If you've been craving a series to fill the void left by The X-Files or just want to watch an award-worthy series on broadcast, of which there happen to be very few, then look no further.
EVIL is just what the doctor ordered.
High concept procedurals have never really been CBS’ strong suit, yet the network tries to launch at least one every year. Most are canceled after their first or second season, and few manage to survive.
However, after watching EVIL Season 1 Episode 1, which is very reminiscent of Mulder and Scully's former glory days, and knowing that one of the best new series this fall hails from Robert and Michelle King, the masterminds behind the The Good Wife, I have high hopes.
It also doesn't hurt that the series boasts an incredibly strong ensemble, including Westworld's Katja Herbers, Luke Cage's Mike Colton and Lost's Michael Emerson, and manages to pull off one of the creepiest, skin-crawling scenes in recent memory without getting too bogged down by the carnage.
Acosta: The Church has a backlog of about 500,000 requests for exorcisms and miracle appraisals, and my colleague Ben and I are hired by the Church to investigate unexplained phenomenon and recommend whether there should be an exorcism or further research.
Kristen: I didn’t know that was a job.
Acosta: It is.
The series focuses on a Herber's Kristen Bouchard, a skeptical forensic psychologist, who joins Colton's David Acosta a
Also joining them is contractor Ben Shakir, played by Aasif Mandvi, and they investigate the Church’s backlog of unexplained mysteries, including supposed miracles, demonic possessions and hauntings.
What sounds like painfully familiar dynamic proves unexpectedly compelling, partly because the series decides to takes the classic Mulder/Scully dynamic one step further by allowing their leads to be more than their one-dimensional beliefs.
Acosta, though a man of the cloth who believes that anything, even possessions and miracles, exists, doesn't object, or even dispute, that there may be an explanation other than demonic possession as to why the serial killer supposedly can't remember committing the crimes.
Orson: I like houses when they’re empty. I like the quiet; I like the space. Sometimes I just sit there before the caravan comes and I just breathe it all in. I think spaces look better without people in them, don’t you think?
Kristen: So that’s why you killed them?
Orson: That’s a bit simplistic isn’t it? Killing them because I like space.
Kristen: Occam’s razor: Simpler’s truer.
In fact, he may actually prefer the explanable, as it requires less work on his part.
Kristen is a cynic who trades in hard facts and sciences and even experiences some uncertainty in her steadfast beliefs on the supernatural.
On the other hand, she is very much steadfast in her beliefs but does appear to waiver when the serial killer seemingly knows intimiate details about her disturbing nightmares.
While there turns out to be a logical answer to most of uncertainty, a few unanswered questions still linger that will may entice viewers to tune in again despite the series' shortfalls.
Kristen is weighed down by one too many problems.
She has an absentee husband, is raising four children alone and dealing with student loans, starting a new job -- not exactly the easiest stuff to deal with.
Additionally, Acosta's lackadaisical attitude to the point of appearing indifferent about the truth of the case and the series' formulaic approach also offers some pitfalls.
Based on the pilot, it's likely the series will attempt to tow the line between the science and faith every episode.
The series will seemingly find a way to neatly wrap up and rationalize the unexplained "mystery of the week" every time, all without explicitly confirming the existence of the supernatural.
Kristen: So this is what -- a haunting?
Ben: It’s an infestation.
Kristen: What’s that?
Ben: A haunting.
Kristen: I thought this was about possession.
Ben: Well, the theory is that an infestation leads to a possession. First, the demon takes over the house, and then it takes over the person, supposedly.
Kristen: You don’t believe in it?
Ben: I believe it pays the rent.
It's intriguing enough of a premise to attract viewers, but the question may soon become whether or not it's enough to keep them.
Living in a gray area of whether miracles or demonic possessions or hauntings are real may work for a while, perhaps even for an entire season, but the series will eventually have to make a decision, as it can't leave the question open-ended forever.
However, EVIL is successful in some regards when it comes to dealing with the standard pilot episode tropes, specifically when the series bypasses the ubiquitous "will-they-or-won't-they" trope by explictly acknowledging the attraction between Kristen and Acosta.
Most series will spend episodes, if not seasons, before conceding that there is, in fact, sexual chemistry between the leads that is prime to explode given the right circumstances.
Instead of having viewers spend months trying to interpret stolen glances and cryptic comments, the series gets right to the point.
It's almost as if the series says, "Yes, these are two extremely good-looking characters who happen to find the other attractive.
If you have a problem with that, then that's on you, because we don't give a f*#!&%."
The series, though, is at its most interresting when it lives up to its name.
The pilot introduces a ghoulish demon, hysterically named George, played by Marti Matulis, who visits Kristen in the night and delights in asking whether she’s wearing underwear for new boss.
It also casts the talented Emerson as Leland Townsend, a fellow forensic psycholigist who leaves viewers wondering whether he's a psychopathic "connector" or the actual Devil incarnate.
As a combination of many of Emerson's past roles, including Benjamin Linus from Lost, William Hinks from The Practice, and other mysterious creeps Emerson has been played, Townsend is a deliciously fun villian.
Kristen: Why did you give my therapy notes to a serial killer?
Townsend: You’re in way over your head, Ms. Bouchard. Why don’t you leave this to the professionals?
Kristen: Who are the professionals?
Townsend: Your boy toy Acosta, Leroux, the Sixty.
Kristen: Who are the Sixty?
Townsend: People who know who you are, now. Hey, that session No. 37 was a juicy one, wasn’t it? ‘I just want my daughters gone so I can have my freedom.’ Just say the word Kristen, and ‘Poof, they’re gone.’ No one blames you, no guilt; just four little caskets.
Kristen: Go to hell.
Townsend: With pleasure. In fact, I’ll make room for your daughters.
It’s also a reminder of why Emerson continues to be typecast in these roles: He's just so damn good at playing them.
While the appearances by George are certainly disturbing and occasionally a little too graphic, his presence gives weight to the suggestion that genuine evil is lurking nearby, even if he's just a concoction of Kristen's imagination.
Not only that, those scenes, though unnerving, brought some much needed levity to the episode.
Some stray thoughts:
The hints of something bigger being at play during the episode certainly piqued my interest, so hpefully EVIL delves more into the serialized elements and great mythology sooner rather than later.
The nods at something more serialized are when the show seems at its liveliest, so hopefully Evil dives deeper into those murky waters, and soon.
Even though Ben didn't get as much screentime as the others, the character still made an impression. I'm not sure whether it's his dry sense of humor, matter of fact attitude, or the easiness he brings to the scenes, but I can't wait until the series delves into his backstory.
- Apparently, all of Kristen's four daughters' names start with the letter L. There's no way anyone is going to remember who is who, and we should probably just agree to never try.
So what did you think EVIL Fanatics?
Does EVIL have what it takes to go the distance?
How long before Kristen and Acosta give in to their desires?
And what's George's deal? Is he a demon? A hallucination? Just a nightmare?
Hit the comments below to share your thoughts on this awesome premiere!
Jessica Lerner was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in October 2021.