When Evil came out I was hesitant to jump on board, as my viewing plate is pretty full as is and I wasn’t overly interested in a show that pitted science against religion. That was my initial take on the show, which sees priest-in-training David Acosta (Mike Colter) form a team to investigate Catholic Church’s backlog of unexplained mysteries, including demonic possessions, miracles and other unique events. His team consists of ‘tech guy’ contractor, Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) and Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers,) a skeptical clinical psychologist who joins the crew in episode one after crossing paths with David during a case she’d been working on.
With so much viewing material out there, sometimes it’s easy enough to write off a show just by hearing the premise, and that’s what I did with Evil. Now, having watched season one to review it here I can say that I was mistaken in my view, as this is a show that falls under the “don’t judge a book by its cover” category. While there are some cliché bits here, such as pitting a skeptic against a believer, Evil does so in a way that feels fresh and welcoming. While Kristen is an atheist and doesn’t believe in demons or exorcisms, David is okay with that and actually wants to work with her because of that viewpoint. They also don’t shy away from criticisms of the church, or act as though the religion has done no wrong.
David’s job is to go to these places where something supernatural or extraordinary is happening and he has to rule whether or not the church needs to get involved in some way, or if what’s happening can be explained by scientific or technological means. While this is one of those prime time dramatic shows that follows the same classic formula of dealing with one specific case a week, it also doesn’t have a lot of filler. At a brisk 13-episodes, each case that the trio go to investigate also intertwines with the much larger story arc that the show begins to delve into right out of the gate.
It’s really great to have a show where the creators (Michelle & Robert King) chose to have a shorter season, instead of filling in an extra 10-episodes with random cases that do nothing to further the story along, and if anything simply bog it down. I think this is a format that many shows should follow, as there are a lot of potentially great TV shows out there that simply have too much fat on the bone and it takes away from the series as a whole. Why force things to get 22-episodes when a 13-episode season does the job that much more efficiently? That’s not to say that’ll work with every show, as some do fine at a longer length; however, there are plenty who would benefit from the change.
As is, Evil sets up a potentially solid few seasons that are focused on an overall show story arc. Whether or not the show decides to stretch it out or end this arc and continue forward with another is yet to be seen; though I think if it keeps things going along their current path, a solid three or four seasons could wrap up the show nicely. Not all shows need eight or nine seasons, and a lot that have them end up losing steam midway through or near the end, so it’s nice when a show knows where it’s going and I feel that the King’s request to keep season one at 13-episodes shows that they’re not looking to water it down.
There are some cons to go along with the pros, of course. I’ll start with a few more pros, one of which is the great camera work that leaves a lot of scenes off center to purposefully make the viewer a bit more uncomfortable, even if it’s subconsciously. The cast is also really well put together, with Colter, Herbers and Mandvi all having solid chemistry, and the supporting cast which includes Michael Emerson (LOST, Person of Interest) as the shows antagonist, Leland Townsend, and Kurt Fuller as Kristen’s psychiatrist, and Christine Lahti as Kristen’s mother, Sheryl. Brooklyn Shuck, Skylar Gray, Maddy Crocco and Dalya Knapp play Kristen’s four daughters, who all have a sisterly vibe and really give the Bouchard’s the crazy, yet close family dynamic that’s important to Kristen’s storyline.
I’m also a big fan of how if an episode ends on a cliffhanger, the following episode will pretty much pick right up where that one left off. Sometimes a show will just jump ahead a bit and you miss that moment in the aftermath of the moment that makes the cliffhanger a cliffhanger. The show also takes itself seriously enough so that the stakes feel real, even though as a whole the show knows it’s there purely as entertainment. Now, all shows out there are entertainment, but what I mean here is that it’s not trying to be a realistic depiction of the world, or the evil within it. Shows like, say, Law and Order are more grounded in reality, and are often restricted to working within those rules. Whereas Evil is a show that spins things around and takes some realistic scenarios that we’ve seen in the news in recent years and hints at the possibility that maybe something more dastardly is at play that we’re all not aware of.
