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Fantastic Start to Fourth Season of Evil Maintains Creepy Quality

“Doesn’t it seem like these assignments are getting weirder?”

There’s no program on television more wonderfully weird than “Evil.” Even the journey of this show’s broadcast has been incredibly weird: It started on CBS, moved to Paramount+, recently dropped two seasons on Netflix that have been in the top ten for weeks, and will now premiere a fourth full season on P+ that will be followed by a fifth mini-season that could be the final (or could not). Whew. And yet, while it appears that this instability could lead to a too-early demise for one of the best shows of its era, there’s something perfect about the bizarre trajectory of “Evil” given it’s like nothing else on television. The start of the fourth season bursts out of the gate with two of the best episodes in the history of “Evil,” followed by a pair of episodes that are creatively rockier yet still captivating. “Evil” takes big swings—even the ones that don’t connect are fascinating. And weird as Hell.

Speaking of Hell, “Evil” opens with an episode about a potential portal being opened to the hot place with Satan as a landlord. Once again, Robert and Michelle King brilliantly employ an old-fashioned episodic/season-arc structure, balancing individual standalone stories with one that’s essentially been building since the series premiere. At the end of last season, Kristen (Katja Herbers) discovered that her frozen embryo was used to impregnate a woman who will soon give birth to the Antichrist. She opens the season by cutting her mother, Sheryl (Christine Lahti), completely out of the life of her and her daughters, although Mom may be working for her daughter’s best interests from behind enemy lines. On the surface, she’s the right-hand woman for the malevolent Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson), handling out-of-control demons and the impending end of the world.

As “Evil” fans know, Kristen is only one-third of the heart of the show; David (Mike Colter) and Ben (Aasif Mandvi) get phenomenal arcs this year, too. David is still working through managing his very human desires alongside his deep faith while also being wooed by the Powers That Be for a greater role in the secret society that really runs the world. Ben has his belief system challenged further after an event in the premiere attaches a djinn to him. Of course, Ben doesn’t panic—he spends the next few episodes scientifically trying to determine if it’s a hallucination or a possession. 

Other familiar faces return, including Kurt Fuller as Dr. Boggs and the wonderful Andrea Martin as Sister Andrea. Boris McGiver had to leave the show, and so his role as a sort of Charlie to These Angels has been filled by none other than Wallace Shawn, who gets a weird subplot of his own that leads to one of the best scenes in the series in the fourth episode between him and Martin. Without spoiling, it’s one of the many great “Evil” scenes that ties something relatable, like grief, to something seemingly impossible. 

Standalone narratives to start this season include the aforementioned portal to Hell, robo-dogs that might be racist, demonically possessed pigs, and a possession that takes language and coherence away from the afflicted. The first pair of episodes are absolutely brilliant, taking a slight dip in writing quality for the next two, but the season-long narrative and the rich character work to date holds it together. 

The most tragic thing about the imminent end of “Evil” is how much more comfortable the performers have become with each passing season. Herbers, Colter, Mandvi, Emerson, Lahti, and even supporters like Patrick Brammall as Kristen’s husband Andy get richer as we share their complex histories with them. We've come to know the Bouchard family, David’s internal conflicts, Ben’s grappling with belief, and Leland’s pure evil—the writers use that shared knowledge to give their narratives greater power. The Kings aren’t just great writers because of their undeniable wit, but because they trust everyone, from their performers to their viewers, to go along for the ride.

The overall push to the potential end of the world will give this final full season its momentum. Still, my favorite thing about “Evil” is how it embeds new interpretations of its own title into every aspect of the show. The word evil has long conjured angels and demons, but it’s also now about social media, science that threatens to break reality, and bodily autonomy—the narrative arc of forced pregnancy does not seem accidental in the 2020s. 

“Evil” doesn’t just want people to consider their relationship to faith, but to how good and evil work their way through life, both on the macro level of the things that control us and the micro one of how we interact with our families. You don’t have to believe a literal demon on Earth is trying to bring about the birth of the antichrist to consider the impact of evil on our day-to-day lives. It’s a wonderfully entertaining show that’s also incredibly rich in conversational topics, the kind of program that can be unpacked and dissected after every chapter.

While I'm confident the Kings could end this series on a high note in August if that ends up being the show's fate, I truly hope Netflix sees how successful the first two seasons have been on its service and rescues “Evil.” After all, the world is only getting weirder.

First four episodes screened for review. Premieres on Paramount+ on May 23rd.

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of RogerEbert.com, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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