In its third season, Paramount+’s Evil (formerly of CBS) remains one of the most clever, witty, and cerebral horror television series, period. Creators Robert and Michelle King and their writers continue to swing for the fences when it comes to mixing procedural stories with existential themes, finding really engaging examples of ubiquitous modern ills to represent humanity’s vulnerabilities. Even when the show’s ambition falls short, the characters of David (Mike Colter), Kristen (Katja Herbers), and Ben (Aasif Mandvi) are so engaging, relatable, and rife with internal messiness that time spent with them is never time wasted.
Season 3 picks up with “The Demon of Death,” right where the Season 2 finale, (“C Is for Cannibal”) left off. Kristen confessed her sins of adultery and the murder of serial killer LeRoux to David, and then two of them engaged in a long simmering snog of passion. As is often the case with this series, perception is unreliable, so the actual outcome of their very steamy moment becomes a bit of an ongoing mystery within the first three episodes. But it certainly has an impact on the comfort level between the now-Father David and still married Kristen, especially with the return of her husband, Andy (Patrick Brammall).
But the church needs them on call, and their first case of this season is a personal request from Monseigneur Matthew Korecki (Boris McGiver) to assist a scientist who wants to use modern science and technology to prove if a 1901 experiment that documented the weight of a soul at 21 grams is accurate. The production value of the scientific set and the tension created around capturing the moment of death is some harrowing stuff. It’s a fascinating case to open the season with, especially with the performance assist of the great Wallace Shawn as the terminally diagnosed volunteer.
This episode and the second (“The Demon of Memes”) are the best cases of the week. They also lay the groundwork for important side stories, like Kristen getting proactive with her gaggle of girls and involving them in fighting back against Leland (Michael Emerson), who attempted to contact the vulnerable (and tail possessing) Lexis (Maddy Crocco) last season. And the Bouchard girls still operate like they’re a feral chorus of over-excited puppies, but this season the writers are leaning into their individual talents as very good kid actors, integrating them even more into various plots that provocatively reveal the digital perils facing kids today.
The aforementioned Andy is also back in the mix, prepped to finally sell the climbing business. He jumps back into the parenting pool, feet first, and which includes accidentally emptying a pickled demon into their pipes, and telling Sheryl (Christine Lahti), and her creepy demon dolls, to get the hell out of their house. Aside from being the inciting incident guy, Andy never seems to get much of a lasting foothold in any seasonal narrative. Of course it’s because he represents a barrier between Kristen and David’s strong bond, but it’s unfortunate because Patrick Brammall does a lot with what he’s given, and has made Andy increasingly sympathetic over three seasons.
And speaking of Sheryl and Leland, after Season 2 spent so much time redefining their relationship from romantic to cohorts in all things malevolent, the writers don’t seem to know quite what to do to keep them feeling vital to the overall story. Instead of going full bore into Sheryl’s dolls or what her initiation into the demonic secret society means, she’s instead given a desk job trolling and exploiting people via schemes involving influencers and cryptocurrency. Frankly, it’s a weird way to shoehorn her into the action, and doesn’t even attempt to address the outstanding “whys” regarding her compulsion to choose demon stuff over her daughter and granddaughters. Instead of her “The Demon of Sex” metaphorical ageism in the workplace storyline, I’d much prefer the writers just get on with explaining whatever was going on in her life as a young mother and wife that led her here. Or even going all in on defining just how possessed she really is.
And the same goes for Leland, in that he’s basically existing as a sort of blunt thorn in the side of the trio as he hovers as Church assessor in their cases. He’s still the trickster of the piece, but the sting of his actions, like in Season 1, don’t feel as potent or dangerous. Emerson is utilizing his comic talents more, but we know the actor, and the character, is capable of so much more. Hopefully, the long-game playing out with Leland, Sheryl, and Edward Tragoren (Tim Matheson) in regards to Lexie and Kristen will be worth it later in the season.
As for David, he’s front and center in the storyline again after Season 2 siloed him in preparation for his ordination. Now that he’s done the deed with God, the writers are immediately testing him by exploring the mundanity of day-to-day life as a priest. Plus, there are his outstanding carnal feelings towards Kristen, and then an intriguing subplot involving a secret Vatican SS organization that attempts to recruit him.
Ben gets a bit of a slower start this season, with “The Demon of Sex” episode allowing him to get meta about the outcome of their cases being relatively solvable and thus less impactful than he hoped. His sister Karima (Sohina Sidhu) returns to help juice the science side of his brain again, but it feels a little tame after previous stories regarding his night terrors and weird twin girlfriend dilemmas. However, Aasif Mandvi is always doing the Lord’s work with his pitch-perfect dry wit conveying the cynicism the audience might be thinking.
Katja Herbers, meanwhile, continues to boldly embody Kristen in whatever persona is needed for the action at hand. From Machiavellian protective mom, to blisteringly seductive siren, to the insightful practitioner of psychology, she’s all this and more in just three episodes. What remains to be seen are the repercussions of her confessions to David, how they will weather one another as ongoing temptations, and if, or when, her myriad of sins will get resolved—or continue to burst forth from her life like some primal well of the seven deadly sins. Regardless, the Evil ride is always worth taking.
Evil Season 3 debuts on Sunday, June 12th on Paramount+
Tara Bennett is a Los Angeles-based writer covering film, television and pop culture for publications such as SFX Magazine, Total Film, SYFY Wire and more. She’s also written books on Sons of Anarchy, Outlander, Fringe and the official Story of Marvel Studios released in late 2021. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraDBennett.
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