This Evil review contains spoilers.
Evil Season 2 Episode 2
Evil season 2, episode 2, “A Is for Angel,” finds a new twist in the series’ main thrust. It is a monster-of-the-week installment which may result in an exorcism, but this time the intruding influence is not demonic. Raymond (Brandon J. Dirden), a parishioner at St. Johns, is possessed by an angel, or so he claims. On the surface, it may appear the presence may not be as malignant as a servant of Satan, but it is equally diabolical.
The designation of angels and demons, black and white magic, is a form of spiritual racism. During the course of the episode, Dr Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers) brings up the evils angels have done, according to the Bible, at the behest of God. She even cites Saint Augustine. Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi), of course, just gives her a quizzical look. While the show only cites a few examples, the most prevalent being Sodom and Gomora, it becomes apparent collateral damage has been evenly distributed. Raymond begins his ascent into angelic possession with a similar idea, he is giving away all his earthly possessions to help less fortunate souls. Bishop Thomas Marx (Peter Scolari) assigns David Acosta (Mike Colter) the task of deciphering deviltry.
“Are you the angel that wrestled with Jacob,” David asks the intrusive force inside the all-too faithful follower. Brandon J. Dirden is incredibly effective as Raymond. He is there and he isn’t there, and plays his part in a nether region. We can’t see what he sees, but we believe in the conviction of his sight. The sad arc of the archangel’s intrusion on the marriage plays out in the eyes of his wife, played by Joniece Abbott-Pratt. They are cinemascopes into the family drama. Two months from giving birth, she dims the lights of hope incrementally until there is nothing bright showing in her future.
Her arc is disproportionally sad, but also prophetically reflective on the persistent sins of the present. Raymond’s idea of living biblically only sets restrictions on her. Her ultimate fate also suffers from a vastly mis-measured distribution. That’s a lot of salt for a little lady, even if she is with child. “Who are you to question God,” the archangel asks when David ponders the innocent victims of almighty wrath. “God is the measure of just.”
The justice portrayed is fierce, and it shows the evil of a jealous god. When it’s pointed out that Sodom would have been spared if there were ten righteous people there, Raymond, as the archangel Michael, says “But there were not.” Kristen is right when she says this man poses a danger to the community. The angel of death makes V-Ger from the original Star Trek look tolerant. There’s no appeasing some creatures, especially when they enforce the belief that rebirth can only come after devastation.
The post-apocalyptic city which appears in the visions of the second bowl is very well rendered, and benefit from its sparse presentation. David’s visit from the archangel is effective because of the naturalness of Acosta’s reaction. The special effects-rendered figure is impressive, evoking the more Biblically accurate representations of other angels. But it is the reverence and fear in David’s body which sells it. When he drops to his knees, it is chilling, but only as an afterthought. He doesn’t fall into terror. He kneels in respect. It is an interesting juxtaposition in a horror series.
Much of why Evil works to scare an audience is because all of the suspense is as tilted as the camera angles. A passing train is very creepy during Kristen’s talk with a homicide cop, but David can reasonably ask a towering Lovecraftian-looking-creature, “are you the archangel?” The juxtaposition of suspense is crucial to the overall effect, brightening the darker places illuminates the shadows and throws shade on everything.
As frightening as any of the conceptual possibilities are, the humor wins out. “A Is for Angel” features top comedic talent, Andrea Martin and Aasif Mandvi. Their most dramatic moments are made more real by the comedy which infuses it. It is everyday humor, commonplace in any workplace, family or subway car. It informs the performances, grounding them without ever becoming comic relief. For that, Leland Townshend (Michael Emerson) steals the episode, as he sinks deeper into divine comedy. It really all builds up to his confession, and he’s hardly sorry for his offenses.
“Take your dried-up ovaries and crawl back under the rock that you came from,” Leland tells Kristen’s mother Sheryl (Christine Lahti) as he breaks their engagement in a wedding planner’s office. He says he only dated her to hurt Kristen, and now that she’s feeling the pain, he wants to pay it forward. Leland’s fall from disgrace is even more comedic, as he finds Sheryl may not be quite as injured as he thought. He also starts to miss the promised marital bliss when he notices the more adorable aspects of his former fiancée which he overlooked. “Die you stupid pig fuck,” she writes in blood on the wall of his office, and he is so smitten he wants to rush to confession.
Of course, before Leland gets to circle jerk around his appointed priest, he has to face down Sister Andrea, who is offended by his hygiene. “Nuns are irrelevant,” he tells her. “Go off and pray.” By the time he is sitting back-to-back with David riffing on old sins, Leland is fully on. He closes his schtick with the gag about the woman of the “Black persuasion,” named Julia. He convinced her she was a burden on her family and friends after becoming terminally ill. We wonder how David can keep himself from landing the punch line.
All the characters get comedy bits. David has to sit through the retelling of the plot of Scarface during practice confessions. “My middle name is trouble,” Kristen gets to say with an almost straight face. Who does she think she is, Elvis? We can nearly discern a curl in her upper lip. The death of Orson LeReaux, a major sub-arc in the proceedings, continues to unravel in unexpected ways. One of the interesting things about Evil is how a main character is a killer. Regardless of how justified it may have been, it’s very rare that a hero in a show, who is playing a former district attorney expert no less, is actually concealing a capital crime. But it is also a mortal sin, and Kristen asks David about the killing in a roundabout way while Ben adds the suspense from the sidelines.
“Pain is for tourists,” Sister Andrea says, and gives David harsh advice with her tough love. She points out how millions of people talk with God every day through prayer, but the impatient soon-to-be priest is trying to “force God to talk to you.” Her first suggestion is to allow the most lucid of dreams to dance to the beat of a metronome. This allows David to astrally travel through the sandy desert of time in a subtly theosophical sequence bridging faiths. We see figures of an ornate lamp and a locust, which foreshadows things to come.
The scopolamine patch overdose diagnosis is perfectly valid, but it doesn’t explain the connections David makes with the archangel. It also doesn’t explain why Raymond was able to save a family of strangers from a car wreck, or how he knew to burn a probable pedophile. “A Is for Angel” confirms the commitment Evil has to ambiguous explanations. As long as there are more questions than answers, balance remains uneasily stable, and emotionally satisfying.
Evil airs Sundays on Paramount+.