New TV Review

Evil

Image: CBS

Call it “CSI: Probably Not a Demon Maybe.”

What’s it about? Psychologist Kristen Bouchard, having just left her job determining if killers were sane enough to stand trial for the DA’s office, takes a new job with a priest-in-training, examining claims of possession and miracles for the Catholic church. When a possible possession is claimed, sceptic Kristen looks for a psychological explanation, equally sceptical engineer/science type Ben Shakir looks for environmental or technological explanations, and believer David Acosta examines it from a spiritual angle. And all of this is made more complicated by the sinister Leland Townsend, who’s out to put more evil in the world by training people to be killers and get away with it or something like that, or maybe just screw with Kristen, I don’t know, it is not clear.

What works? They do well at creating spooky atmospheres, and the three leads are all pretty compelling. They’ve given Kristen a house right out of a Conjuring movie, which helps when the spooky elements inevitably follow her home. Which they do. About once a week. They’re good at creating low-grade demonic horror on a TV budget, it’s just thaaaat…..

What doesn’t? There is going to come a time when they need to pick a side as to whether demons are real or not. Did Kristen actually spend two episodes being haunted by a demon named George (fucking GEORGE? That’s the best you could–), or was it just night terrors brought on by the new job? Is a demonic presence trying to corrupt Kristen’s daughters through their new AR headset games (which I want to be real so bad they look so fun even if that probably wasn’t supposed to be the takeaway) or was it just a very clever hacker getting through Ben’s firewalls? It’s early days yet, but the pattern so far is that Kristen and/or Ben find an answer other than demons that they’re pretty happy with, but there are just enough unanswered questions to make you wonder, and I do not know how sustainable that is as a premise. They’re trying to build a long arc or two here, but they can’t even make up their minds about the central premise. The X-Files picked a goddamn side.

Also, Kristen’s family isn’t quite landing just yet. Her mother’s irresponsible and that’s my only bead on her, but it’s still more than I get on Kristen’s four daughters. They’re basically a gestalt entity at this point, just this wad of children all talking at once, with no clear personalities to speak of. And the subplot of romantic tension between Kristen and David is pretty low-stakes so far. He’s contemplating celibacy, she’s married, and the evil characters keep throwing their mutual attraction in their faces, but… we’ve never met Kristen’s husband. He’s been guiding rich white folks up Mount Everest since the pilot. He likes mountains, is often away, I couldn’t tell you his name for love or money. He’s a non-entity. Whitney from Smallville was more of a three-dimensional character, and even for a Smallville character he was pretty thin; he was basically just a mannequin they’d wave around to keep Lana and Clark from dating. But at least he was there.

And another thing about Whitney, if he was old enough to join the military at the end of season one, what the hell was he doing dating a 14-year-old what the hell was

Who do you know in the cast?

The actual lead is new to me, but there are several familiar faces here…

  • Mike Colter, Luke Cage his own self, is David Acosta.
  • Daily Show veteran Aasif Mandvi is Ben Shakir.
  • Michael Emerson, who is great in basically anything he does, including Lost, Person of Interest, and a brief stint trying to destroy Star City on Arrow, is the sinister Leland Townsend, who doesn’t make a lot of sense yet but sure is fun to watch.
  • Christine Lahti, who I know from Chicago Hope, aka “the 90s hospital drama that wasn’t ER,” is Kristen’s mother. Who probably has a name, but I can’t be bothered to learn it just yet.

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