CBS has a new show called Evil and my quick summary of the premise was an investigatory team looking into supernatural occurences and deciding if they are caused by supernatural or psychological forces. A little bit X-Files-ish, a little bit like Proof (2015-16 series about whether there is life after death). Or maybe just The Exorcist by another name. It didn’t sound like a winner to me so I went with cancellation as my prediction.
The first episode was a bit different than I expected. The lighting and camera work was softer than I expected, odder angles, so it gives you a bit of an off-balance look to the scenes, which was interesting. And the mystery unfolds in an interesting way. The main character is a forensic psychologist, Kristen Bouchard, and in the pilot, she’s investigating a defendant accused of killing three families. She interviews him, finds him to be lying, deems him fit for trial, her job is done. Until the defence asks her to confirm that it is psychological, and not potential possession by demons. She has a WTF? moment with him on the stand like he’s an idiot, and then she meets David Acosta, priest in training (why is it always a new priest or a priest in trainng?) who works for the Catholic Church on contract to investigate if something is supernatural or not. She doesn’t believe in the mumbo jumbo he’s peddling, but she does witness the defendant freak out and start speaking Latin to her, so she thinks maybe he’s hallucinating. More investigation is needed.
At this point, the story kind of goes weird for a bit. ** Spoiler alert ** She has a dream where she meets an “otherworld figure” aka George the demon and she has a night terror. He comes back a second night, and then when she’s talking to the defendant later, he asks about George. Something he couldn’t possibly know as she told nobody else. Well, except her therapist. Dun dun dun. At this point, it turns into a routine investigation of a con.
And it is that switch that makes the pilot so confusing. If the show was meant to be X-Files-style, the truth is out there, then the show SHOULD end on a note of a question — are there unanswered questions out there? Does evil exist? Are possessions real? The answer in the pilot is CLEARLY no, it was just a con. And as a result, it’s not clear where the show will go — debunking everything or there are unexplained outcomes. The beauty of the X-Files was that Scully could explain a LOT but not everything Mulder experienced. The truth was out there, they just had to find it. For this show, they said, “Nope, here’s the truth, that’s it, nothing to see beyond this.”
Which is a weird way to sell the show. The believers in the possibility would feel slighted by the conclusion; those who don’t believe merely had their belief confirmed, it’s all a con. But would they watch? Probably not.
The actress playing Bouchard, Katja Herbers, was familiar to me, but I had no idea where I’d seen her. Westworld would not have been my guess. She’s pretty good, but as I mentioned, the camera work leaves you a bit off-balance. She handles strong well, she handles confused and scared well. The only thing that she doesn’t do well is angry…there’s a couple of scenes where she is in battle mode, taking no prisoners, and she comes off spirited more than furious.
The priest-in-training is played by Mike Colter of Luke Cage fame, and he is really good. Compassionate, caring, quiet. Relaxing. Comforting. I was expecting more doubt in his faith, but he has none. Not in a “I’m blind to it” way, a total “all in” way. Not the normal portrayal in the genre. One of his regular phrases is that he doesn’t care that Bouchard doesn’t believe, he wants her skepticism.
And, as he puts it, “Possession looks a lot like insanity and insanity looks a lot like possession” and he needs someone to help him distinguish between the two. I do find it a bit odd though that they’re going to be a team, considering she has four kids to look after and an absent husband. When will she find the time to go galivanting off to other locations to investigate miracles or demons?
A third member of the team is played by Aasif Mandvi, and I liked him back on Blue Bloods (series of guest appearances) and way back on Jericho. He’s good here, and a good plot device character as the equivalent of a “ghostbuster” who finds natural explanations for phenomenon (like a dishwasher making weird sounds that make it sound like a demon whispering to the husband).
But as I said above, it’s a weird first EP and a weird way to sell it to potential viewers. Clear answers are not going to get you renewed. I’m staying with cancellation. I almost liked the leads enough to keep watching.