Evil – Season 1

Going to Church With Mulder and Scully

Main Cast: Katja Herbers, Mike Colter

Creators: Michelle King, Robert King

Evil. It isn’t a good name for a TV series – it’s very generic. But it does get straight to the point; the show is about group of investigators who encounter a disproportionate amount of…evil. I have to have some grudging respect for laying the cards on the table from word one.

Evil is a hybrid of sorts; it combines elements of shows I have known and loved before including The X-Files, Criminal Minds, and any number of ghost hunting and myth busting reality shows. The main characters are Kristen (Katja Herbers), a forensic psychologist with a husband and four kids; David (Mike Colter from Luke Cage), a seminary student with a complicated past and a connection with the church; and Ben (Aasif Mandvi, who I remember from the olden days of The Daily Show) as Ben, tech wizard and paranormal debunker. The team is tasked with investigating supernatural appearing incidents for the Catholic Church. Miracles, possessions, demons, you name it they’re probably going to get a look at it.

There’s also an overarching narrative accompanying the individual angels and demons – and that’s where we get the Evil. Michael Emerson (from Lost and Person of Interest) has carefully cultivated both the reputation and the demeanor of the creepiest man on television. Here he plays Leland Townsend, competing forensic psychologist and psychopath. Or is he a demon? He claims there are major forces at play and warns the team repeatedly that they don’t know what they’re up against.

So that’s all very X-Files. A true believer and a skeptic investigating the supernatural, with elements of a larger conspiracy showing up throughout the episodes. We also have some good old fashioned Criminal Minds type investigations of criminals/the possessed/general bad guys. Kristen draws up what amounts to a profile and they proceed. Ben serves as the ghost hunter/myth buster – he has the tech savvy to sniff out even the cleverest imposter or use his gadgets to lure bad guys out of the woodwork.

The elements of Evil aren’t original, so it’s up to the cast to make them work. And they really do the job. The chemistry between the members of the team is an interesting, shifting character of its own, with tensions and disagreements and conflicting agendas. Herbers and Colter are solid as the main duo as they butt heads over what’s God and what’s science. Honestly, Ben is my favorite character. He provides most of the comic relief and Aasif Mandvi is a skilled and versatile actor. His character adds a nice element that makes the show feel less like an X-Files rip-off and gives the trio room to expand beyond never ending sexual tension between Kristen and David.

Michael Emerson is fantastic. I have no idea if he set out to be an archetypal creep but he is nailing it in this role. It really feels like he relishes these escapades and is having a great time playing this very wicked man. Evil would not be nearly as evil without his somehow both ominous and pathetic presence.

My quibbles with Evil are more kinks to be worked out as the show matures. Kristen’s daughters need to stop talking all at once – it was cute a couple of times then it got annoying. The showrunners need to get a handle on what is real and what is not. They barely controlled their tendency to let dreams bleed into reality this season and they’re going to have to be very careful not to let that fluidity become a muddled mess in the coming season. And the special effects could be better. Some are deliberately clumsy, some are just clumsy. Since a certain proportion is very well done, it’s clear they have the technical ability – perhaps they need a bump in the budget.

Overall I quite enjoyed the first season of Evil. It has the paranormal stuff that I love, with plenty of debunking (also love), and a solid team of major characters. The show airs on CBS and is now streaming on Netflix (and performing very, very well). Season 2 filming was delayed, but hopefully it will still be able to premiere on CBS in 2020. If not it should air in early 2021. I know I’ll be setting the DVR.

Where you can stream the programs in this review:

The links in the review go to Amazon, where you can buy shows by the episode or season, but you can also find them here:

Evil: Season 1 is streaming on both Netflix and CBS All Access

Lost: Streaming on Hulu

The X-Files: Streaming on Hulu

Person of Interest: Streaming on CBS All Access

Criminal Minds: Seasons 1-12 are streaming for now on Netflix, and the final season, number 15 is on CBS All Access. If you want seasons 13-14 it looks like buying them on Amazon is the cheapest way for now.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart: You can watch clips on Comedy Central and on YouTube

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