Sheila hates everyone, most especially herself. Perhaps it’s fitting that the show, Physical, is so easy to dislike.
Lucifer’s not such a bad guy. Or at least that’s what Netflix would like you to believe.
Sure, he led one eensie-weensy rebellion against the Almighty. And what did he get for his trouble? An eternity in hell, ruling over a host of demons who took part in the rebellion and, of course, the pitiful humans sent there. But no matter. What did Satan say in John Milton’s Paradise Lost? “Better to reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.”
Still, lording it over folks in hell is no Sunday brunch, either, and for the past few years Lucifer’s been on vacation. He opened a nightclub in Los Angeles (which seems fitting), and in his spare time he helped his new mortal detective pal, Chloe, solve an infernally difficult case or two. Because if there’s anything that Lucifer has discovered that he hates, it’s people who break the law.
Ah, the irony. But alas, blood is thicker than liquor—even the top-shelf stuff he sells at his nightclub. Cracking cases and bringing murderers to justice is, well, devilishly easy compared to figuring out his perpetually prickly family dynamics. His older brother, the angel Amenadial, is a nice enough fellow, but Lucifer’s twin brother Michael (another angel) is a scheming sort. And as you might expect, Lucifer has a few Daddy issues as well.
Let’s say this right up front: Fox’s Lucifer is just all kinds of wrong. Ripped from the pages of DC Comics’ Sandman series (along with a spinoff series or two of his own), this Lucifer is a handsome antihero who doesn’t seem as much evil (by contemporary standards) as a misunderstood, put-upon ex-angel with a wicked sense of humor.
Which means the theological issues here are legion.
Granted, you don’t go looking to a cheeky, supernatural-themed crime procedural for theological truth. But even if we brazenly disregarded all of those theological issues, there’d still be plenty to worry about. Lucifer, for one thing, is a charming little devil—oozing an ever-so-attractive British accent and sporting just the right amount of stubble to make every female in range swoon. (Well, every female except Chloe and her daughter, Trixie.) Lucifer can—and often does—sleep with said females, too, though he and Chloe seem more or less a monogamous couple in the show’s latter Netflix stages.
The dastardly dude’s clearly not offended by foul language. Booze and drugs are obviously par for the course considering Lucifer’s gig as the owner of a salacious nightclub. It’s intimated that Lucifer smokes (and why wouldn’t he?). And death swirls around him like so much sulfuric mist—harsh, bloody and sometimes with the threat of worse torments to come.
For those who have no particular religious inclinations, Lucifer fits snugly into a couple of popular subgenres: On one hand, you’ve got a Supernatural vibe going on, plucking out divine and infernal characters from Judeo-Christian tradition and rebooting them like Disney villains. On the other, you’ve got cops teaming up with quirky-but-gifted partners to nab the bad guys. And thought about in that way, Lucifer doesn’t feel all that different from Elementary or Limited or Blindspot or Castle or many other TV crime shows.
But what does it mean when the quirky-but-gifted partner is the bad guy? And not just a run-of-the-mill bad guy, but the ultimate personification of all that is evil? Is it overstatement here to admit that Lucifer calls to mind a certain passage from Isaiah? “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” And when the show introduces God Himself in the proceedings—as a distant, hard-to-please father who didn’t take his angelic kids out for ice cream enough.
Lucifer tells us, rightly, that he doesn’t make us sin; he just clears the way for us to do it ourselves. But then Lucifer dives off the deep end into the lake (of fire) by posing the anti-theological question: Should the devil himself be forgiven? Can he be redeemed? The demon Maze seems to fear exactly that as she questions Lucifer’s commitment to evil, telling him that the human race is changing him. Softening him.
This, naturally, shoots right off the biblical course. But it does something else, too: It slyly suggests that there’s something in our humanity that is more winsome than heavenly divinity (which onscreen is represented by the dark, brooding angel Amenadiel). That kind of thinking certainly undercuts the reality of our fractured human nature—that everything good about us comes from our Heavenly Father, and that everything bad comes from the hellish sin that is now woven into our fallen selves, manipulated by the devil and his demons, God tells us.
In this TV world, anyone who believes in such things as archangels and God’s righteous reign are the real bad guys. We’re the harsh and judgmental ones, unwilling to let Lucifer have his procedural fun.
Lucifer’s father shows up on earth for an unexpected family reunion, much to his three sons’ discomfort. Meanwhile, Lucifer and Chloe try to solve a murder that may involve some familial tension of its own.
