Lani hadn’t seen the Lucifer pilot yet, but Krissie and I dragged her in. I said, “My fix was clearly a Crusie, Krissie’s was clearly a Stuart, how would Lani Diane Rich rewrite this? She told us, and of course, it’s brilliant (she’s a fabulous teacher). I agree with everything in her analysis, also brilliant, but the fun part is how she’d fix it, different from Krissie and me because she’s Lani Diane Rich:
Lani Diane Rich’s Fix for the Lucifer Pilot:
What I Like:
Tom Ellis. He’s charming and British, so basically, made to delight me.
Concept and visual treatment. The concept of Lucifer trying to live among the world is interesting; I like that. The direction is good and I like the visual style.
Somebody likes Buffy. Bailey Chase and DB Woodside are cast here. I doubt that’s a coincidence, and I was happy to see both of them. Bailey Chase isn’t a great actor, but it was still fun to see him.
What’s Not so Great:
Smarm. I like Tom Ellis, a lot, but even I was bored by his smarmy perfection. Look, I get he’s Lucifer, and I love me a trickster hero. But he has basically unlimited powers to influence and manipulate the people around him, his treatment of women is appalling, he’s just gross. He left Hell because he was bored and dissatisfied; what is he pursuing here? Nothing but hot sex, fast cars, and quippy comebacks. Which brings us to the next thing…
Vulnerability. This guy is all powerful, smarmy as hell, mindbends the people he can’t charm. He doesn’t want anything, except to avoid going back to hell, and avoidance is a narrative black hole sucking all the life out of the story. What matters to him? What can hurt him? I can’t care about this Teflon douchebag.
No goal. He doesn’t want anything. Sure, in the pilot story, he wants to solve the murder of his friend but dude is Satan. He can read minds, he can find a killer, trivially. There’s no challenge for him in solving crime, nor in dispensing justice. Why does he need the cops, again? Oh, right. Because the detective’s hot. Which brings us to…
The Love Interest. Oh, dear Lord deliver me from super-hot angry female detectives. She’s supposed to be special because she can resist his charms? Really? Not wanting to have sex with him is her sole personality trait? They give her a kid and a dickish ex to make her vulnerable, but she’s almost as Teflon as Lucifer. It’s almost as if the only thing that matters is that she’s hot, and the rest of it is just window dressing.
The relationship with Amenadiel. Amenadiel just shows up from time to time and says, “Go back to hell,” and Lucifer says, “No.” That’s not narrative conflict, that’s bickering. Unless there’s a consequence for Lucifer if he doesn’t go back, unless Amenadiel can actually do something to Lucifer, this doesn’t really mean anything, except that I get to see DB Woodside. Which I enjoy quite a bit, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not story.
Trite writing. You can’t have a hero who says things like “take a trip to pound town”… just no. The writing feels thin and brittle, like it’s really obsessed with being cool, so much so that it doesn’t seem interested in telling a real story. Kind of a disappointment.
How I would do it:
I would start with Lucifer leaving Hell for a reason. Here he’s been tormenting mortals for all eternity because of what? They coveted a neighbor’s wife? They worshipped a false idol? Let’s face it… God’s kind of an asshole.
So… it got to him. He has all eternity to pay for one little mistake, one tiny rebellion, and the gates of hell are flooding with souls of the suffering because God made a decree and that was it. Lucifer has empathy; he feels their pain.
Lucifer abandons hell, goes above, in search of God. He wants to end it, once and for all. A final battle between Good and… well… him. And he would be overmatched; God is God, after all, and Lucifer is just a fallen angel. But the fight will bring the apocalypse, and all creation will cease to exist, which is fine by Lucifer. Being dead, being nothing, is preferable to an eternity of this nonsense. A person gets 20, 30, 90 years, fucks up just once and spends eternity in torment? It’d be better just to end all existence. The EULA for life on earth is bullshit.
He’s been looking for God for ages now; no joy. He’s not in the churches, he’s not in the dive bars, he’s not feeding the poor or clothing the hungry. He has to be up in Heaven, hiding.
Lucifer has been banished from Heaven, so he can’t go looking there. He has to wait for God to visit Earth, and that’s not gonna happen any time soon.
But that’s okay. He’ll wait.
To kill the time, Lucifer drinks, drives fast cars, sleeps around. Might as well enjoy earthly delights while he’s there, right? He tells everyone the truth about who he is because it doesn’t matter; they forget him the moment they look away. Even at his favorite bar, the place he goes every night to drown it all out, the bartender has no idea who he is, while Lucifer knows everything about the bartender. And that kind of bugs him; he sees mortals connecting, caring for each other, having relationships. It seems to be the one thing that makes mortal life worth anything at all; the ability to love someone. And that’s not an option for him.
