Lucifer Season Four Is a Major Improvement

I was saddened when Lucifer was cancelled, and heartened when Netflix picked it up for a fourth season. Not just because I’m a fan of the show, but because it deserved a better send-off than season three.

The official logo for the TV series LuciferThe last season may have ended on a high note, but boy did it drag in the middle. Petty interpersonal drama and repetitive storylines sucked almost all of the fun out of a show that was always dumb but rarely dull.

So when season four came to Netflix, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I hoped it would improve things, but I was concerned to see the tired writing of season three continue.

I am pleased to report, however, that season four is not just a massive improvement over its predecessor but easily the strongest season of Lucifer to date.

I’m not entirely without complaints. There are some stumbles. Maze going full evil last season is basically just ignored (though maybe that’s for the best), and the ending is a bit of an anticlimax in some ways. The season’s antagonist definitely deserved more of a comeuppance.

But there’s so much to love here. You can tell that lacking the oversight of a mainstream network freed the writers up to be much more creative. Like iZombie, they’re now unafraid to de-emphasize the case of the week, or shake up its formula. It’s still a bit repetitive, but things are not quite so painfully predictable this time around, and the meta-plot is given much more attention.

Season four deals with the aftermath of Chloe discovering that Lucifer has been telling the truth all this time, that he truly is the Devil. As he deals with that, he is reunited with a figure from his past: Eve, the first sinner.

The title character unleashes his demonic strength in season four of LuciferThis could have been another tedious love triangle, and there is some element of that, but mostly this serves as a fascinating of exploration of who Lucifer truly is: an angel, or a demon?

The growth and character development that was so lacking last season is in full force here. Both Lucifer and Chloe evolve a lot over the course of the season, and it makes for a very satisfying arc.

Speaking of Chloe, amazingly she has suddenly metamorphisized into an interesting character. Even Lauren German’s acting seems far better. I don’t know what happened, but I kind of feel bad for all the smack I’ve talked about her in the past. Chloe still isn’t my favourite character on Lucifer, but she does now feel like a real, three-dimensional person who is an asset to the cast.

I was also impressed by how much Amenadiel has evolved. He’s finally worked that stick out of his ass, and he’s become a very likable character.

Linda’s about the same as ever, but she was always perfect just the way she is. Dan and Ella’s stories this season both have potential, but neither of them really gets enough attention or delivers a satisfying pay-off. Ella’s still adorable, though.

All in all, it’s a kickass season.

The good news keeps rolling as Lucifer has already been renewed for a fifth season. This will be the final season, but I think this is about the right time to end it. As I was watching the finale of season four, I was thinking to myself, “This feels like there’s room for about one more season before the story starts getting stale.”

I look forward to it.

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Review: The Umbrella Academy, Season One

Literally everyone I know started watching The Umbrella Academy pretty much the moment the series appeared on Netflix. In fact, one of my friends who works in film even helped make the show (it was filmed in Toronto). Perhaps more importantly, everyone I talked to seemed to like it.

The logo for the Netflix series The Umbrella AcademyAlso, Ellen Page is one of my favourite human beings, so I’m always happy to support her work.

So it didn’t take me long to dive into Umbrella Academy despite knowing very little about it.

Based on a comic book, The Umbrella Academy is the story of a dysfunctional family of superheroes. There were seven adopted siblings in the “academy,” all of which but one (Number Seven/Vanya, played by the aforementioned Ellen Page) have fantastic powers. Their adoptive father trained them to be heroes who would save the world, but after Number Five disappeared and Number Six was killed,* the team broke apart, and the dream died.

*(Like way too many things on this show, what happened to Six is never explained.)

The story begins with the remaining members of the academy reuniting for the funeral of their father. As old family tensions flare, events take a new turn when Number Five suddenly reappears after being lost in time for decades.

Shenanigans ensue.

Basically, it’s one part X-Men, one part Hellboy, one part Sanctuary, and one part Arrested Development without the jokes.

There is a lot that I don’t like about The Umbrella Academy. For one thing, it takes itself a smidge too seriously. I do generally prefer my superhero stories hew towards the gritty and realistic, but that only works so well in a story about a bunch of squabbling siblings whose main parental figures are a super intelligent chimpanzee butler and a robotic 1950s housewife.

The Hargreeves siblings in The Umbrella AcademyAlso, as I said, this show doesn’t explain anything. I get that too much exposition can bog things down, but seriously, WHY DO THEY HAVE A TALKING CHIMP BUTLER.

It’s clearly a show that wants to be taken seriously, which is ironic when you realize Umbrella Academy is actually a very simple story with very few genuine surprises.

There’s pacing issues, too. The early episodes really drag, while the last few are almost rushed.

Despite all those complaints, though, this is still a series that I found more enjoyable than not, on balance. Mainly because it has two big things working in its favour.

The first is the cast. Pretty much all of the characters are compelling, and the acting is pretty excellent. I’m especially fond of Number Five, who is just such a delightful little curmudgeon. A show like this lives or dies by the strength of its characters, and that’s the one thing I can’t fault The Umbrella Academy on.

The other is that I’m a big fan of this kind of story. There’s a reason the X-Men have always been by far my favourite superheroes. Eclectic bands of weirdos trying to save the world despite their own flaws? That’s my jam.

And that, I think, is how I would define Umbrella Academy: It’s good if you’re a fan of this particular subgenre. It’s not the best example around, but if you like these kind of stories already, it’s good enough to satisfy. If you’re not already a fan of these tropes, I doubt Umbrella Academy would win you over.

Overall rating: 7.4/10