Birthdays can be a lot of fun. Presents, parties, people filling your Facebook page with happy messages. Sam, however, is not enjoying his 21st birthday. You wouldn’t either if you found out your parents sold your soul to the Devil. Now it’s time to pay up. Sam will have to juggle his day job working at a hardware store with his new job as the Devil’s bounty hunter, capturing super-powered souls escaped from hell. Life isn’t easy on Reaper.
Sam has never really known what to do with his life. He has no direction and no drive. He spends his days working at The Work Bench hardware store with his two mates Sock and Ben. He’s keen on co-worker, Andi but hasn’t worked up the courage to ask her out. When the Devil (played by Ray Wise, who is brilliant as the charming and conniving Prince of Hell) assigns Sam to tracking down the dangerous souls who have escaped from hell, it could be just the thing to get Sam to step up and take responsibility for his life. On the other hand, having a boss who is literally the personification of evil isn’t all fun and games. With each assignment, Sam is given a vessel to capture the soul in. It could be anything from a remote control car to a dove in a cage to a toaster. It’s up to Sam, helped by his friends, to work out how to use the vessel. It doesn’t help when the escaped soul has super-powers and will do anything to stay away from hell.
There’s a lot of humour in Reaper, whether it be from the banter and camaraderie between the three best friends, the evil quips from the Devil, or the situation Sam is in each week trying to work out how to capture an acid-spurting super-model with bubble mix, for example. Kevin Smith directed the first episode, which should give you an indication of what you’re in for.
The Devil has been a popular character in fiction for years. There’s something about the suave, sophisticated trickster who can condemn you to eternal torment that is really appealing. He’s a tragic figure, having once been an angel but is now eternally punished for his rebellion. Sometimes he is portrayed as having equal power with God, in a constant battle to see who will be victorious. That is not the Devil of Reaper. The Devil here is a man who is doing his job. He recognises that God is the boss. The Devil here represents temptation and sin. The Devil of Reaper is the kind of Devil we should be wary of. He’s sexy and convincing and sincere. But if you trust him, you’ll pay. If you put your faith in him and in his promises, you’ll be spending the rest of forever in hell.
The picture of the Devil that Reaper paints is fantastic. But there’s a problem here with the buying and selling of souls. Sam has his soul sold to the Devil. Other people throughout the series sell their soul to the Devil in exchange for wealth and power. But here’s the thing: you can’t sell your soul. It’s not because you can’t touch it. It’s not because you don’t have the proper paperwork. It’s because you don’t own your own soul. It either belongs to this world and therefore already belongs to Satan, or it has been purchased by God through the blood of his son Jesus. “With your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)
If the Devil needs to purchase souls, this says something fundamental about how we see ourselves. We see humanity as being basically good. That if we do our best and don’t do anything that is incredibly evil, then we will go to heaven. This ignores the affect of sin. This ignores the fact that because of sin we are all going to hell. It’s only because of the blood of Jesus that any of us can go to heaven. And if you have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, then he has purchased you for God. You cannot sell your soul. So ultimately, the idea of selling your soul to the Devil is futile. Unless he wants to have a bit of fun at your expense. I could just see Ray Wise’s Devil doing that.
Reaper is a fun show. It asks all kinds of questions about the Devil, hell, souls, demons, and more that will be of interest to Christians. It premieres on 7TWO tonight at 8.30pm.