NOTE: Some small spoilers from the first half of the fifth season of, “Lucifer” may be present in this review. That said, the review is written to accommodate those who have not yet watched the season, and as such, will avoid discussion of major plot developments.
Lucifer is proving to be as difficult to kill as its eponymous Devil. After the series initially got axed by FOX, following the conclusion of its third season in 2018, Lucifer ended up being rescued by Netflix for a fourth season, only for the streamer’s higher-ups and license holder, Warner Bros. Television to agree that a then-upcoming fifth season would serve as the Vertigo/DC Comics-inspired procedural dramedy’s pre-determined conclusion. That didn’t sit well with the series’ highly passionate fanbase however, so Lucifer’s fifth season ended up being super-sized to sixteen episodes, which would employ Netflix’s classic workaround for extended seasons, namely splitting them into two halves that release separately. Then, even this ended up being moot, since Netflix and Warner Bros. Television ended up successfully negotiating a ten-episode sixth season during Season Five’s development anyway, which Lucifer’s showrunners have now claimed is the true, certain, 100% accurate, definitive final bow for the show, for real this time!
I imagine that Netflix’s recent securing of the license for an in-development television series inspired by Vertigo/DC graphic novel, The Sandman, which the original Lucifer comic books were spun off from (though Netflix’s planned Sandman series nonetheless takes place in a different universe than the Lucifer series), might have had something to do with Lucifer dodging the cancellation reaper a second time. Even so, Lucifer clearly has no intention of coasting with the start of its fifth season, though its fast-approaching conclusion definitely continues to hang over it, despite an extra season ultimately being granted to the series’ lifespan. I tell you, it will be very tough to see Lucifer finally ride off into the sunset once Season Six arrives too. After all, this plucky fantasy procedural-that-could ended up becoming so highly beloved among its fanbase, and a considerable chunk of the DC community at large, that series star, Tom Ellis even reprised his role as Lucifer Morningstar for a cameo during The CW’s record-shattering Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover event last year, a bold cross-network move that confirmed Lucifer’s placement within the live-action DC Multiverse’s Earth-666. That’s just awesome!
Clearly, Lucifer has earned its place in the DC TV hall of fame. Plus, with DC having now retired the Vertigo imprint that the Lucifer and Sandman comic books were originally published under (mostly reserved for comics published by DC that nonetheless didn’t take place in the mainline DC Comics Universe), Lucifer is free to wear its newly-minted, unfiltered DC branding like a badge of honour in Season Five! I suppose it’s no accident then, if Season Five’s first eight episodes are any indication, that Lucifer is operating much more like a comic book series made for a streaming platform at this point, rather than a police procedural made for network television, as it formerly was during its first three seasons. Oh sure, Season Five’s front half still provides a new batch of murder cases for Lucifer and his detective companion, Chloe Decker to solve, along with their circles of divine allies and LAPD professionals, but it’s being done more for tradition’s sake than anything else at this point. This feels especially true while the Netflix run of Lucifer seems to be far more interested in focusing on supernatural melodrama, and especially soapy, romance-driven characterization, than actually maintaining the witty sense of surprising humanity that so effectively made the earlier seasons a strange, but undeniably genuine delight.
If the romance novel-esque dorkiness is what you love most about Lucifer however, then rest assured that Season Five’s first half continues to have you covered. It definitely makes sense for Lucifer to openly pander to its existing fanbase as well, since it’s the passion of those fans that rescued the series from two separate deaths already. If, on the other hand, you long for the days when Lucifer had more balanced storytelling that wasn’t barely hovering above CW-level cheese (read: Its FOX days), well, you might be disappointed to see that Season Five of Lucifer is so far doubling down on several of the narrative annoyances that sometimes pervaded Season Four last year. Things could obviously change once the latter half of Lucifer’s fifth season, not to mention its sixth season, eventually arrives on Netflix in the months ahead, but for now, Lucifer’s Netflix episodes are still not apologizing for getting cheesier, skewing younger, and unfolding as if their show is one of The CW’s ‘Arrowverse’ DC dramas in disguise. Then again, I suppose that Lucifer has now been linked to Arrowverse canon anyway, thanks to Crisis on Infinite Earths, so it might as well make itself at home.
So, with Father Kinley and the rebelling demons having been taken care of with the conclusion of Season Four, what’s the new threat facing Lucifer’s lovable band of Celestial fraternizers? Well, if you’re flirting with soap opera convention this much, might as well go all the way with it, right? Indeed, Season Five introduces a literal ‘evil twin’ for Lucifer, that being Michael, archangel and faithful lieutenant of God, also played by Tom Ellis, this time sporting a hilariously laboured American accent. Sure, this only further begs the question of why Lucifer is the only angel that doesn’t have an American accent in the Lucifer universe, as far as we’ve seen anyway, but regardless, Michael is out to ruin Lucifer’s life… Even though he’s an angel, and the other angels never interfere with God’s plan, and Lucifer is clearly following God’s plan by returning to Hell, so… Why?
