YouTube is a weird place. You watch something, they start recommending you “similar videos”, and after a few clicks you start asking yourself how the hell you ended up here, wasting your life watching cat videos, top ten “facts” and “did you know”, car crashes of drunken Russian idiots, and people trying to do stunts and landing on their balls. Or lighting fireworks in their assholes. You get the picture.
So, at one point it recommended the TV series “Supernatural”, so I naturally started watching to see what it’s about because it looked weird, and I’m into weird. It was kinda fun but ultimately “meh”. However, then the algorithm started recommending another TV series, “Lucifer”, which initially looked like a generic high budget TV series, less pretentious than “Supernatural” but more fun, so I kept watching. Eventually I pulled the entire thing off of torrent, before figuring out I can now actually buy it (don’t ask, there were problems with purchasing downloadable media legally in Croatia because reasons; I still have to buy the Adobe subscription through an account I set up in Ireland) and got a premium Netflix account.
It is a matter of perverse curiosity for me to learn how people perceive the Devil, from the perspective of someone who knows him personally. Lucifer from this TV series is no exception to the general rule: he’s nothing like the actual Devil. However, once you get past that, it’s still interesting in many ways; for instance, I initially dissected the theology involved and it’s apparently a combination of the Old Testament understanding, some Kabbalah, and lots of Greek mythology; for instance, Lucifer is more like Hades, or Yama in the Hindu version. He’s the Lord of Hell, the punisher of the wicked and the guardian of the underworld. His “personal assistant” feels more like one of the Furies of Hades, who torture the wicked in the fields of punishment, than anything like the Christian demons, although nominally being the latter; they could have called her Alecto and not Mazikeen, for all the similarity. Their Lucifer is not evil; he has superficial characteristics one would attribute to evil, such as having a devil-face, and enjoying the suffering of the wicked, but that’s only skin deep, as a saying goes. He doesn’t try to seduce or trick people into evil; it actually appears to be the opposite. For instance, he warns and threatens a little bully girl in order to change her ways from evil. He mocks people whom he sees as hypocrites, and mischievously plays with all sorts of “sinful” behavior such as sex, drugs and alcohol, but it’s clearly visible how he cannot stand the actual evil – for instance, vicious people hurting the innocent. He has a very elaborate way of hiding his true nature under a mask of mischief and superficial fun, but even in the first episode you can see what he really is, when a messed up friend whom he’s trying to help get her shit together gets killed; he will literally follow the trail of the murderers till the end of the Earth until he finds and punishes them. He looks unfocused and unreliable, but he is absolutely and unflinchingly loyal to his friends. He’s the kind of person who would literally die for you, but will be offended if you call him good or altruistic. That makes sense, I guess: people who pose as good or altruistic are mostly psychopaths, so it makes sense for a truly altruistic, good person to pose as the Devil. This actually plays out in the third season of the series, when a true psychopath, Kain, the first murderer from the Bible, made immortal as punishment from God, a criminal mastermind who managed to infiltrate himself as a police station chief, manages to sell himself as a calm, reliable good guy. An example of the difference is that Kain apparently saves Chloe’s life (she’s Lucifer’s love interest) and she’s grateful, but in reality Kain actually intentionally put her life in danger because he wanted to test whether she will magically make him vulnerable, as she does Lucifer. On the other hand, Lucifer saved her life so many times it’s ridiculous, at a huge price to himself – he actually killed his own angelic brother Uriel protecting her, and he never even told her about it, in fact he just looked weird and unreliable to her during his grieving period, because he would rather look like a crazy person than claim credit and make her feel indebted to him. And yes, he actually died several times in order to save her, not knowing whether he would be able to return. And most difficult of all, he prayed to God to save her life, which is a terrible thing for him because he resents God bitterly. But apparently Lucifer is perceived as the frivolous, unreliable one, and Chloe almost married Kain at one point, because he’s reliable, predictable, and everything Lucifer isn’t. The last part is actually true. Lucifer does the “deal with the Devil” thing, where he grants people favors in exchange for later payment, and Kain imitates this, being a criminal overlord. However, people who make a deal with Lucifer get a genuine benefit, and his “later payment” is usually symbolic, like “get yourself together, please”. Kain, however, gives you something that only appears to be of benefit, and his repayment actually costs you your soul, because he wants you to do something inherently evil, under threat of violence. From my perspective, Kain is much closer to the actual Devil than this cinematic Lucifer. Kain portrays himself as the “angel of light”, a “good and honest man”, while being cruel, indifferent to others’ suffering, manipulative and truly and genuinely evil. Lucifer, on the other hand, portrays himself as a frivolous playboy, up to his eyebrows in sex, booze and drugs, openly calling himself the Devil, under the name of Lucifer Morningstar, of all things, and he is in fact a saintly, angelic being, with deep emotional conflicts and issues. Essentially, he’s the angel of light portraying himself as the Devil.
Another interesting thing is how his two brothers, Amenadiel and Uriel, both try to force his hand, believing they are doing God’s will, while it’s actually the “sinful” Lucifer whose actions turn out to be most in sync with God’s will, although he keeps bitterly berating God at every turn, resenting Him for all kinds of imaginary slights, and trying to do the exact opposite of everything he perceives as the will of God. Lucifer is far from perfect. However, he is profoundly honest, outspoken to a fault, and with an unflinchingly accurate moral compass. He will tell you that he only follows his desires and that he’s the most selfish person in the world, but what he does is much more telling than what he says.
The characters are unexpectedly interesting, layered and non-stereotypical for a TV show; I was genuinely surprised. You expect something to be written in a certain way, because it usually is (yawn), but the authors keep surprising me by showing the third, non-obvious way out of a black or white situation. For instance, when Lucifer is tasked by God to deal with his Mom who escaped from hell while he was away, Amenadiel and Uriel try to pressure him into obeying what appears to them as the obvious will of God. Also, he feels pressured to honor the deal he made with God in order to save Chloe. However, he also doesn’t want to harm his mother, who, although unhinged and dangerous, seems to be well meaning. He finds the third way, something his brothers didn’t see, just because he was willing to postpone acting and suffer everybody’s wrath in the process, because he felt that the options before him were not something he could live with. When he is confronted by the arrogantly self-confident Uriel, who acts as if he’s the hand of God, and has no problem killing people to realize his goals, it’s really heartbreaking to see Lucifer who is insecure about the right way to approach things, but protects his mother and Chloe until he figures out a way to deal with things correctly. Lucifer isn’t written like a typical cardboard character; he’s deeply conflicted, flawed, prone to misunderstandings and errors, and yet he is morally and spiritually the most straight, perfect character I ever saw in a movie. In comparison, the cinematic portrayals of Jesus look like ridiculous cardboard cut-outs. He’s a genuine saint who venomously berates God through his tears while mourning the death of his friend, all the while actually understanding God, at an instinctual decision-level, better than all the outwardly pious ones, who act confident of knowing God’s will. He’s that son from the Bible, whom the father tells to go do something, and who tells his father “no”, and later changes his mind and does it, while the other son says “yes father”, and does the opposite. I found this TV show more emotionally moving than probably anything I watched in years, on a very genuine, archetypal level, where flawed characters make decisions based primarily on the inner core of their being, forced to act on an existential level, without knowledge or intellect to provide them with a safety net. You have a character who is forced to make a literally split-second decision whether to kill his brother, or allow his mother to be sent to hell, and the woman he cares for to be killed. No time to think, the decision needs to be based on pure instinct, and the consequences tear him apart. I think I find it moving because real life is like that. You don’t have the time to think, and you need to pick a tragedy that is less unbearable.