This Evil review contains spoilers.
Evil Season 3 Episode 2
Evil season 3 episode 2 “The Demon of Memes,” opens in the midst of inaction, and the inertia grows into a sequence of mystery which keeps the beats of comedy. Father David (Mike Colter) is getting used to his new daily practices fast. He hears confessions from people who confessed just the day before, and think leaving dishes to soak is a sin. He officiates at 6 a.m. mass, a positively ungodly hour. He slurps soup with the elder clergy. By the time Victor LeConte (Brian d’Arcy James) arrives to ask whether David would like to be a “friend of the Vatican,” it feels like the recently ordained priest would do anything just to break the monotony.
David is being recruited by a group called “the Entity,” an espionage unit within the Catholic church. It doesn’t exist, of course, as LeConte says, but even so, it is more interesting than the daily drudgework of ministering to the faithful. The Entity also adds conspiratorial texture to the series, and any further intrigue intruding on the series is a welcome addition. Introduced in season 2’s “U Is for U.F.O.,” it further connects Evil to The X-Files, and may fill both the Deep Throat and Cancer Man void, if we’re lucky.
The Entity sounds like it is equal parts hidden secret service, clandestine public relations outreach, and plausible deniability provider. There is an open implication hanging on LeConte’s “friend of the Vatican” invitation. Brian d’Arcy James’ reading gives it the feel of a “friend of the cartel” request Better Call Saul’s Lalo Salamanca might make “Slipping Jimmy” McGill, as well as an offer which cannot be refused from a Corleone. The group appears to be as mysterious as the cases the team investigates, and David considers their intent with the same intensity. The Entity representative mentions David’s first mission has to do with Grace Ling, who we met in season 1, and now learn is seriously being considered a true mystic by the church. This bodes well for future episodes, but also may be a carrot to dangle in front of the collared conspirator-in-waiting.
The Last Rites caper, and the stealing of the postcard, is a deliciously and chaotically confusing sequence. David’s fear of being caught is as palpable as his doubts about his mission, and the atmosphere of the room is no comfort. It is wall-to-wall cacophony, which works as well as incidental music in setting the mood. The camera wants to get out of that room as quickly as possible, and becomes insistently impatient, forever ahead of the priestly duties, the crying daughter, and the blaring television set. The entire sequence shows how Evil can capture unease without demonic or supernatural effects, but with merely an unfamiliar language.
Mike Colter has to be one of the most transparent emotional storytellers in the art of acting. While his character is listening, he telegraphs every question, deliberation, and confusion which pops into his mind. Especially the confusion. When David doesn’t know part of an answer, we see Colter dig for the big pictures. This works very naturally into any mood, from the darkest to the most amusing. Katja Herbers, who plays Dr. Kristen Bouchard, is his polar opposite. The audience sees her mental movement, but it is all subterfuge for what her character is really thinking. Aasif Maandvi’s Ben Shakir is also a master telegrapher. Ben is always processing, usually what he thinks Kristen isn’t saying straight out.
The monster of the week is a meme, possibly causing suicide, but otherwise promoting an interesting alternative message. “Captain Kirk is Christ,” teen pranksters yell in confessionals while their friends capture the image and shoot it out to social media. Praise Wandering Jack! Anyone who tours neighborhoods via Google Maps should enjoy the sequences tracking Visiting Jack, the real name of the hungry meme which drags people to hell.
The case becomes frightening because of the child actors. Their belief in the episode’s personal Slenderman scares them, and creates the atmosphere more than Monsignor Matt’s (Boris McGiver) explanation. The kids don’t want Kristen investigating, or even looking for the game-triggering face, because they believe it might be dangerous. Children make things scarier, but the scene where Ben jump-scares his sister Karima (Sohina Sidhu) shows adults can play just as well at that game.
The doomscrolling office is a toxic workplace. This is by design and is a welcome innovation to the dark side of Evil’s hierarchy. Run by Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson) and staffed with apparently gadget-obsessed drones, it is a den of internet rabbit holes and demonic offerings. Townsend’s explanation of Sheryl’s (Christine Lahti) job description is fascinating on an objective level. You can only push people so far into fear before they start looking for comfort in God, so steering evil isn’t as easy as it seems. Townsend’s final bid for oppression, however, is undercut as a threat by his history with Sheryl.
“The Demon of Memes” brings danger on several fronts, as we see how the installments’ monster of the week is only a taste of bad connections to come. Online sources of dark energy are insidiously renewable, clogging up like a shrunken head flushed down the toilet.
Evil airs Sundays on Paramount+.