First, the easy procedural stuff: Lucifer, Chloe and others see the charred body of the victim (mostly covered with a forensics sheet) at a mini-golf course owned by his family. The man’s three siblings fall under suspicion, as does the owner of a rival putt-putt establishment. When trying to explain absences during the night of the murder, one brother says that he was making out with his girlfriend. (His brother and sister say that no one would make out with him unless she was paid to do so.) Another admits to smoking marijuana. They discuss the rivalry with the other mini-golf course, which involved rearranging some of the course statuary in suggestive poses. (Lucifer says he also changed the poses of some to suggest homosexual sex.) Characters drink wine and other alcoholic beverages, and Lucifer downs several glasses of whiskey in short order (and seems to be a bit drunk).
Now, the theological issues.
God asks his three children to come for a “nice family dinner.” Lucifer brings a souffle, “risen perfectly, just as you like them.” He accuses God of being a terrible father incapable of love, and Amenadiel (the eldest of God’s sons at the table—Jesus is rarely mentioned and has never made an appearance on Lucifer) agrees that he’ll raise his own son—a mortal he sired with human psychologist named Linda—much differently and more kindly than God raised him. Lucifer also tells God that he and his brothers are all messed up because of God: “If all the apples are bad,” he shouts, “maybe it’s the tree that’s the problem.” During dinner and elsewhere, Lucifer and others question or joke about God’s omniscience and suggest that God has made plenty of mistakes and just refuses to admit to them.
After dinner, Amendiel confirms with God that his son, Charlie, is mortal, and asks to switch places with him, so Charlie would never have to experience sickness or death. “You’d do anything for your son,” God tells him. “If only fatherhood was ever that easy.” He then bans Michael from Earth shortly thereafter. God talks a great deal about his grandson, Charlie. Linda recalls how she met both “Eve and the goddess of all creation (who in Lucifer’s theology, is God’s ex-wife). She offers God both water and wine, saying they’re “all the same to You.” There’s a reference to an “evil priest” who tried to convince Chloe to poison Lucifer. We see crosses on a model of a church on a putt-putt course. God and his three children sit at a table and—purposefully or no—their positions echo a Christian cross, with God at the head and Lucifer (removed from the rest) forming the base.
Characters say the s-word once. We also hear “a–” (with a couple of characters using the word to refer to God), “h—,” “d–n” and the British profanity “bloody.”
As the newly reinstated king of hell, Lucifer does his duty to torture the souls that reside there. However, after realizing that his still-on-earth friends are assigned to the case of a criminal recently sent to hell, he attempts to solve the man’s murder to help them. A demon temporarily possesses the body of a recently deceased man to give Chloe a message from Lucifer. Lucifer controls a man’s “hell loop,” created from the man’s worst memories on earth as a form of torture. He explains that every person in the hell loop is actually a demon (one of which is faceless). Someone says, “Amen.” The demon Maze and human Chloe pretend to be a lesbian couple while undercover. Maze kisses Chloe after their work is done, which Chloe rejects. Chloe and Lucifer kiss. We see a couple in their underwear as the man kisses the woman on her neck. People in bathing suits dance and drink on a boat. One man adjusts his speedo. A woman wears a revealing dress to a poker game. Some women wear outfits baring cleavage to a nightclub and dance closely together with men and other women. Some women talk crudely about sex. Men hit on women several times. A man gets shot in the chest. When police investigate the corpse, they discover his hand has also been cut off, and we later see the dismembered limb. Chloe and Lucifer get caught in a shootout with several thugs, killing some of them and knocking the rest unconscious. A man runs into the street and gets hit by a car, cutting up his body quite badly and killing him. A woman attempts to hold Maze at gunpoint, but Maze flips and disarms her. Maze beats up several security officers. We hear about several death threats. Someone holds a playing card covered in blood. A woman destroys a piano in anger. A man deals drugs at a nightclub and later reveals they are prescriptions he stole from ill family members. People drink at various social gatherings throughout the episode. People gamble thousands of dollars at high-stakes poker games. We learn about a thief. We hear uses of the s-word, “h—,” “b–ch,” “b–tard,” “d–n” and “a–hole.” God’s name is also misused. A woman is sad that her estranged brother never turned his criminal lifestyle around before he was murdered. Lucifer later discovers the man regrets not visiting her and his parents one last time before their parents died. Two parents are advised that the best way to raise their child is to just be there for him when he needs them.