On the cons front, it’s more or less some of the weaker moments in the storytelling that hurt the flow. As a whole it’s fairly solid, but there are times when you really have to let things slide in order to keep enjoying things. For example, at one point the Vatican sends its three top people to interview David, Ben and Kristen in order to find out if one of the cases they’re working on is as risky as they believe it to be. It’s mentioned a few times that these are the Vatican’s “top guys” and during the episode it’s revealed that there’s this 500 year old document that’s filled with potential prophecies and they need to know if what’s within it is true.
One of the items within this document is a foldout poster that’s filled with various symbols. Kristen asks what it is and they tell her that they’ve all studied it and it’s been studied by many before them and nobody knows what it is or what it means. Kristen quickly takes some pictures of it with her phone while they aren’t looking, and later that night she shows the pictures to David and he Google’s the symbols and within 30 seconds they know what it all means. That’s it. The Vatican’s top guys and many before them studied for however long and had no clue, but half a minute on Google and our heroes broke the code.
That’s the most ridiculous leap that the show has asked the viewer to take thus far, but it’s such a big part of the story moving forward (even though knowing this happens isn’t a spoiler in any way) that there had to have been a better way to get this information out there. I mean, how stupid are the Vatican’s top guys and everyone who came before them?
That aside, Evil is a fun show. It’s got that vibe of a show where you just turn it on and forget about the craziness in the world for 40 or so minutes and it leaves you wanting more. The 13-episode aspect of it helps it in terms of being a show you can binge should you so choose to catch up before season two, and I recommend you do so as it’s a really solid show that’s worth at least trying out. Here’s hoping that season two can keep the momentum going, and also that they keep the upcoming seasons in the 13-15 episode range over adding a bunch of filler.
The show looks really sharp, with the darks coming in nicely without much muddying to distract the viewer. I’d say it’s a fairly balanced show for night and day shots, but when we do head to night it’s never washed out, and certain aspects pop, which is great to see. On the audio side of things, the mixes are all great, with the show’s theme becoming a highlight of each episode. It’s brief, yet its arrival 10 or so minutes into the show always comes with a bang. It fits in nicely with the themes and vibe of the show, and both the visuals and audio do a great job of keeping the viewer engrossed in the show instead of turning away.
Evil Season One: Genesis – This is the meat and potatoes of the special features, as this behind-the-scenes piece comes in at just over 20-minutes in length. Here we see the cast and crew talk about how the show came to be, bringing it to life, and their thoughts on the overall product. It’s a nice watch for fans of the show to get a bit of a glimpse behind the curtain, and definitely worth a watch once you’re done the season.
Does Evil Exist – This is a 4-minute featurette that just sees the King’s talk about whether or not they believe evil exists, what forms it takes and how they use that within their show. It’s a quick watch that can’t hurt to check out if you’re already there!
Deleted/Extended Scenes – I’m not really a fan of these on any home video release, and checking out a few after an episode only reaffirmed why. The deleted scenes were cut for a reason, and they seem to add even less here than the ones sliced out of movies. The score of a TV show is hugely important, as you often don’t realize that it’s playing as often as it is. When you watch these deadly silent, incredibly short, and totally unnecessary deletions/extensions, you’ll appreciate the score all that more.
Paramount Pictures Presents Evil: Season One. Created by: Michelle & Robert King. Starring: Katja Herbers, Mike Colter, Aasif Mandvi, Michael Emerson, Christine Lahti, Kurt Fuller, Brooklyn Shuck, Skylar Gray, Maddy Crocco, Dalya Knapp. Running time: 13 Episodes/9 hours 13 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on DVD: June 30, 2020.
Tags: Aasif Mandvi, EVIL, Katja Herbers, Michael Emerson, Mike Colter