Evil: Did Kristen Kill Orson?

A psychiatric crime specialist never shows up to an in utero exorcism with blood on her leg. Did Kristen kill Orson? The question is just Evil.

Evil Did Kristen Kill Orson?
Photo: CBS

This article contains spoilers for Evil season 1.

Kristen Bouchard, played by Katja Herbers, was as surprised by the Evil season 1 finale as any viewer. Something drew the normally cynical psychiatric trial expert to test her fate. The moment before she sees the acrid burn of sin on her flesh, she is relieved. Everything is normal for too short a moment. Evil season 2 will open on another side of a rabbit hole. The supernatural suspense drama already cast an all-seeing eye into demonic connections in international conspiracy. Their new unsolved mystery is an inner crime. A lone act. Did Kristen kill Orson LeRoux (Darren Pettie)? All the clues are there. Some may have been repressed, like a tell-tale blood stain no one wants to see, but malicious intent tends to rise to the surface. What could have possessed Kristen to do such a thing? Perhaps only the show’s resident therapist, the goat-headed demon who primarily tends to Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson), knows for sure, and he’s known as the father of lies.

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As the designated Doubting Thomas in a group of Catholic Church-affiliated paranormal investigators, Kristen has made it her mission to get to the bottom of elusive truths. As a citizen she lends her expert testimony to keep the most dangerous criminals from re-entering society. She fought very hard to keep Orson in prison. But when the convicted serial killer’s sentence was overturned, Kristen’s first concern was as a mother. Not only did she fail to keep a multiple murderer off the street, she fails to keep him from showing up on her own block. Orson does this just as Kristen is escorting her daughters aboard the school bus. She dials 911, but Orson is the one to file a police complaint. Their neighborly squabble is settled with a conciliatory fruit basket.

Orson LeRoux is a gift that keeps giving. He was on the ninth rung of a 12-step program to hell, and looking for something short of redemption. The newly freed serial killer was just getting on our good sides when we overheard the call from Detective Mira Byrd (Kristen Connolly) saying he wouldn’t be making it to season 2. “He was bludgeoned,” Byrd says. “We are thinking it was by his wife. Your troubles are over.” But “Book 27,” the title of the final episode, doesn’t shut the file on the problematic psychopath. It throws a whole library at undue process.

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The night Kristen came home to find her daughter Lexis asleep on the floor near an open front door and Orson’s gift basket, she put the kid to bed and went out in a hurry. Before she left, she grabbed a climbing axe. Kristen and her husband are both avid and expert mountaineers, and the instrument is pristine. It looks brand new and still has its shine. The axe looks like the walking stick Claude Rains used to kill Lon Chaney Jr. in The Wolfman. His son had a terrible secret. When the moon was full, he became a murderous beast. Like Orson, the werewolf is very vocal in expressing regret for his violence but shows no outward signs of his affliction when he’s not possessed by his lunacy. 

Evil has its own character with a unique gait. The Demon Therapist is made to look like an all-male version of the Goat of Mendes, also known as Baphomet. There is some evidence he may be setting Kristen up for a fall. Not only as a suspect in the murder of the legally exonerated ex-con, but from grace itself. And then, after Kristen gives the appearance of murderous intent before the crime, she also blatantly covers up evidence right in front of one of her most trusted colleagues.

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The sequence where Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) notices the blood on Kristen’s leg reminds me of the scene where Lou Costello walks right into Boris Karloff’s character in the 1949 suspense comedy Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer. In that film, Karloff’s killer hypnotically suggests to the surprised witness “You didn’t see me. I wasn’t here,” and pulls a mental disappearing act. When Ben asks Kristen why she has blood on her leg, she cleans it right in front of him and simply says “I don’t have blood on my leg.” She makes it clear that her leg is currently blood-free, providing a loop-hole for a legal disappearing act. Jedi mind tricks are not admissible in court, though, so it appears she is skirting more than ethics.