Lucifer has gone back in time to save Chloe’s father (who was shot early in her childhood) and, because of his interference in the past, the present day looks different for almost everyone. Lucifer still owns his nightclub and is looking to expand his business endeavors. Chloe is a famous actress who secretly desires to be an actual detective. When a man is killed in Lucifer’s nightclub, he and Chloe run into one another to solve the mysterious death. Elsewhere, Lucifer’s business partner (the woman that was formerly possessed by his mother) plans to steal from him—but she may have to sell her soul to another evil entity to do so. Characters have sex (noises are heard) and passionately kiss. There’s mention of intercourse, impotence and foreplay. A woman grabs a man’s genitals. A man places money down a woman’s bra. A cop discusses a case involving a naked man. Someone tells a therapist that a woman has cheated on her husband. Men go shirtless and women wear clothing revealing cleavage and stomachs. People are stabbed and shot (we see blood). God is repetitively referred to as harsh and judgmental and we hear mention of punishment for sins. A demon tells a woman to embrace her “deepest, darkest desires.” God’s name is misused once and other profanities include “h—,” “d–mit” and the British profanity “bloody.” Someone is called many crass names. People consume hard liquor and smoke cigarettes.
Marcus (actually Cain, the world’s first murderer) is a new lieutenant for the Los Angeles Police Department. He has recently begun a romantic relationship with recently-divorced Chloe and is helping both her and Lucifer chase down the “Broken Hearts Killer,” who was seemingly last active in 1958. Lucifer fears that Dan and Chloe’s relationship will ruin their partnership. Meanwhile, Mazikeen (a demon in woman form and Lucifer’s best friend) is tired of pretending to be a “good” example while living in Trixie, Dan and Chloe’s home. Amenadiel (one of the sons of the celestial being (and the universe’s creator, along with his former wife, Goddess) God and elder brother of Lucifer) finds his mother, Charlotte, but she can’t seem to remember who she is. Turns out, Charlotte was murdered and taken over by Goddess, who was sent to hell and has since then returned to earth. Goddess then vacated Charlotte’s body and has left Charlotte with no memory of her former self. Linda (a human therapist and friend of Amenadiel) gives Charlotte counsel. The apparent Broken Hearts Killer murders people who have been unfaithful toward their spouses. We see dead bodies covered in blood with their chests smashed in and we learn their wedding rings have been shoved down their throats.There is much talk of death and murder. Characters drink liquor and smoke. Some show cleavage while wearing revealing outfits. Someone jokes about having a threesome, grabs their own breast and makes careless jokes about having sex. God’s name is misused four times. We hear the words “h—,” and “stupid” twice and “d—” once. Victims are drugged and an elderly woman is, unknowingly, given “pot brownies” which sends her to the hospital. Drunken men lay on the floor, surrounded by beer cans.
One-time musical star Delilah is encouraged, oddly, by Lucifer to turn her life around—to stop with the alcohol, the drugs and the topless selfies. And when Delilah says, “God, I’m a mess,” Lucifer insists that “God has nothing to do with your mess.” Then Delilah’s gunned down, and her killer is killed in a wicked car crash. (We see both bloodied bodies.) Lucifer threatens a guy by holding him out the window. A shootout leaves two people on the brink of death. Lucifer scares the stuffing out of an elementary school bully and threatens an apparent murderer. Visuals intimate that Lucifer’s assistant/demon/bartender is given oral sex. We hear about other sexual encounters and watch Lucifer seduces a woman. We’re told that Chloe appeared topless in a movie and that Delilah has been quite promiscuous. People discuss affairs. Lucifer talks about “hookers” in front of a kid. Women wear revealing clothes. We see packets of drugs and hear about heroin and “roofies.” Lucifer gets access to a rapper by claiming to be a narcotics dealer. He fiddles with a cigarette. He and others drink alcohol. In addition to talking about the place it represents, characters use “h—“ as a swear six or so times, once paired with “bloody.” People say “d–k,” “b–ch,” “d–n” and “a–“ (one to three times each). “God’s name is misused. An f-word is obscured by a timely horn. Lucifer toys with a coin featuring a demonic pentagram on one side and a crucified Jesus on the other. He insinuates that God just “decided” that he was evil. There’s lots of loose and distorting talk about God, angels, heaven and hell.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).
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