Evil

Evil (2019) s01e06 – Let x = 9

So in addition to Christine Lahti becoming bride to the unclean one through some really good third grade poetry imagery because “Evil” is really condescending to its target audience, the Christians who vote blue, the episode also confronts the whole “child rape” thing with the Catholic Church. Confronts as in lapsed Muslim skeptical charming aloof guy Aasif Mandvi makes a crack about it; a serious crack about it sure but a crack. “Evil” really wants to pretend people haven’t figured out the Catholic Church basically functions the way it does to protect child rapists. Like, when did it start. Was it before the Borgias? After? Because it started hundreds of years ago.

And “Evil” wants you to forget about it because Mandvi is the most successful character on the show and because it’s like “American Horror Story” for your grandma or something. It’s a CBS-ed horror story. With conspiracies and symbolism and blah blah blah.

But it’s also one of the most successful episodes in a while because Katja Herbers gets a bunch to do and she’s awesome at it. The scenes themselves vary, but she’s always good. Until the second half twist—surprise, sexy grandma Lahti’s new stud is none other than decently not sexy grandpa Michael Emerson, who also has kind of been stalking Herbers since the beginning of the show in order to further his life goal of promoting evil in the world. Can Lahti give him up for Herbers and the four adorable granddaughters, who Emerson has drawing secret symbols and singing creepy religious songs? Oops, I spoiled it in the first sentence. But whatever, doesn’t matter. “Evil”’s very deliberately plotted. To the point it supersedes everything else going on in the show; in some ways it feels like a very standard eighties nighttime mystery drama—Herbers and Mike Colter’s workplace romance—and very edgy for the USA Network in 2005. Like if they’d done a “Da Vinci Code: The Series” and it was surprisingly mean-spirited. But with some patronizing exploitation.

Still, the acting can be great. Herbers is great here. Colter is not. But he’s okay, it’s the script. And Mandvi’s awesome. Of course he’s awesome, he gets tapped selling the “eh, it can’t be all priests, right?”

I mean, icky. But also… CBS tame for 2019. Both sides but we’re pretending politics don’t exist.

Also… Emerson basically just seems like he’s doing a Kevin Spacey impression.

Evil (2019) s01e05 – October 31

There’s something up with the racial optics on “Evil.” The all-Black Catholic parishioners is a thing. The show kind of dares you to notice it, but it’s a thing. Black Catholics are not a familiar TV trope; I can’t think of one besides Frank Pembleton and they made a big deal out of the Catholic thing. Irish folks, Latinx folks, they’re mass media Catholics. Not Black people. Or maybe “Evil”’s just doing a godawful job introducing the general audience to the realities of Black Catholic life. Like the possessions and the ominously mentioned “Sixty,” which the head Catholic guy (who’s white, see, optics) told Mike Colter not to worry about.

Clearly it’s a building storyline because this episode leaves Colter and Katja Herbers on the outs. Even more than on the outs, Colter didn’t help her save her kids from a possibly dangerous Halloween prankster. We don't really know if she's dangerous because deus ex machina; even if she's not it's some really exploitative manipulation. The grandkids are in danger because grandma fell for a psychopath because she's a drunk. And easy.

See, grandma Christine Lahti starts the episode getting picked up by the guy who’s stalking and threatening her daughter, Michael Emerson. Emerson and Lahti are a lot closer in age than I thought—she’s only four years older—but one assumes, even if Emerson is playing his actual age of sixty-five, Lahti isn’t playing her age of sixty-nine. She certainly seems like she’s playing at least ten years younger. Though, I guess both Emerson and Lahti look great for their ages (I seriously thought he was like forty-nine)… so maybe it’s some CBS boomer thing. I don’t know.

Regardless, I don’t buy Lahti would fall for slick, slimy, and not hot Emerson. I also don’t buy that Herbers is keeping her mom in the dark to the degree of not mentioning the psychopath-creating clinical psychologist she met. Emerson gives her his real name. She checks his LinkedIn. Or whatever the “Evil” variant.

It just doesn’t seem likely. Even if you assume the characters are real dumb… it doesn’t seem likely.

Anyway, Aasif Mandvi has an okay (comparatively) plot about meeting YouTube ghost-hunter Nicole Shalhoub and getting flirty while appearing on her dumb show, but comparatively is the key word. Mandvi doesn’t get anything to do where you’re left wondering how he can function when the show isn’t happening. Colter and Herbers are all of a sudden dangerously near that point. This episode does them no favors. Not them, not the show.

And the Exorcist homages were stupid.

(Also, I checked the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)—Black Catholics aren’t a statistically significant thing according to them).

Evil (2019) s01e04 – Rose390

The show goes a little overboard with the scary tech angle. Even more than last time. This time it’s pedophiles hacking AR games and grooming kids when they’re playing on their headsets. The kids in question are lead Katja Herbers’, as it’s not clear the problem child at the center of the episode (Luke Judy) is even using the headset. It’s also not clear if the hacker is a pedophile or if they’re Michael Emerson, who doesn’t appear in the episode, but maybe because he’s hacking AR games to encourage kids to kill.

“Evil” appears to work a lot better either with Emerson and without Herbers’ kids or without Herbers’ kids and with Emerson. Maybe because with Emerson around you can’t believe Herbers wouldn’t have her family locked in a safe room, clutching a shotgun. The show hasn’t really done anything with Emerson threatening her family. It’s just an “of course he did, he’s the bad guy,” which seems narratively and dramatically suspect.

Mike Colter gets something to do except mope about not getting as good of God visions when he trips anymore. Funny how he played Luke Cage but now he’s the one chasing the dragon. Wokka wokka. This episode is all about him bonding with annoying little Judy and even trying to give him psychiatric advice even though Colter’s just guessing what he ought to say. One would assume, despite him shrooming to see God, Colter at least knows not to mess with burgeoning serial killers’ minds. Surely the Catholic Church wouldn’t let him act so irresponsibly. For a different kind of wokka wokka.

Speaking of the Catholic Church, Clark Johnson’s back as Colter’s exorcist priest buddy. It’s nice to see Johnson but it’s a kind of crap part. He’s around to add some dramatic heft and he doesn’t even get to add much.

But it’s a more solid episode. The stuff with the family is actually good and disturbing instead of being annoying. Sure, the show’s take on hacked AR games probably ought to be a little more grounded in reality if they’re going to terrify parents. It’s all so creepy they could’ve gotten away with Herbers reading a number aloud to call to report the game or something.

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