As soon as the impossibly jacked priest brewed himself some tea with magic mushrooms, I knew Evil had my number. The Good Wife/Fight creators Michelle and Robert King’s Catholicism-infused X-Files riff is an escapist masterpiece that proves once more that conventional broadcast forms can still surprise and delight if you treat them (and your characters) with respect. Oh—and did I mention that the show also features a literal (and very gregarious) demon named George?
Evil is not for everyone—and you’ll likely know by the end of the first episode which camp you fall into. It’s worth finding out. Each month I sift through the new offerings coming to streaming and choose one I believe is worth highlighting—and this month, it’s this delightfully depraved CBS drama, which lands on Netflix October 1. (The show is also available on CBS All Access.)
What better way to honor Spooky Season in the middle of our most dystopic year yet than diving into a show that understands both its thematic weight and its own inherent goofiness? Evil (styled EVIL both in its opening credits and my heart) joins the Kings’ other creations as a rare breed of broadcast dramas—those that respect their viewers without taking themselves too seriously.
In Evil, Katja Herbers shines as Kristen Bouchard—a psychologist hired to play the Scully to our shroom-loving clergyman’s Fox Mulder as they investigate cases of possessed Amazon Echo-like devices, demonic children, and lethal viral videos. Kristen is a gracious but firm non-believer whose humility allows her to, at times, entertain new possibilities—especially after a few visits from the demon George.
Mike Colter—who appeared as Lemond Bishop on The Good Wife years before he became Netflix’s Luke Cage—grounds our unorthodox priest in training, David Acosta, with warmth and earnestness. Perhaps, at times, too much earnestness; Colter’s performance can at times feel out of sync with the show’s overall tone. But every now and again he pulls off a goofy flourish that hints at the humor he could eventually find in the role; after all, David does use shrooms to commune with the good lord almighty.
And as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully did before them, David Acosta and Kristen Bouchard develop some... interesting... chemistry between them as time goes on. (Colter’s impossibly buff biceps, often clad in a leather jacket that’s holding on for dear life, also deserve their own supporting Emmy nod next year.)
Evil’s supporting players are as strong as its leads. Former Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi never misses a beat as Ben, the snarky but affable tech guru whose relationship with Kristen’s four firecracker daughters is an abundant well of joy. Christine Lahti deserves more screen time—and, frankly, a more worthy story arc—as Kristen’s mother, Sheryl. And Lost alum-slash-TV villain extraordinaire Mike Emerson plays the mysterious demon (or... psychopath?) Leland Townsend, because both Evil and its casting are canny as can be.
The show largely unfolds as a procedural with monster-of-the-week installments. But higher-stakes serialized drama—like Kristen’s fears as a mother literally battling demons and David’s quest to reveal whether his visions come from God or something darker—drives the narrative forward.
Not every standalone story works, but even at its least successful moments Evil never fails to entertain. Like its characters, who present themselves as conventional members of their chosen fields, the show loves to take risks and explore what possibilities might lie outside the lines. With each episode it charges past the boundary where a less confident series would stop—revealing the slimy, hooved, and surprisingly chatty phenomena that lay beyond.
Even when the results are somewhat laughable, Evil stays in on its own joke.
It makes sense that CBS has chosen to make Evil’s first season available on Netflix during the run-up to Season 2—especially after last month’s Emmys proved just how much of a notoriety bump availability on the platform can provide. And with the season of ghosts and ghouls upon us, what better way to celebrate than a show that revels in its traditions while also embracing all things wild and weird.