Last weekend I watched the final episodes of Lucifer, a show I’ve really enjoyed since it began in 2016. It’s based on a DC comic book character created by Neil Gaiman, and I’ve always liked his work, so it’s not surprising I’ve enjoyed this series. On top of that, it blends a bunch of my favorite story genres, plus it gets right one of the most important aspects for such fantastic stories: it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
In honor of the show ending I thought I’d also mention a couple other favorite shows I’ve been re-watching lately, Elementary and Boston Legal. I’ve always ranked the latter as a favorite favorite, but seeing the former again I’m experiencing the love all over again.
Got a couple of Japanese anime stories to mention, as well.
Lucifer (the TV show, not the putative supernatural being) started on Fox in 2016 and spent three seasons trying to find an audience. It was one of those niche shows with a small, but loyal and loving, group of fans. In fact, so loving that Netflix picked up the series after Fox cancelled it. That gave the show another three seasons.
I gotta say, they kept it tight to the end. At the same time, I think they plowed the whole field. No doubt they could have found new stories and directions, but as much as I’ll miss the series, it somehow feels… complete. They certainly got the chance to wrap up the various series threads; nothing feels unresolved or left hanging off a cliff.
At first I was bothered by one aspect of the ending, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it had to be that way. It bookends the basic arc of the Devil’s visit; the real world is now more or less back to normal.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
The basic arc just mentioned is that the Devil (Tom Ellis) gets sick and tired of ruling Hell with just the damned and demons to keep him company, so he decides to take a vacation on Earth.
Specifically, in Los Angeles, where he takes the name Lucifer Morningstar, runs his own Hollywood nightclub, Lux, and generally becomes the handsome debonair man-about-town known for granting favors. (But, of course, then you owe him… a favor.)
He brings with him his best friend, Mazikeen of the Lilim (Lesley-Ann Brandt), the head demon of Hell. She’s in charge of the torture, and she really loves her job. On Earth she spends some time as the bouncer for Lux (super-strong, well-nigh invulnerable, loves trouble, needs no backup). Later in the series she pursues a career as a bounty hunter.
[I really like the Maze character. She’s a big source of the fun the series has, and the character really is a hoot. Plus Lesley-Ann Brandt. She caught my eye when she did a five-episode guest stint on The Librarians (another fun show).]
In the early seasons Lucifer must deal with pressure from his brother, the angel Amenadiel (D. B. Woodside), who has been sent by their father (God!) to convince Lucifer to return to his job in Hell. In later seasons, Amenadiel remains on Earth, falls in love with an Earth woman, fathers a child, and [spoiler] ends up taking his father’s job after dad retires.
Lucifer definitely has daddy issues. His failed rebellion is what banished him from the Silver City and consigned him to rule Hell as punishment. He’s not in the least interested in returning to that infinite boredom. Besides, he’s having too much fun helping the police solve murders.
After four-and-a-half seasons of being talked about, Dad (Dennis Haysbert) does appear for several episodes in season five. He becomes convinced that he’s losing it and decides to retire. But he refuses to name a successor, telling his children (the angels) to work it out. This leads to a small Heavenly civil war.
We see a lot more of the Goddess of All Creation (Tricia Helfer), Lucifer’s mom. Dad divorced her and stuck her in Hell where Lucifer was supposed to watch over her. In his absence, she escapes to Earth, inhabits the body of a dirty lawyer (Helfer), wreaks some havoc, and re-enters Lucifer’s life. And then a lot more stuff happens.
Which is all just a supernatural background to a series that is framed as a police procedural, sub-type murder mystery, sub-sub-type odd-couple pairing of police detective and a narratively interesting civilian.
In this case, the Devil. (Leave it to Neil Gaiman.) I confess I have a soft spot for the genre. For example, I really liked Castle (2006–2016), where the civilian consultant is a novelist (who could figure out the story behind the crime). Other examples include Perception (2012–2015), The Mentalist (2008–2015), and even Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983–1987).
In the first episode a friend of his is murdered in a drive-by shooting. In fact, they were embracing at the time, but Lucifer is invulnerable, so the hail of bullets leaves him unaffected. In the course of the police investigation he meets Chloe Decker (Lauren German), an LAPD homicide detective.
Because the victim was a friend of his, Lucifer decides to investigate on his own. (The Devil likes the idea of punishing the guilty.) His interference with the investigation annoys Decker so much she includes him just so she can keep an eye on him.
Lucifer proves to be so successful in helping her close the case, she decides to make him an official “partner” as a “consultant” for the LAPD. What’s cute is that Lucifer is completely open about who he is, but no one believes him. I mean, who hasn’t “spent time in hell” in some form or other?
The rest, as they say, is history, but man, oh man, do they have some fun along the way. For one thing, smart move, it takes most of the series for Lucifer and Chloe to actually become an item. A lot happens along the way. For example, at one point, convinced Lucifer is an existential danger, she conspires to help kill him despite her feelings for him.
The show also has a great deal of fun with alternative episodes. They’ve done a few musical ones (and frequently featured Tom Ellis singing and playing piano), several stories from the past (in which the actors are recast in different roles), and some interesting fantasy excursions. The people behind the show have been very inventive (guest character arcs have included Cain, Eve, and Adam).
My enjoyment has never flagged in the six seasons (watched multiple times), and watching these last episodes I realize Lucifer will always be one of my favorite shows.