Kristen is also ducking a culling scythe. David Acosta (Mike Colter), the ex-journalist, pre-ordained priest who assesses supernatural events for the Catholic Church, also indulges in mind tricks. He routinely mixes brews of hallucinogens to open himself up to mystical visions. At one point towards the end, we see him fingering a baggie of magic mushrooms which fades to a hallucination. He envisions himself in the middle of a field of wheat, which the Demon Therapist is separating from chaff. Kristen walks right past David straight to the agricultural reaper. She has a smile of beneficence on her face and is unconcerned. That’s more than you can say for David, who is so worried he drops the untouched bag of psychedelic experience to the floor. He didn’t need chemicals to see the signs. But what do they mean?

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David could have seen an allusion to Kristen’s mortal sin, which would lead her to a path of perdition. He may also be seeing a warning, in which case, she has not yet fully given in to the temptation of the most dramatic of maternal instincts. Who is to say Detective Byrd isn’t involved in the murder?  Kristen Connolly has been playing much of the role ambiguously. Maybe the detective figures it will help the book sales she had to admit to under oath. Orson’s death could be one of collusion. It is most probably a mere step on the downward spiral Kristen’s arc is taking.  

David is very good at reading signs. He recognized the symbol to the RMS fertility clinic which is churning out demon babies by the test-tube-full from one he’d seen in his vision of an ancient occult text. But the hottest clue to the mystery which surrounds him doesn’t come from a burning bush. It comes from a scorched palm. The very last scene of the Evil finale changes the paradigm of the show. In what looks like a whim of scientific curiosity, Kristen holds a crucifix in the palm of her hand. She’s been to enough exorcisms, and even saw the effects reading “The Lord’s Prayer” had on the possibly-possessed Orson. Kristen is performing an ad hoc experiment. And she is positively relieved at the initial results.

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Kristen’s relief lasts less than a second. The experiment is apparently a success, but it’s not a happy conclusion. The skin which touched the crucifix is branded with the mark of the cross. By the logic of Hollywood since the beginning of celluloid, this would indicate Kristen Bouchard is at least possessed, if not already some kind of demon. That fertility clinic David connected the dots to was the same one she’d gone to after she’d suffered a miscarriage. Her daughter, the psychically gifted Lexis Bouchard (Maddy Crocco), was born after in vitro fertilization procedures done at their facilities. Besides the Boys from Brazil conspiracy Ben revealed at the connection, this also brings in another aspect of Kristen’s maternal instinct. Would she kill to protect her demon spawn?

We know Kristen is fiercely protective of her children. We’ve also seen evidence she can be fairly quick to violence. She had no qualms about carving her initials into the neck of Leland Townsend, the defense expert who has become her most annoying nemesis. She also seemed to savor twisting a blade into the demon George. A prosecuting attorney might bring these incidents up to tarnish her character in a trial for killing Orson. But they also open an easy gateway to Kristen’s inner darkness. David’s head priest says a person has to invite a demon before they can be possessed. Lexis not only invited the Demon Therapist into her hallway, she jumped at the chance to go the “next level,” and punched in the security code for him. Kristen accepted the demon when she followed through on the path laid out for her.

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While it remains unclear whether Kristen is possessed or in an early stage of possession, her openness to demonic forces may have been foreshadowed in episode 1. It happens after one of her earliest night-terror incidents with the demon George, when Kristen is lying in bed with her daughters. She breaks the fourth wall with a knowing grin to the camera. While some of her actions might indicate a weakening of moral standards, leading to her being open to committing a mortal sin, there are no overt signs of encroaching demonic infestation. But the road to hell is an insidious one, paved with the very best of intentions.

Those who are condemned to hell don’t display their designations with signs like the burn marks left by crucifixes and other holy residue. If Kristen had become possessed, she would have shown signs during some of the exorcism rites she’d witnessed during the season. But Orson’s murder may have been a climax to a seduction which began when she was first introduced to the holy work. She has increasingly become more secretive to the people around her, both professionally and personally. She doesn’t give out easy explanations, and keeps too many details too close to her vest. Kristen often looks like she’s hiding something even in the least necessary moment. She even does it against her own self-interest.

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Because Evil is an intentionally and happily effective confounding series, the mystery of Orson’s death will probably not be what is most readily apparent. It is hidden in the occult clues we might have overlooked, just like a gas leak may be hidden by some plaster in the room of a seemingly satanic crime scene. Kristen is indeed primed to be suspect, but Detective Byrd has motive and opportunity. It would almost be a shame if Orson’s wife got to him first.

Evil is available for streaming on Netflix.