Reaper started out episodic, hollow, and overall clichéd in its plots and humor. But as the show progressed, arcs and characters developed, and it acquired a fanbase. But one of the biggest tricks the show used to draw the fans in comes from humanizing and fleshing out one character: the Devil.
Reaper is a show about a boy named Sam, contracted to bring escaped souls back to the bowels of hell. In a cast of flat characters (including Sam, the determined but occasionally panicky hero; Sock, the braver but completely incompetent sidekick; and Ben, the frequently beaten down brains of the group), the only character that develops in the beginning of the series is the Devil.
We also slowly see a more human side of the Devil’s backstory and origin. In “Love Bullets and Blacktop,” the Devil tells Sam that he doesn’t believe love exists, but later implies the opposite by playing Brenda Lee’s “I Wonder” on the jukebox and sulking as soon as Sam leaves the bar. In “Rebellion,” the Devil finally confides that he loved God and everything He did and stood for – almost to the point that the Devil implies that the entire rebellion and banishment came from a relationship trouble, rather than a desire to overpower God. Sam asks “Didn’t you try to overthrow him?” and the Devil replies “Let’s just say we had a little fight.” Sam responds “But you loved him?” and the Devil confirms, “With everything that I was, I loved Him. … I haven’t talked about the fall in ages. No one would listen – now it’s just me, all by myself. Until now, at least; now I have you!”
|The Devil offers Sam “Employee of the Month” benefits.|
The Devil’s likeability comes and goes. Some days, he is cruel to Sam, using him as bait to find a lost soul like in “The Cop” (the Devil framed Sam for murder to get closer to the escaped soul, a convict after the prosecutor who caught him and Sam). But other moments, like in that same episode, he shows appreciation for Sam’s hard work as a reaper when no one else does; when all the demons take Halloween off, Sam still works to reap souls, and the Devil rewards Sam by crowning him as Employee of the Month – and giving him a “Get Out of Hell Free” card. The trick, as the writers of Reaper eventually figured out, is not to work with absolutes. Humans are seldom perfectly one thing, be it good or evil. The Devil, accordingly, isn’t in all cases likeable or unlikeable – and it is that inconsistency, that rounded out irregularity, that makes him more human. And with that, we relate and grow attached to him, and in turn the show as a whole.