I’ve long included Boston Legal (2004–2008) among my favorites. I loved it from whenever I first saw it. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t when it first aired; somehow I got into it later and bought all the season DVDs. Now I’m re-watching it on Hulu.
It may have caught my eye when I saw the cast: William Shatner (as Denny Crane), James Spader (as Alan Shore), Candice Bergen, René Auberjonois, as series regulars (along with Mark Valley, Julie Bowen, Christian Clemenson, Gary Anthony Williams, and more).
It gets better with Betty White, Michael J. Fox, Henry Gibson, Shelly Berman, John Larroquette, Delta Burke, Parker Posey, Tom Selleck, and many more as recurring characters. Even the single-episode guest star list was tasty.
One of my favorite aspects of the show is how it flirts with, but never actually commits to, breaking the fourth wall. The characters say things that appear to reveal awareness of being in a show, but which can always be taken as just a kind of weird way to put something.
Two of my favorites:
Denny (Shatner) takes Alan (Spader) to his rich man’s fishing camp for a vacation. One night Alan is reading about parasites affecting the salmon population and mentions aloud to Denny how the parasites cling on to the salmon. Denny, who is reading something shallow looks up startled and says, “Did you say Klingons?”
Denny, along with other lawyers, walking through a crowd of reporters demanding quotes is saying silly unquotable things (because “no comment” is just too boring). One of the things he says is, “I own my own starship!”
Another cute one is Denny missing a weekly meeting because he didn’t realize the day and time had changed. The days involved being the show’s old air day and the new one. Or when Alan’s secretary tells him not to fall for a woman because she’s just a guest star.
They had so much fun with that show. It must have been a joy to work on. It’s certainly a joy to watch. (And I do love a courtroom drama.)
I liked Elementary (2012–2019) when it first aired, although it never quite rose to the level of buying the DVDs. (With the assumption I’d want to watch it all again some day.)
But I am a very big fan of Sherlock Holmes (and Hercule Poirot, the more dapper version of same). I generally like adaptations of Holmes; I especially liked the BBC’s Sherlock. (The exception is the Robert Downey, Jr, movies; I never cared for those.)
I saw that the series was on Hulu, so I added it to my watchlist as something to watch once in a while for a change.
When I did watch, I found myself thinking, “Damn, this was a good show!”
Having Lucy Liu as Joan Watson is a nice touch, and I especially appreciate that in the show Watson and Sherlock have never shown one shred of romantic interest in each other. I imagine it might have been tempting with a male-female pairing (and no doubt some fans crave it).
The show is revisionary but at the same time loyal to the spirit and many of the beats of the canon. Sherlock’s drug problem, for instance, went from casual use to life threatening when his girlfriend was murdered. As the show begins Sherlock has been through rehab, forsaken all drug use, and moved to New York city. Sherlock’s father hires Watson, a professional live-in sober companion, to assist him in recovery.
Sherlock is a consultant for the NYPD. Watson tags along while he solves murders and eventually begins learning the detective trade herself. By the end of the series, they are co-partners.
I’ve been looking into older Japanese anime series, in particular ones that ran only one season. My idea is to find complete stories I can watch in a fairly short time. I spent several years getting through all 328 episodes of Fairy Tail, and I’m not anxious to start such a long journey again.
One I’d noticed Hulu suggesting frequently was Trigun (1998). It’s a single season of 26 episodes.
I’ve also been going for anime feature-length movies. (Again for the brevity.) I’ve found movies from series can be a good way to get a taste of what the series is like, even if (as is sometimes the case) the movie is really confusing because it assumes the viewer is familiar with the series. (For example, I was completely lost watching K: Missing Kings. Very pretty movie, though!)
I saw there was a movie, Trigun: Badlands Rumble (2010), so I watched that and really enjoyed it. In this case, the movie doesn’t require too much understanding, but is definitely better if one knows the series.
Trigun is a sci-fi western anime, a fairly common setting. It’s light-hearted and whimsical. The main character, Vash the Stampede (aka the Human Typhoon), is feared for his destructive nature, but Vash is actually a very peaceful guy.
Also on Hulu, Gun X Sword (2005); also a single season of 26 episodes.
This is yet another sci-fi western anime, but with a stronger dash of Samurai (swords and martial arts moves) plus mechanized personal armor. This series involves a common Japanese trope, mobile suits of various very advanced abilities and descriptions.
Both series use a common device in anime: somewhere around the halfway point it becomes apparent that Things Aren’t What They Appeared To Be. In this one, the story digs deeper and deeper in the second half.
For a while the series plays with another trope: The Villain Is Actually Right. In the final episodes, it becomes more obvious who is right and who isn’t. Much of the series presents a thoroughly unlikeable hero. Not an anti-hero so much as a real jerk. Worse, he spends most of the series on a blind quest for revenge.
This one is a bit more grim, but has some light-hearted stuff. In both series it’s worth waiting until things get interesting around the halfway mark. With this one, that seems especially important.
A note about the title: It’s often listed as Gun Sword, the “X” being an image accent, not a letter. In fact, pay attention to the shape of the “X” because it’ll make an appearance near the end. It’s also repeatedly suggested by other objects.
Sometimes watching anime it’s easy to think Western storytelling has reduced itself to pablum. But shows like Lucifer, Boston Legal, and Elementary, still give me hope we still have creative minds with fresh ideas.
And these are pretty mainstream. Get off the beaten path, and storytelling is alive and well everywhere, thank heavens!
Stay devilish, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.