefully tell of the Devil’s little white lies while foreshadowing the plot. Sadly, “Sympathy for the Devil” has not yet featured, as much as any aficionado of Mick Jagger’s rooster strut wants it so. Then again, as Lucifer puts it so succinctly, “I can’t read people’s minds. I’m not Jedi.”