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  • Writer's picturePaul Gainey

Evil

"Evil" from creators Michelle and Robert King, takes the knowing, literate, hyper-contemporary tone of those creators' The Good Wife and The Good Fight and grafts it onto a story about the Catholic church, possession, and the Devil himself.


It’s a creepy and bleakly funny series, a lament about our times that would never be so insincere as to suggest the supposed good can win in the fight against the dark.


Evil remains one of the most clever, witty, and cerebral horror television series, period. Creators Robert and Michelle King and their writers continue to swing for the fences when it comes to mixing procedural stories with existential themes.


Ever the capable procedural, Evil has finally found the sweet spot of how to layer in its serialized touches and glimpses of past run-ins.


The first season, which aired on CBS, followed a case-of-the-week structure while also attending to a larger mystery. Forensic psychologist Kristen (Katja Herbers) is enlisted by the church to look into matters of demons and other supernatural phenomena, a skeptic Scully to balance the show’s dreamy, furtive, priest-in-training Mulder, Dave (Mike Colter).


With an even more skeptical tech guy, Ben (Aasif Mandvi), to aid them, Kristen and Dave investigate lots of eerie occurrences, all while stalked, taunted, and accosted by another psychologist, Leland (Michael Emerson), who is either Satan incarnate or a loyal lieutenant.


In the Kings’ nimble hands, all of this demonry becomes a metaphor for the sickness of the American present day, particularly the ways in which the internet has smuggled horrible things past lax defenses and into our daily lives.


The show’s most alarming suggestion is not that something bad is coming for us, but that we are all already terribly infected with it; there is an arch hopelessness to the series that may sound off-putting in theory, but in practice is oddly soothing, cathartic. It’s fun to wallow around with a show that makes such a gallows humour joke of how well and truly doomed we are.


As with the Good series, "Evil" now in its Third series on Alibi is terrifically cast.


Herbers and Colter have an alluring chemistry, a sexual-intellectual pull that’s freighted with its own kind of danger. Christine Lahti has a great time as Kristen’s flouncy, hot-tempered mother, Sheryl, who finds herself in a curious and horrible romance with Leland.


Emerson does, yes, mostly riff on his Ben character from Lost, but that nerdy menace works equally well here. A host of shrewd guest actors has passed through the series, too, adding to the air of cool, sideways smarts.


Evil’s nerviest sustained trick in season one is keeping us guessing whether any of the spooky stuff we see—particularly a goat-headed man-beast who appears in dreams, and maybe in waking life—is actually real.


Maybe the show is entirely allegory: Leland is a sociopath rather than an emissary of Lucifer, possessions are caused by physiological or environmental factors and not spirits from Hell. That ambiguity lets "Evil" really toss around its ideas; there is room to debate and theorize without anything smacking up against hard fact.


Cheery Evil is not. But it remains riveting television, mordant and sinister with a faint sadness hanging around its edges. Which is what a lot of life in the world can feel like these days, our ironically commented-upon descent into the murk of late-stage everything. It’s nice to have Evil trotting along as a fellow traveller, perhaps even leading the way with a wicked and welcoming smirk.


Evil is still a singular beast in how it scrutinizes the nature of, well, evil—whether supernatural or manmade—with thoughtful introspection.




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