'Evil' Is the Perfect Halloween Netflix Binge

The underrated spooky/goofy CBS show recently dropped on the streaming platform.

evil, cbs

I yelped at a moment in the the pilot of Evil, the CBS series that recently hit Netflix. It's the first appearance from George, an incubus that haunts the protagonist Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) with his yellowed teeth and beady eyes. Also, he happens to be pretty funny. 

That's the line that Evil walks, which makes it a great Halloween month watch. From Robert and Michelle King, the brains behind The Good Wife and its extended universe, the series—which originally aired in fall 2019—is alternately a probing show about faith, a wildly entertaining procedural, and an effective piece of horror. It manages to walk a million different lines at once: between being very silly and very serious; between being religious and skeptical; being scary, but not too scary that it can't air on network television. Already, it's already gotten a significant bump in appreciation from appearing on Netflix where it can be found by the masses who might otherwise miss or turn up their noses at a drama airing on CBS, still most commonly associated with NCIS and Chuck Lorre comedies.

evil, cbs, aasif mandvi, katja herbers, mike colter

Evil mashes up The X-FilesTouched by an Angel, and the Good shows, pairing a believer with a skeptic for its various adventures. The skeptic is Kristen, played by Herbers, probably best known to many as the daughter Ed Harris [redacted] on Westworld. She's a psychologist, who, when the series begins, is working on behalf of the District Attorney's office in New York. A gruesome murder case in the pilot brings her into contact with David Acosta (Mike Colter, formerly Luke Cage), a priest-in-training. Acosta also works for the Catholic Church determining whether there are supernatural forces at play in various situations. For example, is a person psychotic or possessed by a demon? Is this a miracle or can it be explained by medicine? He's accompanied by Ben (former Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi), who does the legwork of finding environmental explanations for these occurrences, i.e. weird stuff in pipes or technological doctoring. They are perpetually tormented by Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson), a little devil in more ways than one. 

The cases range from grimly funny to genuinely devastating. To that latter point: I really found myself hooked on the series by the fourth episode, "Rose390." It's an hour that captures the wonderfully vacillating tones of Evil. Kristen, David, and Ben are sent to evaluate a 9-year-old boy who may be a psychopath or may have a demon inside of him. The child, played with a perfect creepy kid monotone by Luke Judy, has tried to poison his entire family by pouring bleach in their milk, so they keep him locked inside his room. Without spoiling too much, every turn the story takes is absolutely devastating, culminating in a finale that rips your heart out, and not in the way you might expect. 

In the B-plot, Kristen's extremely chill mother Sheryl gives her four grandchildren two AR devices, which they immediately use to play a horror game called "The Haunted Girl," during which they meet an avatar named "Rose390," a disturbing child who conjures a Ouija board. As with many of Evil's plotlines, it's never clear whether the game is truly haunted or whether it's just upsetting. This is why Evil, in addition to being well-acted and charming and occasionally goofy, can also get under your skin. It's genuinely nightmarish because of how much it leaves up in the air. By not over-explaining its monsters, human or otherwise, it is both respectful of faith while also constantly questioning it, letting the audience stew in that uncertainty, which makes for a wonderfully spooky Halloween watch. 

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.