Evil on CBS is one of the best new shows of the fall season and certainly the most frightening, mainly due to the way it subverts the expectations of the genre.
The concept for Evil is rather simple, considering the larger world it’s stepping into. Kristen Brouchard (played by Westworld‘s Katja Herbers) is a clinical psychologist that joins a team from the Vatican to either debunk or prove claims of demonic possessions or miracles.
This is a procedural brought to us by Robert and Michelle King, most well-known for creating The Good Wife and its sequel series, The Good Fight, but Evil has more in common with another of their series from 2016, Braindead, which married their political sense set in a horror environment.
Similarly, what makes Evil interesting is the way that it marries the procedural setup that is such a staple of CBS and the more frightening elements at play within the series. As the title would suggest, there is a lot of truly horrifying sequences that have played throughout the first five episodes so far.
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A big part of doing a procedural series, especially the ones that CBS has been known for, is to take the plot to a crazy place but not really have it affect itself overall, allowing the show to crank back down to zero for the next episode. Even if it feels like the characters of, for example, Law & Order should be really impacted by what happened in the episode, the status quo will still remain unchanged for the next episode.
What Evil has managed to do with that so far is still has those things at play but take it to such a different level. An important part of procedurals is that nothing can truly be changed because your characters are monoliths. With Evil, there’s this ever-present sense of dread that runs throughout that feels practically inescapable.
At all times it feels like something can happen from a horror movie that will irrevocably change the characters within it and that dichotomy between more of the same that procedurals demand and the horror is a fascinating one. The way it’s been able to do this is by centering a lot of the more terrifying parts around Kristen’s four daughters.
More and more, the girls are being exposed to demonic forces that are bent on frightening them and it’s the way they deal with it that makes it really work. To make the plot go back to zero, you need people who are able to dismiss what they’re seeing and kids are uniquely suited to that. Kids don’t often think about the fact that something is impossible. They, more often than not, just go along with things until it feels like it’s too much for them. After that, it’s pretty much forgotten, making them the perfect conduit for the scarier moments on Evil.
There’s also the matter that this is a basic cable series that is, quite frankly, far too terrifying for its own good. When you watch something on one of these channels, especially one like CBS, you’re not really expecting that you need to think about things like, “Should I be watching this in the dark?” or “Will I be able to sleep after this?”
Those are definitely questions you should be asking, though.
Evil airs on CBS on Thursdays.