Evil Season 1 Episode 1: Pilot Recap/Review

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Evil’s Mike Colter, star of Netflix’s recently canceled Luke Cage, and his costar Katja Herbers, from Divorce, have a lovely working and romantic chemistry together. However, I had a little trouble moving on from his romance with Rosario Dawson/Claire Temple. After everything they went through to be together, it’s still just a little too soon.

Such are the perils of watching too much TV.

Not that Colter’s new character, David Acosta, will be getting up to anything overtly romantic with Herbers’ character, Dr Kristin Bouchard, anytime soon, since he is a Catholic priest in training and she is the married mother of four young daughters who is also the sole financial support of her family. Even though a seminary student like David, who’s only 2 years into his 5 year training program, can still walk away, especially if he entered the program out of grief and guilt over a lost loved one, as is strongly implied in the pilot. And even though a lapsed Catholic such as Kristen can break her marriage vows, especially to an absentee husband who barely contributes to the support of his family while he’s pursuing his own selfish goals.

But we know that good people like these two won’t break their vows easily. There are bigger things in their lives than romance, like fighting evil and taking care of the people who matter to them. So David, Kristen and their third wheel, contractor Ben Shroff (Aasif Mandvi), will fight the good fight together and confine themselves to the traditional longing looks and coded language for the foreseeable future.

They might develop a romance someday and they might not, which is okay. Their connection is spiritual, and I’m always a sucker for spiritual soulmates who help each other become the people they were meant to be.

Plus, the devil, or someone a lot like him, is watching them, in the form of Michael Emerson. In this incarnation, he’s using the name Leland Townsend and he’s already stolen their deep dark secrets so that he can psychologically manipulate and threaten them as effectively as possible. We all know the devil can’t resist taunting impure priests and cheating wives, even if both are only sinning in their thoughts. Leland is no different.

So it’s all business for David and Kristen- the business of determining whether an individual is insane or suffering from demonic possession, confirming miracles, investigating hauntings and looking into other mysteries from the Catholic Church’s backlog of case reports. David is the company man and lead investigator. Kristen is a psychologist who believes science will explain their mysterious cases. Ben is a general contractor and non believer who establishes whether there’s a physical, environmental cause for the mysterious signs the subjects are experiencing.

Cue the Ghostbusters theme. Just kidding. There were 4 ghostbusters. And I forgot to mention that Christine Lahti plays Kristen’s mother, Sheryl Luria, who helps out with the kids then heads out to live her own life. We don’t see her much in the pilot, but hopefully she’ll be around more in later episodes. I sense that she and Ben are kindred spirits, and I need the show to get the senses of humor of these two world weary characters together. All of that Evil is going to need to lighten up a little occasionally.

It’s off to a good start, with Kristen’s canned mini margaritas, her house under an overpass that looks like something Roald Dahl dreamed up, and her four little girls who are just waiting to be possessed. But at times I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to take it all seriously or if I was watching satire.

Was it supposed to be frightening for someone to see our heroine’s caesarian scar and then pee on the floor? The woman has four kids who she’s raising mostly by herself. These have surely already been everyday events in her life. The devil’s going to have to do better than that to haunt a modern (almost) single mother.

Which would be the issue I have with Evil. It’s almost unbearably hokey at at times. I don’t normally watch CBS, because the shows are virtually always pedestrian, misogynist and old fashioned. Evil seems to be trying to straddle some kind of line between modern and traditional sensibilities, which gives it the sense that I mentioned before that it’s something Roald Dahl, author of Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, came up with.

Kristen’s life is straight out of one of his books, with an overwhelming number of hardships, too many people to take care of, and a gray, cold, cruel world which is pressing in on her from all sides, visually represented by her home. I fully expect that her children will turn out to be someone else’s, inherited suddenly when her sister or best friend died. She obviously will have selflessly given up her dreams to raise them and now considers them her own. The caesarian scar will be from a baby who died and left her unable to have her own children, to add to the tragedy.

Otherwise, she must be so wimpy that she lets her husband breeze in, get her pregnant, then breeze out again, leaving her to financially support and raise a growing number of children by herself. And she’s apparently unable to manage birth control. Or is she continuing to have babies until she has a boy, a popular reason for large families in the past? (And present, in some circles.)

Evil uses all of the standard Christian tropes for demons, possession and the like, down to having the supposed demon speak Latin. I’m not sure why a demon would bother to speak Latin, a long dead language, in the 21st century. Surely if Christianity is the one true religion then the devil would be more interested in being understood when he tries to convert people to his cause than in proving he knows the language priests used in certain times and places in history. Ditto for crosses and particular prayers. All of that is just an attempt to prove your own religion is the correct one. True evil isn’t going to bother with it. Just as it doesn’t in the real world.

(I know Orson/Roy wasn’t a real demon, but he was coached by Leland, who is implied to be the real thing.)

So I can’t take a show called Evil seriously, when it’s actually preoccupied with making sure I understand that Christianity is necessary in order to stave off evil or recognize good.

Or when it tries to slut shame it’s female lead for being friendly with a new acquaintance by having a dream demon tell her she’s sinned by flirting while married. Is she supposed to keep her eyes downcast and a serious expression on her face at all times? Or maybe just not speak in public? But if she’s not friendly and smiling when interacting with men, she’ll be called on that as well, so there was no way for Kristen to win in that encounter.

I’ll probably watch another episode or two of Evil to visit with Mike Colter and enjoy the chemistry between the two leads. Maybe it will turn out to be Matilda, the Supernatural Crime Fighter, with a wickedly subversive sense of humor. Maybe future episodes will take a more open minded, philosophical turn. Maybe Kristen will speak up more, with confidence, and her point of view will take precedence. Maybe her daughters aren’t there to be possession fodder. Maybe a few more adult women will show up.

Or maybe it won’t be long before it’s clear that this will be a typical CBS show which promotes a conservative political message. Given CBS’ record with women, I’m not terribly hopeful.

Image courtesy of CBS.

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