Nathless he so endur’d, till on the Beach
Of that inflamed Sea, he Stood and call’d
His legions, angel forms, who lay intrans’t
Thick as Autumnal Leaves that strow the Brooks
In Vallombrosa, where th’ Etrurian shades
High overarch’t imbor’r; or scatter’d sedge
Afloat, when fierce Winds Orion arm’d
Hath vext the Red-Sea Coast, whose waves o’rthrew
Buriris and his Memphian Chivalry,
While with perfidious hatred they pursu’d
The sojourners of Goshen, who beheld
from the safe shore thir floating Carcasses
And broken Chariot Wheels; so thick bestrown
Abject and lost lay these, covering the Flood,
Under amazement of thir hideous change.
He call’d so loud, that all the hallow Deep
Of Hell resounded.
ll. 301—315, Book I, Paradise Lost
It’s Lent, and during this year’s Ash Wednesday service while I was reciting The Great Litany of ills that beset us humans, I was pressed yet again into thinking about the nature of good and evil. So, later when I noticed Fox Network’s new dramedy, Lucifer, I watched the pilot show. It had everything a Lutheran, English professor turned poet-blogger could possibly find in a television series: comedy, evil, sex, odd justice, a jazz-piano playing Lucifer, set in Los Angeles (oh the glory of puns!), laid over a police procedural; derived from a comic book series, a graphic novel; a handful of verses from Genesis, Isaiah, Job, Matthew, Mark, Revelation; and, most specifically, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, which echos in form and content most of the great epic writers of Greece and Rome.
Don’t bother to phone me on Monday nights between 9 and 10 p.m. I’m not picking up. I’m taking notes for further research, and later rummaging around in various Bible translations, Paradise Lost, Google Search, and my O. E. D. Don’t you just love Milton’s word, “nathless!”
Fox’s Lucifer is based on the premise that Lucifer after all these eons has decided to take a vacation from Hell. Though he has retained his immortality, he has removed his wings the better to show off his beautifully tailored black suits. He has bought a nightclub in L.A. which is managed by one of his female dark angels. To help him understand his life on Earth, he has acquired a mid-life, blonde therapist whom he appears to pay with sexual favors. Every now and then God (Dad) sends down from Heaven Lucifer’s brother angel to check up on His disobedient son. Sibling rivalry ensues.
At a crime scene Lucifer meets Chloe, a Los Angeles Police Detective, who like him deeply believes in justice, but seems to be one of the few humans, other than her young daughter Trixie, who is immune to his wiles. Her immunity and her shared sense of justice interests him so much that he sets out to help her solve crimes by becoming a consultant to the LAPD. What Lucifer and Chloe both insist upon in every situation and with each other, is that everyone must take responsibility for their actions. Chloe is content to let the law mete out punishment, but Lucifer sees himself as the one who punishes. After all, punishment always has been his hellbent job.
However, as the series proceeds, we find that Lucifer’s time on earth among the mortals is beginning to change him. He starts to feel pain. He bleeds. He’s surprised, yet curious. He does retain his ability to persuade everyone, except for Chloe and Trixie to admit their deepest desires which they often then act out, even though he cannot make them take action. In other words, the Devil doesn’t make them do it.
Nathless, Milton’s spoken version of nevertheless, a sort of transitional, reality check accounting for the Universe’s only constant: change—always involving some loss along with some gain—may be the most powerful force at work in Lucifer’s televised vacation. After Lucifer’s long fall from Heaven he didn’t just lie there. Milton reports that Lucifer and the other fallen angels built the Palace of Pandemonium and organized punishments for the hoards of Earth’s sinners who keep arriving. Lucifer’s vacation appears not to be time off from work, but rather merely a change of place. And, just as when God created the earth and its inhabitants, His interactions with the inhabitants, caused God to change his mind several times, to change his covenants with His people, and to reincarnate as Jesus. I suspect that Lucifer’s interactions with the inhabitants of Los Angeles will change Lucifer, too. Never mind Fox’s Trump and the Republicans. Lucifer Morningstar’s forthcoming changes as portrayed on the Fox TV Network are what so terribly intrigue me.