For obvious reasons, it is hard to make Satan into a character television audiences can enjoy. Somehow, however, there are currently two shows — Lucifer and Supernatural — that have managed that feat. The shows have very different takes on the Prince of Darkness, but both give us plenty of wicked enjoyment.

At first glance, the Devil characters of Lucifer and Supernatural could not be more different. Lucifer takes a very sympathetic, Paradise Lost-inspired look at its title character. This Satan is mostly misunderstood and resentful of his divine father’s punishment. Lucifer Morningstar (Tom Ellis) does not have much in the way of empathy or a conscience, but he rarely wants to do wrong. This supposedly evil character only wants to punish the wicked. The rest of the time, Lucifer just wants to enjoy what the universe has to offer. With Lucifer, you get a Devil you can party with.

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That’s not exactly the case with the Devil seen on Supernatural. Most often portrayed by Mark Pellegrino (with notable fill-in performances from Rick Springfield, Jared Padalecki and others over the years), Supernatural‘s Lucifer is a bad guy. He is evil, pure evil. Even the character’s frequent moments of charm and whimsy are there simply to clear the way for more expressions of badness.

Supernatural sees its Satan as the force underlying a large part of what is wrong in the world. After all, Lucifer is constantly trying to destroy everything one way or another. Having failed to rise to Earth and wreak havoc a few seasons ago, Lucifer has spent much of Supernatural‘s current season trying to get his child (aka, the Antichrist) born. This guy’s idea of a party is pretty much just fire and brimstone.

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These two versions of the Devil are not that similar. So why do both work? A peek into TV’s history with the character may have the answer.

Interestingly, Satan does not show up in television a lot. You do get devils popping up erratically, especially in adult-oriented animated series (The Simpsons and South Park have both incorporated Lucifer to great effect over the years), but rarely as a fully fleshed-out character. It seems like bringing that much pure evil can be overwhelming for most narratives.

In fact, one of the only shows to really show the Devil in recent years was The CW’s two-season dramedy, Reaper. That show — in which a young slacker was forced to be Satan’s bounty hunter — depicted Lucifer as a dapper gentleman (played perfectly by Ray Wise.) This version of the Devil was usually charming and only occasionally displayed bouts of terrifying evil. But when he did, that evil always came with a smile.

It is the spirit behind that smile — part evil and part charming — that Lucifer and Supernatural have so winningly used to make their versions of Satan into characters that can stand the test of TV time. Lucifer takes the smile more in the charming direction while Supernatural sticks to the evil side, but both shows understand that you need to mix that badness with a spark of relatable mischief.

Sympathy for the Devil might be hard to come by (outside of pop music lyrics, anyway), but Lucifer and Supernatural are the latest TV shows to show how it can be done.

Which show’s version of Satan do you like best — Lucifer or Supernatural? Are there any other shows you love that feature the devil? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Lucifer airs Mondays at 9/8c on FOX, while Supernatural can be seen Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW. For more news and articles like this one, like BuddyTV’s Facebook page!

(Images courtesy of FOX and The CW)

Laurel Brown

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Laurel grew up in Mamaroneck, NY, Grosse Pointe, MI and Bellevue WA. She then went on to live in places like Boston, Tucson, Houston, Wales, Tanzania, Prince Edward Island and New York City before heading back to Seattle. Ever since early childhood, when she became addicted to The Muppet Show, Laurel has watched far too much TV. Current favorites include ChuckModern FamilySupernaturalMad Men and Community. Laurel received a BA in Astrophysics (yes, that is possible) from Colgate University and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and History of Science from Columbia University before she realized that television is much better than studying.