Lucifer Morningstar from “Lucifer”: Hero or Villain?

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The premise of the new show Lucifer is that the devil has grown bored in hell so he takes up residence in Los Angeles and becomes a nightclub owner. Played by Tom Ellis, Lucifer Morningstar is equal parts smarmy and smug. He has the ability to get humans to confess their deepest, darkest desires, which makes for some comedy (like when he crashes a wedding) and becomes a very useful crime-fighting tool. You see, Lucifer has a fascination with the human condition, so much so that he embarks on an investigation into the murder of a starlet he, um, mentored. And this sets up a buddy-cop dynamic with detective Chloe Dancer (Lauren German), a single mother and ex-actress who is mysteriously immune to Lucifer’s ability and charms.

Since we’re talking about the Prince of Darkness, my first thought would be to treat Lucifer as a bad guy and then rate him on my Villainy Quotient (VQ). I would consider five factors (each scored 0-20), yielding a VQ with a maximum score of 100 (the higher the VQ, the nastier the villain). The factors are drawn from the thinking and research of Dr. Philip Zimbardo (of the Stanford prison experiment) and other experts on evil. But treating Lucifer as a villain would be way too easy. Looking at the factors (absence of moral restraints, degree of harm, track record of evil-doing, malice towards victims, and taking pleasure in actions), he would land a perfect 100. More importantly, that would miss the intent of the show to flip this character- if not to a full hero, then at least to an anti-hero. Along these lines, the pilot introduced the series’ heavy as the intense archangel Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside).

So instead I will rate Lucifer on my Heroism Quotient (HQ). Similar to the VQ, it comprises 5 factors and has a maximum total score of 100. Here’s how I rate Lucifer on the HQ factors:

Acting in service to others in need, or in defense of an ideal:

I’m going low here (3), since Lucifer is not exactly exuding idealism. He does want a murderer to be punished with suffering, so there’s that.

Serving voluntarily:

He gets a perfect 20, since no one is twisting his arm. In fact, other characters are urging him to stick to his devilish ways.

Recognizing possible risks/costs:

On one hand, the dude is immortal, so how much risk could he incur? But on the other, his confrontations with Amenadiel indicate that he could start a new war with heaven if he disturbs the balance between good and evil. I’m splitting the difference with a 10.

Accepting anticipated sacrifice:

He only scores a 2 here, because at this point it’s unclear what he’s sacrificing.

Anticipating no external gain:

17 on this factor because he is garnering no tangible rewards for his crime-fighting.

Lucifer’s HQ is 52, which is not a particularly high score and comparable to the 57 of Blindspot’s Jane Doe. As his story unfolds, his heroism may elevate (it could go down, too, which would also be interesting). So check out this entertaining and promising show.

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