Temptation is back on the menu as Paramount Plus’ Evil returns for season three.
Spoilers follow for episode 3.01
Episode 3.01 “The Demon of Death”: David (Mike Colter)’s relationship with Kristen (Katja Herbers) takes a turn when he gives into his temptation. Meanwhile the team is tasked with exploring a machine to measure the weight of the human soul as it leaves a dying body.
Evil is easily one of the best genre series on television, as well as one of the most underrated in terms of direction, acting and WTF narrative moments (who can forget the reveal that Michael Emerson‘s villainous Leland Townsend was going to therapy with a giant cloven-hoofed Lucifer?).
S02 ended with a sensual cliffhanger as a guilt-plagued Kristen confessed to a newly ordained David that she murdered a man, then they began passionately making out. “The Demon of Death” picks up exactly where we left off as the make out escalates to sex on the bed. But then David pauses when he sees Kristen’s abdominal crucifix scars and, with the spell temporarily broken, she leaves.
It’s a moment of reprieve: two characters with highly charged sexual chemistry stop before committing a sin they’ll both regret…
…except Kristen returns to finish the job. “Just this once” David moans as they finally consummate their relationship.
What I love about this opener is the way that show runner and series creator Robert King, directing from a script he co-wrote with wife Michelle King, refuses to make it clear if this is real or simply a fantasy/dream sequence. Evil is no stranger to playing visual tricks on its audience, particularly when it comes to the night terrors that have plagued all three of its investigative team, so the sexy-sex could just as easily be real as it could be a figment of David or Kristen’s imagination.
It’s not until well into the episode that the pair address their now nightly carnal activities (under a crucifix no less!). It’s clear almost immediately that they’re talking about different things, though: Kristen is relieved that the kiss they shared hasn’t harmed their working relationship, prompting David to play off his confusion about the multiple sexual encounters they’ve had.
This sets up the final encounter of the premiere, which finds David once again succumbing to the sexual advances of what is very clearly not Kristen. Intriguingly, this suggests that David is weaker than both her and Aasif Mandvi‘s Ben; unlike David, both of the others quickly found ways to identify and circumvent the influence of their night terrors.
Case of the Week
Our first case back involves Dr. Beverly Swan (Ruthie Ann Miles), a scientist who aims to recreate Duncan MacDougall’s scientific investigation of the weight of the human soul. It’s basically an excuse to set up an extravagant set in a chilly airplane hangar decked out with sensors to weigh the mass of a body pre- and post-mortem.
Enter Father Frank Ignatius (the great Wallace Shawn), who is dying of cancer and, more intriguingly, has something of a romantic relationship with Monsignor Korecki (Servant‘s Boris McGiver). The teasing out of their relationship, from Korecki’s gentle reassurances as Ignatius dies, to the brief kiss Ignatius gives Korecki when he is resurrected, to their silent goodbye when Ignatius leaves to ensure they don’t act on their temptations, is subtle and well done. We know so little about Korecki outside of his attempts to keep the peace with Leland and doling out cases for the trio to investigate. This feels like a brief glimpse into the character’s personal life and it serves to make him feel more like a real human being.
Like all things Evil, there’s no clear resolution to the specific case regarding the weight of the soul/human consciousness. At one point David suggests that Ignatius’ 24 gram weight loss – compared to the 36 gram gain of the second subject, Sister Gertrude (Jenny Sterlin) – could infer a body-hopping demon, but there’s no conclusive answer.
It’s unclear if any of this will come back into play, though the fleeting image of Sister Gertrude lurking in the shadows as David makes love to his night terror is…intriguing.
One of Evil‘s greatest assets is Emerson’s Leland and the dramatic conflict his whiny, unscrupulous character provides. Leland has been attempting to insert himself in Kristen’s life since the start of the series, and he’s made multiple inroads, most notably in his perversion of Kristen’s mother Sheryl (Christine Lahti). Over the last season, however, much of Leland’s attention has been focused on daughter Lexis (Maddy Crocco), who may have demonic origins.
Leland’s storyline in the premiere is mostly solid stuff: not only do we get Kristen’s bold delivery of a restraining order, but his latest nefarious attempt to connect with Lexis via an Animal Crossing/Stardew Valley-esque game called Bumblebee Valley goes disastrously wrong for him.
It’s a delightful moment of subversion when Lexis reveals that she knows the avatar who has approached her in the game is Leland. This confirms that she and the other girls have listened to their mother’s very serious talk at the beginning of the episode and reinforces that the series’ continued use of the domestic sphere is merited.
Throw in the glee of watching the four girls inflict chaos on Leland by pestering him with questions (as only kids can) and this part of “The Demon of Death” is incredibly satisfying.
- It’s been fascinating to watch Dr. Boggs (Kurt Fuller) evolve over the seasons into a source of comedic relief. Here he shows up in floral print shirt, splayed out on the floor of his office because his back gave out on a vacation to Hawaii. Throw in his reactions to the typically blunt sermonizing of Sister Andrea (Andrea Martin) and you’ve got some much needed levity in a busy premiere.
- One of the biggest questions that Evil refuses to answer is what the hell is going on with Sheryl. Still no answers here, but it’s fun to watch her go toe-to-toe with Kristen’s husband Andy (Patrick Brammall), who is back at home full time after spending most of the first two seasons in Nepal. Andy isn’t the most interesting character, but his contentious relationship with his mother-in-law has frequently made Andy come alive.
- Sheryl’s reaction to Andy kicking her out of the house also delivers the episode’s most memorable piece of dialogue. She prays to her doll shrine and drops this gem: “Give me the clarity to stop this goddamn motherfucking piece of shit”
- Possibly the episode’s most unnerving moment is when Andy discovers a jar under the bed that contains a foul-smelling liquid and a shrunken head. Then, when he attempts to jam the head down the toilet with a plunger, there’s a clear audible sound of something (?) being released. Keep this plot point in your back pocket for when it inevitably returns.
- One of the more enjoyable aspects of last season was seeing star Herbers cut loose as Kristen’s possession intensified. With that storyline over, I was concerned the talented actress would get fewer opportunities to demonstrate her range, so it’s encouraging that she still gets to play (against type as) the embodiment of David’s fantasy.
Evil airs Sundays on Paramount Plus