by Ashley Wright
Netflix has released a ton of new tv shows and movies just in time for spooky season, including (but not limited to) Ratched, Haunting of Bly Manor, Unsolved Mysteries, Rebecca, and American Murder: The Family Next Door. Most of these are Netflix originals, but the platform has also given new life to several network hidden gems. One of these shows is Evil.
Evil originally aired on CBS, where they have already been renewed for a second season. Since being added to Netflix, the show also found itself in the “Top 10 in the U.S. Today” section for several weeks. Evil follows a forensic psychologist named Kristen Bouchard (played by Katja Herbers) as she begins working with priest-in-training David Acosta (Mike Colter a.k.a. Luke Cage) and tech-savvy skeptic Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) to investigate claims of possessions/miracles on behalf of the Catholic Church.
Right of the bat, this show is wild. While the first few episodes make it unclear as to whether or not the mystical elements of the show are real, there are some shocking visuals including a demon named George (who our psychologist protagonist writes off as a night terror) and several exorcisms. Despite the shows monster-of-the-week style episodes, the main protagonist is Dr. Leland Townsend (played by Michael Emerson from Lost) another forensic psychologist who works against the main team and seems to exist solely to be a harbinger of evil.
The elements of the show all work really well together. Anything dealing with religion can be difficult to navigate as it can alienate those outside the religion and possibly offend those within. Evil walks this line really well, however, as the show tends to avoid heavy-handed messages—aside from generic ones of forgiveness, gratitude, and doing the right thing—and the characters don’t shy away from the tough questions surrounding religion. In one episode Kristen questions David about what made him want to be a priest, how he feels about the scandals surrounding the church, and what it means to be a believer. The show also does a good job balancing the psychological elements, using phenomenon such as shared psychosis and trauma-induced schizophrenia to provide a skeptic’s explanation of some of the more bizarre events. As both a psychology student and a somewhat lapsed-Catholic myself, it was really interesting to see the blend of these two dynamics.
The show definitely has some room to grow, however. Season 1 is only 13 episodes, keeping with a newer trend of short seasons, but to me it felt like it needed to be twice as long. Some of the character arcs felt underdeveloped and the plot never seemed to reach a peak before the season ended. That said, the character arcs that have been set-up are very intriguing so far and it’ll be interesting to see how season two addresses them.
There are also some moments so strange they are almost funny, and I found myself questioning if they were an intentional form of absurd comedy. I don’t think this is the case, however, since the rest of the show has such a serious tone. Specifically, when we see exactly who the evil Dr. Townsend is working with (but I won’t say anymore in order to avoid spoilers).
Season 2 has already begun filming and will likely air on CBS in sometime in the next year or two. For now, the show is perfect for a quick weekend binge and is entertaining if nothing else. Also, bonus points to those who spot Dealy Hall in the background of a handful of scenes.