This is one of the biggest indicators that Lucifer’s writing has kind of lost a step since the show moved to Netflix; Lucifer’s foes are now targeting Lucifer specifically, for rather dubious reasons, simply because they can. Moreover, Michael’s actions feel especially inexplicable and spiteful, considering that he’s an archangel, albeit one that can draw out fears the way that Lucifer draws out desires, which really feels like it should be a demonic power? Yeah, Lucifer’s mythology has started to show some cracks since Chloe finally learned the truth about Lucifer’s identity at the end of Season Three, and since Chloe and Lucifer have finally embraced their apparent love for one another. Because Chloe is now fully aware of the existence of Celestials, and because Lucifer can no longer create jokes from Chloe’s obliviousness, the show has to compensate by creating larger threats to Lucifer’s and Chloe’s relationship, and this just doesn’t work as effectively. Michael is very indicative of this problem, especially when he appears to throw out Lucifer’s pre-existing rulebook on angels, and can barely keep his head-scratching ruse going past the very start of this season to begin with!
Now, in Michael’s defense, there are still eight episodes in Season Five that haven’t been released yet, so maybe they’ll fill in the gaps, and make Michael’s head-scratching menace feel a little more valid and meaningful. I also have to say in these first eight episodes’ defense that they do represent a very commendable desire to keep experimenting and attempting to elevate the material, even if some of these big swings don’t end up working that well. The quality of the murder cases in Season Five continues to vary wildly so far, with some of them still suffering from conclusions that are either too outlandish or too predictable (sadly, one of the season’s biggest cases towards the end of its front half telegraphs its big ‘twist’ far too much!), but the material around them tends to at least be interesting and engaging. Lucifer’s storytelling format gets extra flexible in Season Five as well, presenting a noir-themed flashback episode, an episode that pairs Chloe on a case with Amenadiel, and even an episode where Lucifer and Chloe have to solve a murder inspired by a trashy TV show that rips off their own working relationship! That’s a lot of ambitious creativity for just eight episodes, and half a season!
I must also say that the characterization among Lucifer’s supporting cast has noticeably improved in Season Five so far, especially where Dan is concerned. Dan felt like a particular casualty of the many big twists that occurred at the end of Season Three, when Lucifer’s showrunners tried to defy FOX cancelling them by throwing a ton of massive twists into a huge cliffhanger conclusion, only for FOX to cancel the show anyway, making the effort pointless. Because Dan has spent so much time defining himself through his love interests, first Chloe, then the late Charlotte Richards, Season Four left him with no clear place in the series’ lead ensemble. Season Five however actually presents the inspired idea of leaning into this lack of direction for Dan’s character, suddenly re-writing him as a newly spiritual weirdo that’s trying every fad diet and every shaky faith system, in a desperate bid to regain some meaning in his life. This is not only very funny, but also surprisingly poignant, while finding a rewarding way to make Dan feel like an important character again, now that Charlotte is dead, and Chloe is finally free to date Lucifer.
The improved writing for the supporting cast also makes its way to Maze, Amenadiel and Linda most of all, even if Ella isn’t always as lucky this time. Maze feels like a particular standout in terms of depth and drama in fact, after she’s forced to confront a big connection from her past, thus altering her self perception forever. Amenadiel and Linda, meanwhile, are mostly played for laughs so far this season, but Amenadiel’s angst over his potentially angelic child still rings true, especially after the traumatic events he faced during the Season Four finale. On the flip side, Ella gets the short end of the stick, like I said, being consigned to playing a big role in that previously mentioned, super predictable key case that deserved to be a lot more shocking and subversive. Ella does seem to have some promising storylines foreshadowed for Season Five’s latter half though, if some teases in the first half are any indication.
Lucifer’s fifth season is sometimes hurt overall by having to be awkwardly split into two halves, especially when it’s no longer serving as the show’s final season, but its character writing and sense of fun is still pretty enjoyable for enduring fans at this point, even if the Lucifer/Chloe relationship descends a bit too far into soapy pandering. Michael is also not a very good villain so far. He’s in dire need of more context regarding why he’d openly try to spite Lucifer, despite being an archangel that’s supposedly extra loyal to God. Still, one has to respect that Season Five of Lucifer is definitely swinging for the fences when it comes to creative ambition, going for broke with some of the craziest episode hooks that the series has yet delivered, for better or for worse! If you’ve come to enjoy Lucifer already, I can definitely say that you’ll continue to enjoy Season Five’s first half, even if it ultimately represents yet another fan-favourite Netflix series that’s more concerned with doubling down on its existing fanbase, rather than trying to expand its audience. With the end having been in sight for Lucifer for a while now though, I suppose that the show’s priorities are admittedly in the proper place.
It may no longer be as clever or as edgy as it was on FOX, but Lucifer nonetheless continues to be a wild ride for its established following on Netflix. I would make a crack about a musical episode being the only frontier left for the series’ charming weirdness, but that’s legitimately on the way during Season Five’s back half! The Devil may be many things, but he’s certainly not boring!
The first half of Lucifer's fifth season delivers some of the show's most creatively ambitious storylines yet, though the season's new threats currently fail to impress.
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THE GOOD STUFF
Creatively ambitious episodes that nicely toy with the show's formula