Sometimes when I watch Lucifer, I feel like I’m being punished for some forgotten misdeed committed in a past life. Surely, that’s the only possible explanation for this utterly purgatorial production, which is still chewing the same rancid cud it coughed up in its first season five years ago. That is, of course, the languishing “romance” between Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) and LAPD Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German), which reaches bold new levels of tedium in this latest batch of episodes.
After they came dangerously close to saying “those three words” to each other in the midseason finale – excuse me while I bash my head against a wall – the second half of Lucifer season five presents yet another contrived obstacle for the couple to contend with. This should come as no surprise given that this entire show has been built on lame excuses designed to delay any meaningful progression of its main story arc.
Lucifer convinces himself that he isn’t capable of love for reasons vaguely associated with his distant father (you know, God). This conclusion makes no sense whatsoever within the context of the show – the former Lord of Hell has spent 75 episodes pining over Decker – and thus feels more like a cynical ploy to wring another season out of an already exhausted will they/won’t they dynamic. If watching the show go round in circles isn’t enough to make you nauseous, the pathetically angsty dialogue surely will be.
There’s some relief to be found in death – specifically, the murders featured in the show. Yes, this is still a police procedural and a remarkably unambitious one at that. Each case feels like it was thrown together in the writers room in 30 minutes or less, while efforts to draw thematic links between the investigation and Lucifer’s personal life are clunkier than ever. At one point in season five part two, Decker asks a suspect about his alleged victim: “Would you say she was the God of the aquarium?”
The LAPD segments of Lucifer have always played out like an episode of CSI: STFU but they were a little more palatable in earlier seasons due to their brevity. Sharing a lean 42 minutes with the subplot meant that each case was normally winding down after about half an hour. But the jump to Netflix has brought with it an extended runtime that occasionally pops above the 60-minute mark, meaning these disposable homicides really outstay their welcome. That said, they do make Lucifer a great show to watch while scrolling on your phone because 50 percent of each instalment is of no consequence.
Ildy Modrovich and Joe Henderson’s decision to keep the rigid procedural structure imposed by Lucifer’s former home on broadcast television has always been bewildering. But in season five, part two, it also adversely affects the overarching story: the fight over a dangerous power vacuum created by God’s imminent retirement. With Lucifer and his evil twin Michael both vying to take over heaven, this could have been a high-stakes and exciting saga had it been the main focus.
Unfortunately, the writers fail to properly establish their mythology or build any sense of tension around this plot thread, as it always ranks well below the killing of local man Joe Bloggs in their list of priorities. When it is finally brought to the forefront in the season finale, they have no choice but to rush through it in a way that squanders any potential for a cinematic end. In the golden age of television, this all strikes as pitifully subpar.
The supporting members of the Lucifer cast are the show’s only bright spot, encompassing both its best performances and its most likeable characters. DB Woodside repeatedly shows good comic timing as Amenadiel but isn’t given enough opportunities to use it. Lesley Ann-Brandt continues to perform well as no-nonsense demon Mazikeen, with the return of Inbar Lavi’s Eve offering her a strong screen partner. Meanwhile, Dennis Haysbert does a serviceable job in the intimidating role of God, although his take sometimes veers a little too close to the archetypal “embarrassing dad” seen in any ’90s sitcom.
Tom Ellis is still firing off cheeky one-liners in an exaggerated voice which probably goes down a storm with Americans who love a ‘British accent’, but anyone aware that such a dialect is non-existent will find his performance grating. With Ellis playing two roles and belting out several songs over the course of the season (some of which are shoehorned in outside of the musical episode), Lucifer feels increasingly like a vanity project with every passing moment.
It certainly does nothing for co-star Lauren German, who is playing one of the least interesting characters on television today. In season five part two, the formerly independent Detective Chloe Decker approaches complete subservience and dedication to Lucifer Morningstar; the man she once ridiculed for attempting to seduce her. The vast majority of Chloe’s scenes consist of her chasing after Lucifer, asking him questions about their relationship and moping about over whether he truly loves her. She has no real personality or life of her own outside of this toxic attachment, which is shocking to see in a television show produced in 2021.
As it stands, Lucifer is more like the longest and strangest Mills & Boon novel ever written. This bizarre hybrid of romance, fantasy and procedural crime drama could perhaps be fixed under a remarkably gifted writer, but the current team of Modrovich and Henderson have routinely failed to get the engine running. The move to Netflix offered an opportunity to level-up which has been ditched in favour of gimmicky episodes and more dreary navel-gazing. The suffering could have ended here had the streamer not opted for a last-minute renewal – a punishment that even Lucifer would consider a bit cruel.
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