This Evil review contains spoilers.
Evil Season 3 Episode 5
Evil flips The Pop-Up Book of Contemporary Demons over to pull on heavenly wings for “The Angel of Warning.” The monster of the week is a long-dead Sicilian nun possibly encountered at a tragic apartment fire in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The investigation to corroborate the miraculous event leads to a well-rounded and thoughtful discussion of the power of religious iconography, its underlying racial biases, and the effects it has on the collective subconscious. Not in those words, of course, Evil is too insidious for that.
The team learns about a mysterious woman, carrying a lamb, who led the apartment dwellers to safety through Father David Acosta (Mike Colter). Called from sleep to offer spiritual counseling at an ad hoc emergency triage, the athletic, African-American priest is immediately mistaken for a cop. This sets the tone for the episode. Recognized as a cleric by a rabbi but not by a Christian minister, the scene succinctly foreshadows all upcoming debate. It delineates visual expectations, and subverts them when David merely has to fold a piece of cardboard into his collar to correct the situation. As dramatic and mildly paranoid as the sequence plays, it maintains a comic pacing.
The witnesses are very believable, a man questioned about making a subconscious connection to a lamb special ad shuts down any doubt for the audience. The briefings appear unbiased, even if the task of confirming the sanctity of Sister Grimani is the preferred predetermined conclusion. Evil excels in blurring the motivations behind which cases the diocese assigns the team, and suspicion is a learned response for the viewer.
By the time the inquiry leads to a theory of impending doom syndrome, the team is very open to suggestion. Ben complained about subconscious influence in “Demon of the Road,” in terms of the occupational hazard of preconceived notions, but it has always run as an undercurrent on the series. As Evil is an exploration of the supernatural through the eyes of science, corruption by the power of suggestion hangs over every assessment with precarious ambiguity.
Possibly because of the syndrome studies, Kristen (Katja Herbers) wakes to hear the words “watch out” emanate from the dark corners of her room. We get a plausible explanation for this, which is itself rare on the series and renders it open to further interpretation. Kristen finds empowerment in the event, ultimately gathering her children to throw rocks at elevated trains in the middle of the night, but it still feels like a perilous omen.
In the aftermath of his witness interviews, David also has visions of the nun, which brings the underlying secondary investigation of the series. He sees her in the guise of Renaissance artistic iconography, a beatific white woman carrying a lamb. David’s later dream of an iconic Black saint appears to be another vision, but turns out to be clarity of second sight. Centuries of European influence dirtied the holy water. The series makes the point that Renaissance iconography frames Roman Catholic spiritual thinking within the limitations of the artists who conceived the works.
The whitening of the religious imagery makes David doubt his faith, because what he sees when in mystical reverie is a construct of learning, rather than true spiritual vision. The resultant doubt is expertly captured through wordless action and the character’s reaction. When David tells Monsignor Matthew Korecki (Boris McGiver) that an African-American survivor saw a Black angel, it turns out the church may not be interested in a Black miracle worker after all. Colter infuses David’s suppressed anger with curiosity, which keeps the questions in the audience’s mind regardless of what we are hearing.
While Ben and David both push back on these ideas onscreen, Evil provides reasonable solutions between the words. In the main subplot of the episode, David is defending Sister Andrea (Andrea Martin) in her fight against enforced retirement. The nun’s visions are at the center of the inquisition because she says she saw a demon consorting with the Cardinal, which the tribunal judges as blasphemous. We believe in her visions as much Sister Andrea does, she’s been seeing them since youth. David, however, is now questioning the origin and reality of visions.
It is painful to see even the smallest irritation between Father David and Sister Andrea, so their disagreement is as frightening as any monster the series has thrown at us. We are that emotionally invested in their relationship. When Andrea says she believes in God’s revelation, her entire non-questioning faith is behind it, and David brings a very reasonable doubt. When Sister Andrea admits she has to break indoctrination to become colorblind, she grows. The entire character is fuller.
Early in the episode, Sister Andrea stops David from questioning Dr. Boggs (Kurt Fuller) about his own demonic visions at the tribunal. She didn’t want to embarrass the therapist. The Monsignor shuts down the investigation into the miraculous nun because the visions didn’t match, and might cause embarrassment to the church. There is no overt connection between the two deliberations, which makes Evil’s subliminal conclusion inadmissible in court but effective hearsay for the audience. They don’t have to say it to say it.
In financial news, Macob is up $45, and Sheryl (Christine Lahti) wants a promotion. Not merely a bump in pay, but recognition for a bad job well done. Evil concocted the most devilishly inappropriate character in the boss who nonchalantly commits multiple minor abuses of power. He’s lost weight, probably through flatulence, but put on a few eyeballs. The sequence is a perfect mix of intrigue and humor, bending deep into both, and Lahti sells the entire scene with her reactions.
By the time Sheryl is telling her assistant that the guy from The Good Place is Ted Danson, her face has gone through a full acrobatic routine of repressed hysteria, and it borders on hysterical. “Congratulations and regrets,” Leland says at the news of Sheryl’s promotion, and it almost humanizes him. He proves himself both in on the cosmic joke, and willing to commit to it, when he leans into Sheryl’s perceived psychotic breakdown. He answers “Oh, absolutely” with such promise, it is more than just a welcome to the team, it is slam-dunk punchline on a show of twisted comedy.
For all the frustrating dismissals, and possibly enhanced by them, “The Angel of Warning” is a completely satisfying episode. The weekly investigation combines Evil’s themes and mission statement while pushing the regular characters into personal growth in an irregular way.