Evil’s Second Season Is a Hell of a Good Time

Evil’s Second Season Is a Hell of a Good Time
David (Mike Colter), Kristen (Katja Herbers), and Ben (Aasif Mandvi) put their heads together on Evil. (Photo: Paramount+)

The first season of Evil about a trio of investigators tasked with assessing possible possessions, miracles, and other supernatural business for the Catholic Church — had to spend time setting up the series’ premise and introducing characters. But even with that season-one burden, it still ended up being a surprisingly fun and engrossing show. Season two, which saw Evil shift from CBS to the company’s streaming service Paramount+, has only built on that — allowing its characters to grow and its plots to get weirder and more ambitious within its surreal, scary, but still somehow wryly humorous world.

The latest episode titles — styled like entries from a children’s picture book: “F Is for Fire,” “C Is for Cop,” “Z Is for Zombie,” etc. — are gimmicky but make sense given the show’s mystery-of-the-week format contained within larger story arcs. So far this season, Evil’s main trio — priest in training David Acosta (Mike Colter), psychologist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), and tech expert Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) — have investigated many unusual cases. Here are just a few: a man who claims he’s getting angelic direction to help the world in such a way that’s actually rather violent and harmful, a little girl who blames a djinn for all the mysterious fires that start in her presence, and a (white) cop who swears he was demonically possessed when he shot an unarmed (Black) woman.

That last plot is the most obvious example of how Evil is making an effort to incorporate timely storylines this season; elsewhere, the djinn episode featured a debate over Islam vs. Christianity when exorcists from both faiths showed up to help the girl and butted heads over who had the greater authority, and the zombie episode ripped into an Amazon-like company for working its warehouse staff so hard they became shuffling, braindead drones. We’ve also seen David — who matter-of-factly reveals his own struggles with being racially profiled by the police — begin to question racism within the Catholic Church, even though his faith seemingly remains ironclad.

Ben, Kristen, and three of Kristen's four daughters. (Image: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS 2021 Paramount+ Inc.) Ben, Kristen, and three of Kristen’s four daughters. (Image: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS 2021 Paramount+ Inc.)

While the weekly cases propel the action forward, Evil now has a bit more bandwidth to focus on the demons, literal and otherwise, that haunt its main trio. Kristen is still grappling with her decision to sink a climbing ax into the skull of Orson LeRoux (Darren Pettie), the smarmy serial killer who was let out of prison on a technicality last season and immediately started threatening Kristen’s four young daughters.

She isn’t necessarily regretful — as her homicide cop friend Mira (Kristen Connelly) puts it, “Some people deserve to die” — but she is worried about being found out, and has some valid concerns about the murder’s effects on her mind and soul. Beyond that, we see her struggling with being faithful to her husband — long-absent because of his mountain-climbing career — and putting up a good front for her kids, especially the one conceived with the help of a fertility clinic that might be part of a plot to concoct bad-seed agents of Satan. You know, typical Evil stuff.

Meanwhile, the least-developed character last season, Ben, is finally getting some attention. We’ve learned a bit more about his troubled scientific past involving a grand quest to help end childhood diseases that somehow went sideways — thanks to the slinky demon, Abbey (Ashley Edner) who’s made a habit of invading his nightmares, tormenting him both physically and mentally but also being kind of alarmingly alluring about it. (Again… typical Evil stuff.) He also got to take an excellently freaky solo detour in “E Is for Elevator,” Evil’s most horror movie-like episode so far.

Sister Andrea (Andrea Martin) shows Leland (Michael Emerson) the meaning of fear. (Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS 2021 Paramount+ Inc.) Sister Andrea (Andrea Martin) shows Leland (Michael Emerson) the meaning of fear. (Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS 2021 Paramount+ Inc.)

We’ve already mentioned some of what’s bedeviling David this season, pun intended, but his biggest bugaboo is definitely Evil’s creepiest villain, Leland Townsend (the delightful Michael Emerson), who at the beginning of the season pulled the ultimate troll move by demanding an exorcism of his own. So far it’s mostly a way to get under David’s skin — Leland’s on a mission to prevent David from joining the priesthood, for his own nefarious reasons — a situation exacerbated when David very reluctantly agrees to be Leland’s personal “spiritual counselor.” Leland’s tactics are both in-your-face, like when he nastily calls David a “diversity hire,” and subtly obnoxious, like when he brings a giant tub of popcorn to watch David address a congregation for the first time.

Evil has a lot of moving parts and a large cast, so it helps that the show has such strong casting across the board. The young actors — especially the girls who play Kristen’s daughters, though Evil is definitely fond of the “creepy kid” trope in general — are generally excellent, and even the smaller adult roles (Kurt Fuller as Kristen’s shrink; Peter Scolari as David’s boss, Bishop Marx; Dylan Baker and Brian Stokes Mitchell as priests) have weight to them thanks to the performances.

But the best supporting characters are both women, starting with Christine Lahti as Kristen’s slightly daffy mother, Sheryl — don’t call her Grandma; she prefers “Rad G” — who was formerly engaged to the duplicitous Leland, briefly went on the warpath when he dumped her, and is currently trying to get back into her daughter’s good graces. Sheryl is manipulative and sneaky, but she seems to genuinely love her family. However, her quest for redemption may not be what it seems… and it’s never good when a creepy doll enters the picture, so there’s cause to worry when we see her lighting candles and praying to a toy she addresses reverently as “Eddie.”

SHERYL WHAT ARE YOU DOING (Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS 2021 Paramount+ Inc.) SHERYL WHAT ARE YOU DOING (Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS 2021 Paramount+ Inc.)

Sheryl rules, but Evil’s best new character is easily Sister Andrea (Andrea Martin), a quirky, badass nun who befriends David and seems to know way more about the supernatural side of things than she’s letting on. What is certain is that she is extremely smart, perceptive, and unafraid to speak her mind — and her faith is so powerful that Leland, who usually sneers at anything holy, is petrified of her. Sister Andrea’s presence has also allowed Evil to made some sly commentary on how unfairly the Catholic Church treats the women in its ranks.

Evil’s been on summer hiatus for a few weeks, but it returns on Sunday for the second half of season two — starting with with “S Is for Silence,” which will see the main threesome head to a silent monastery to investigate a possible miracle, presumably without uttering any dialogue for the duration. That’s potentially a self-contained episode, but there’ll still be plenty of installments left to dig into some of the larger questions that Evil has raised so far this season.

What does it mean that so many police officers have matching “protection” tattoos that are also demonic sigils, as seen on a sinister map Leland keeps hidden behind a wall in his apartment? Will David become a full-fledged priest or will Leland be able to burrow into his brain enough to turn him away? Will Kristen be able to move past LeRoux’s death or will she slide further into darkness? What’s up with that Satanic fertility clinic? Will Ben be able to get rid of Abbey once and for all? And what in the name of Beelzebub is Sheryl doing with that horrifying doll?