Then, one night, he’s at the bar, hitting on a hot blonde who will not remember him the next day, when a woman walks in. She’s wobbly on her feet, a little frumpy, looking dazed. She bumps into Lucifer, and sort of lands on him. He catches her and when their eyes meet, she stares at him.
“I found you,” she says, and he says, “Michael?”
She faints. The hot blonde’s a doctor, she pushes everyone out of the way. Lucifer tries to get to Michael through the crowd; can’t. If he can’t make eye contact and engage the soul of the mortal, he might as well not even be there. With their backs to him and their focus on Michael, he can’t get through.
They cart the archangel Michael away, and Lucifer tries to find her. She’s gone by the time he gets to the hospital, but he keeps looking. Finally, he finds her, and demands that she call God down from Heaven to face him.
She tells him that God is gone. Just… gone. Been gone for a while, and Heaven has been gradually becoming more and more unstable… just as Hell has been since Lucifer left. Lucifer says Hell was never that stable to begin with, but she’s pissed. He threw everything out of balance when he left. It’s his fault that things got so bad, that God disappeared, that the angels and demons are now loose on the world. There will be no end times, just eternity of mortals and immortals roaming the earth. Demons are doing good, angels are doing evil… the entire structure of the universe is upended.
This is terrible news for Lucifer, who was looking for a way out; the only way he can die is at the hand of God. Now he’s stuck. Then he realizes something; when Michael saw him at the bar, she said she’d been looking for him. He asks her why.
“You have to help me lock God out,” she says. Without God, her power and Lucifer’s power can balance everything out. She’ll rule Heaven, he’ll rule Hell, they’ll rewrite the rules, stake out territory. But until God’s influence is eradicated, one supreme power keeping the universe out of balance, nothing will be right.
“Fine,” he says. “How do we do it?”
She doesn’t know… yet.
And that’s your pilot, leading into a series with an alliance between Lucifer and Michael to try to bring balance to the world. Heaven and Hell are mixing, angels and demons everywhere and no one knows who’s on which side, and God is out there, somewhere, letting it all happen.
(Back to Jenny . . .)
I think that’s brilliant. It’s not the way I’d do it (for that see here), but that’s the point. Any of our fixes will turn into Crusies, Riches, or Stuarts, which is why they’re so different. And speaking of Stuarts, here’s the comment that Krissie (Anne Stuart) made on my Lucifer Fix Post:
(Here’s Krissie . . .)
Hmmmmmm. Jenny, you ignorant slut … Nope. That’s a different show. First off, why would Lucifer have to stir his stumps to find out who wanted to kill Vinnie? Why should he bother, why should he care? Lucifer doesn’t give a shit about anyone, he’s the son of Evil, a cousin to the Norse Loki and the Southwest kokopelli (aren’t they tricksters?) And I’m tired of the hero’s best friend trope. Then again, you write about community, I write about loners. The idea of a hero without a goal drives you crazy — I like that his only goal is to entertain himself.
Now if I were writing it, I’d definitely cast a different actress for the heroine, cut all that nekkid movie crap. Love her daughter, though, and Satan’s mixed distaste for her. They’ve already set up that he’s bothered by the fact that the female lead is immune to his wiles, enough so that he needs the great psychiatrist for therapy in return for mind-blowing sex, and I’d make that sort of thing continue. His unexpected affection for the first murder victim probably bothers him, and slowly, horribly, he’ll find himself starting to care about people, much as he hates it, because the power of human decency will destroy the evil that is the devil every time. I know, sappy, but in my fantasy world that’s true.
And it will be full of snark, he’ll be disgusted with himself by any signs of softening (which could be hysterically funny), and the more the heroine resists him the more frustrated he’ll get so he’ll finally want to have sex with someone rather than lazily giving in to the pleasure and the demands.
Now I haven’t figured out who the heroine should be, and we’re both agreed she needs help. Leave Nicole with Ichabod — they belong together.
(Back to Jenny . . .)
I responded to her comment over on the Lucifer Fix Post, but I’m going to leave that there because this is really about three different writers/three different approaches, aka premise is not story, it’s the just place writers start. The three of us can argue for hours about story (listen to Popcorn Dialogues if you want to hear Lani and I go at it), but what’s fun about this is that our versions are three different stories, even though we started with same flawed episode. (It also probably shows the most dangerous thing about critiquing somebody else’s work: that tendency to fix it your way instead of helping the writer find the story she wants to tell.) We are going to watch the second episode together and Slack chat while we argue about it, so stay tuned next Wednesday for a lot of “ignorant slut” plot discussion. So much fun.