One of the more controversial new shows on the fall schedule this year is CBS’ Evil. After watching two episodes of the show, I’m still not sure what to think of it. Is it a brilliant mess or an intriguing dialogue about faith and religion? As a life-long Christian, I’m not convinced that the show’s showrunners and executive producers of the show, Michelle King and Robert King, have thoroughly investigated all angles on the subjects of demonic possession and miracles. The show is a bit of a mess of ideas. I do know that the show is definitely entertaining and makes you think. It is sort of ongoing conversation about good vs. evil, God vs. Satan, faith vs. science with elements of fantasy thrown in for good measure.
Michelle and Robert King have received numerous awards for their work on The Good Wife and The Good Fight and also created the quirky summer series BrainDead in 2016. In a recent interview with Josh Shepherd for The Federalist, Robert King explains that he is a devout Roman Catholic who believes in original sin and also believes that “there is a demonic realm that has to be resisted” while his wife considers herself to be a “secular Jew” who doesn’t “see the divine as being the answer to everything.” The two go on to explain that the conversation about why people do bad things has come up often in their marriage of over 30 years.
Evil presents the intriguing premise of a skeptic-by-nature female psychologist, Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) who is approached by David Acosta (Mike Colter), a priest-in-training to help investigate a bunch of unexplained mysteries including supposed demonic possessions, hauntings and even miracles. Believe it or not, this is actually a real occupation in the real world. Colter personally interviewed one to prepare for his role in the show. The idea here is that sometimes what might seem to be a psychological illness might actually be demonic possession and vice versa. The priests tell David which cases to look into while their only real concerns seem to be to not embarrass the church in the process.
David is a former journalist preparing for the priesthood. He appears to be a tormented soul himself. While he is dedicated to his faith, he is also plagued by his past often praying for strength to resist temptation. It doesn’t help that Kristen is attractive and her husband is not around climbing a mountain somewhere. (He is only mentioned and never seen during at least the first two episodes of the show.) But while Kristen is attracted to David, David’s lust might be reserved for something else.
Kristen doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there is a God and believes that everything can be explained through science. That is, until she starts having terrifying nightmares involving a demonic being invading her dreams threatening to harm her and her four children. Things like that tend to make you a believer really quickly.
The duo is aided by Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) who is not only a backslidden Muslim but a hard-nosed critic of anything spiritual. Working against this trio is the mysterious Leland Townsend, played by former Lost bad guy, Michael Emerson who is a master at playing a creepy character. In fact, Leland just might be a demon in disguise and if so, will an undercover angel appear later in the series?
As I mentioned before, I’m not sure if all of this works, but I do find it refreshing to listen to conversations about the value of prayer, why God doesn’t He heal everybody and why evil even exists in the first place. It also shows just how well the devil lies to us if we continue to listen to him. I would feel better about the show if I knew more people of faith were working on it. While Colter appeared in the faith-based movie Breakthrough, I can’t find any information about the actor’s personal faith nor anyone else of the cast for that matter. Sure, it’s great fun to tell a God vs. Satan story, but if your story isn’t based on truth based on the bible, it becomes just a story. It’s just too soon to know if Evil will be a misguided venture or not.
Due to the subject matter, it is easy to say that Evil is not for everyone and I can’t really endorse this show. It is entertaining, offers a few jumps and presents some moments that will make you cringe. But the show is uneven. While most of the storytelling is good, some scenes haven’t really worked for me, particularly the ones where Kristen interacts with a demon in her dreams. The scenes are creepy for sure, but they come across more comical than scary. I think Satan is more subtle than that. He is a known liar, but here, he plays all of his cards. Hopefully though, Kristen will become a believer soon, because she doesn’t stand a chance against him if she doesn’t.
Just like real life, Evil presents more questions than answers. I do hope that true faith will be explored more in the series and perhaps, if were lucky, Christians will be portrayed not only in a positive light, but also as people who center their lives on what the bible says, not just shown as being “nice” people. Being nice doesn’t take a lot of effort. Living a faith-filled life with grace is a lot harder.
Evil airs on Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.
(Main photo by CBS)
I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.