WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Lucifer Season 4, now streaming on Netflix.
People tend to picture all manner of vices and sin when they imagine the devil walking the Earth. Lucifer has always done its best to present that to audiences, because the titular character is certainly no saint. He knows what brings him pleasure and he seldom restrains himself when in pursuit of such things. Unfortunately (or very fortunately, depending on your preferences), Lucifer could never be as explicit as it clearly wished to be in earlier seasons, largely due to restrictions imposed on the show by Fox.
Almost immediately after Netflix announced that it had picked up the show, fans started wondering what they could expect from the resurrected series. Without the strict censorship guidelines of Fox, Lucifer was now able to implement things like nudity, blood and intense violence. In a show that focuses heavily on demons from hell, those concepts would be pretty useful. It sounds fantastic in theory, but it's a little different when put into practice.
There is some amount of nudity in Season 4 of Lucifer, but more often than not, it takes the form of brief shots of Tom Ellis' behind. As for the violence, the show takes full advantage of its new freedoms with several scenes that fans are sure to recognize as being unique to the latest season. Both can be used in ways that deepen the show's exploration of its themes, but it's easy to abuse that freedom and cause them to come off as almost entirely gratuitous. Game of Thrones, famous for employing both heavy violence and nudity, is occasionally guilty of this.
So, what about those shots of Tom Ellis? What about those particularly violent scenes? Some scenes definitely benefit from the show's newfound freedom to explore, while others are made lesser for it.
One of the best examples in Season 4 is the episode "Orgy Pants to Work" (directed by Louis Milito), which actually makes an effort to portray a hedonistic lifestyle using scantily clad people, a variety of inappropriate devices and some twisted equipment to give audiences a glimpse at what a hedonistic lifestyle might look like, with the devil himself involved. It's a far cry from the neat, ordered room we are used to, and it goes to show how far Lucifer has fallen at that point, which is important to his story.
In that same episode, however, Lucifer arrives at a crime scene wearing his "orgy pants," which is just a pair of bottomless pants. It was put in for a cheap laugh and it works in the moment, but not so much when coupled with a scene later on set in a nudist colony. All the private parts of the colony's residents, as well Lucifer and Ella's, are covered in creative ways except when it comes to their backsides.
It might have been put in for yet another cheap laugh, but that's debatable. The entirety of the scene doesn't add much to the overall story or visual impact of the episode, even for enthusiastic fans of Ellis. That is to say, the audience isn't receiving any new information through the use of this partial nudity; there's no subtext to be read.
As we've mentioned before, nudity itself is a difficult thing to tackle on film or television. There's a thin line between provocative and gratuitous. The same can be said for violence, but violence is a different matter. For reasons that are still very much up for debate, graphic violence is relatively more acceptable than nudity, yet the show is quite conservative in its violence until absolutely necessary.
The only scene that features graphic violence occurs in the episode "O, Ye of Little Faith, Father" (directed by Jessica Borsiczky), toward the end. When Lucifer confronts the counselor-turned-serial killer, Oscar, the latter -- maddened by hate for his former dependents and fear of the figures in the shadows, pulling the strings -- swings his own head onto the sharp point of a broken chair leg, ending his life. The show doesn't imply his death as it does with many other things. It shows Oscar's death clearly, which is unusual for Lucifer.
It does prove to be necessary in a way, as it adds weight to the fear other characters seem to express, often through words. It's a display of how far some people are willing to go in order to run from Lucifer and the darkness that follows him. It also served to shape the audience's view of Father Kinley and his influence, as he was able to cause death without even being in the room. Other shows have used similarly gruesome deaths to the same effect. Daredevil, for example, featured a very similar suicide in the episode "Rabbit in a Snowstorm" in order to illustrate the power and influence of its main antagonist.
With Season 4, Lucifer has definitely improved in many ways, and some of that is due to the addition of more explicit sexual themes and violence. Any actual nudity thus far, though arguably adding to the fun now and again, doesn't add very much to the show. The violence, on the other hand, has been wisely used. This kind of struggle is to be expected from the show. The series is just showing audiences what it can do now, which means there's still a lot to look forward to now that the devil has returned more devilish than ever.
Now streaming on Netflix, Lucifer Season 4 stars Tom Ellis as the Devil, Lauren German as Det. Chloe Decker, D.B. Woodside as Amenadiel, Rachael Harris as Dr. Linda Martin, Kevin Alejandro as Det. Dan Espinoza, Lesley-Ann Brandt as Mazikeen Smith, Aimee Garcia as Ella Lopez, and newcomer Inbar Lavi as Lucifer’s ex and Adam’s wife Eve.