The Movie or TV Show: Evil (2021) (Season 1 on the first four episodes of season two Paramount Plus)
One Sentence Premise Summary: CBS created a procedural that’s actually interesting, so interesting the second season was moved to a streaming service.
Where You Can Stream It:Paramount Plus (As of July 14, 2021)
Why I Streamed It: There was some positive buzz surround the show, and I only waited so long to give it a chance because it was hard for me to believe a CBS procedural could actually be compelling. I may be old now but still not in CBS’s demographic.
Why You Should Stream This:
The thing that this show does is truly special. On the surface, it is a weekly procedural with a skeptic and true believer teaming up to solve various faith related situations. This is a tried and true formula that The X-Files performed for nearly a decade. In this case, Katja Herbers as Dr. Kristen Bouchard is a psychologist sketpical of religious faith in general, yet due to circumstances (student loans), she is working with David Acosta (Mike Colter) and Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) on various cases. Acosta is a priest in training wrestling with his own issues, including race. The most recent episode as of this writing had Acosta challenging his boss and even the idea of addressing race in a sermon to potential parishioners.
The show plays with the idea of faith quite a bit. It’s not clear whether certain incidents are based off of real possessions. Clearly, there is some abstract evil. Why else would the main character commit a truly horrific act in the season one finale? There is very real possibility of our main character being possessed by a demon, but the show is slowly revealing her path toward an increasing amount of darkness. Michael Emerson is one of the main protagonists, and he’s delightfully evil. There isn’t a piece of scenery he can’t chew up. His main role has been to expose the darkness in the other characters, and this is a possibility with Dr. Bouchard and Acosta. He went from a master manipulator in season one (including trying to get a young man to commit a mass shooting by bringing out the worst aspects of toxic masculinity) to someone who is now faking needing an exorcism.
Although there is a heavily religious bent, like so many previous shows created and guided by the Kings, this is a show that is trying to say things about the greater issues of the world. The show does not definitively take the side of religion or atheists. This is clearly a heightened world where the church plays a bigger part of the world, yet it feels tangible enough too. The performances are spot-on. The writing is very solid but is veering into being both more absurd and darker as it has transitioned away from being a network drama.
I don’t think Evil is perfect. It can still fall into tropes, become a bit goofy, get a little awkward with some of the faith related conversations, and be a bit contrived, but this is a genuinely interesting show that is becoming better in its second season. Not being on CBS allows for something greater. Here’s hoping the show gets even more…evil.
Best Performance: There are times when Michael Emerson can be a bit much. I think he’s a very good TV actor who can do this kind of role in his sleep, but he sometimes goes for the most acting. He’s good at being…bad, but I think Herbers really plays the emotional center of the show so well. She at times has to be funny while also coming across as skeptical in her profession but respectful of her co-workers’ beliefs. She plays some of the sillier scenes in the first season against the ghosts just as well as when she’s in a deposition. Herbers was solid in Westworld but here is when she gets to sing as a performer. There are a number of directions the characters of Dr. Kristen Bouchard can go, and it seems like Herbers will be up to the task.
Final Grade: B
Coming tomorrow, Monsters at Work!