TV Review : EVIL

CBS has an EVIL new drama, which premiered last week. It’s about a team of investigators who try to determine if miracles and possessions are real. They are skeptics, not believers (for the most part), and the series is about them as people as much as it is about their cases, a departure from the network’s typical procedural formula (though there’s a bit of that in there, too). Will they prove a god and/or Satan exist? Or will their job be a series of debunks?

EVIL was created by Michelle King and Robert King, the minds behind The Good Wife and its spin-off, The Good Fight. Both of those shows, while legal in nature with specific trials and negotiations dealt with, were far from the basic procedural, and provided some wonderful characters over the years. Two episodes in, my impression of their new series is that it will be the same, a rare gem on a mostly has-been network.

The clear lead is Katja Herbers (Westworld, Divorce), who plays Kristen Bouchard. Fired from her job for not being willing to bend the truth on the witness stand while professionally testifying, Kristen is desperate. She’s at home with four daughters (Brooklyn Shuck, Rise; Skylar Gray, Married; Maddy Crocco; and Dalya Knapp) while her as-yet-unseen husband guides mountain climbing expeditions. Thankfully, her mom, Sheryl (Christine Lahti, Chicago Hope), lends a hand, but that’s not nearly enough.

A quick note about the kids: They seem pretty interchangeable and generic at the start, but I don’t believe they’re likely to stay that way. There are a lot of characters and a lot of story threads in EVIL, and for now, the girls are mostly a plot device to ratchet up the stress on Kristen, seen almost exclusively in a group. However, episode two started to distinguish one from the herd, and based on the creators’ past works, I find it probable that viewers will soon be able to distinguish them as individuals quite easily. It just may take a bit of time.
Back to Kristen, she is saved from unemployment by none other than the Catholic Church. Specifically, would-be-priest David Acosta (Mike Colter, Luke Cage), who asks for her help. The two, along with Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi, The Daily Show), make up the team that drives the A story of the initial offerings.

However, EVIL is more than one woman’s work and home life. We see her in therapy with Dr. Boggs (Kurt Fuller, Psych), which strangely ties into the first case. She is visited in her dreams by a demon named Georgie (Marti Matulis, Teen Wolf). And David is taunted by a man who might be supernatural, or at least have supernatural connections, named Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson, Lost).

That’s an ambitious workload for a broadcast network show, especially one on this particular channel. It’s a complex, well-developed world that presents a lot of questions without giving a lot of answers. I wouldn’t call EVIL particularly religious, but it’s not exactly not religious, either. It doesn’t have a point of view or agenda that it’s pushing, with various characters representing varied viewpoints, and none seeming to be more correct than any other. It’s a setting and premise to dwell in, showing us possibilities, rather than telling us what to think.
I like EVIL a lot. Already a fan of the Kings, I think this is every bit as intriguing as their previous shows, as well as being quite a bit weirder. The opening credits of EVIL are reminiscent of The Good Fight, while its lead has echoes of an in-over-her-head Alicia from the beginning of The Good Wife. It seems an evolution of their writing, and one that will probably be quite compelling.

EVIL airs Thursdays on CBS.