I love this show! Evil is somewhat reminiscent of The X-Files with a believer and a skeptic partnering up to solve supernatural mysteries, however, instead of aliens, the focus is on demons and instead of working for the government, they work for the Catholic church.
David, the believer, is in training to become a Catholic priest, while Kristen, the skeptic, is a professional psychologist who is married with four daughters. However, despite David being celibate and Kristen being married, there’s still a will-they-or-won’t-they sexual tension between the two that works better than the will-they-or-won’t-they between Scully and Mulder.
There’s also a second skeptic named Ben who is a secular Muslim. He specializes in physical causes of apparent miracles and demonic possession like digital artifacts on video, a broken dishwasher making whispering noises, copper piping in the house causing someone to behave erratically, and so forth.
Unlike The X-Files, which made their skeptic character look foolish for denying all the evidence for aliens, Evil actually provides good skeptical explanations for the mysterious phenomena the characters encounter. If someone sees a demon, it might be real, or it might be sleep paralysis. Someone rising from the dead might be miraculous or it could be someone with COPD being prematurely declared dead.
When David asks if Kristen believes in miracles, she mentions technology that allows deaf people to hear and spacecraft landing on a comet and says scientific miracles like this are better than religious miracles because they’re real. When the world is so amazing already, why do believers need to search for the unbelievable?
David responds that science requires replication and he’s interested in the events that can’t be replicated. Fair enough. Kristen then says the problem with miracles isn’t that they happen, but that they happen haphazardly. Why does one person get to be raised from the dead, but not someone else who was equally deserving? Why does God miraculously save one person’s life while allowing someone else to die?
I like that the show doesn’t just focus on demonic evil, but also human-caused evil like systemic racism, deporting immigrants, and the Rwandan genocide. The show doesn’t just explore Catholicsm, but also Islam, Buddhism, and the African-American roots ceremony. There aren’t just angels and demons, but other supernatural entities like ifrits. Before this show, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Muslim exorcism. It tackles modern issues like incels, polyamorous relationships, and covid. A hacker uses VR, smart speakers, and cell phones to convince someone they’re possessed.
Unlike The X-Files in which most of the episodes followed the stand-alone, monster-of-the-week format, all the episodes in Evil tie together. What happens in one episode isn’t just forgotten about, but has ramifications later on.
Most of the mysteries seem to have a logical solution to them, but they leave some room for the supernatural. I was frightened by the moments when Kristen’s daughters were threatened. Maybe because I’m a parent myself, I find it more terrifying to see children in danger than adults. There are also humorous moments such as the episode in which they make fun of ghost-hunting shows. I like that they point out that while Jesus has a peaceful reputation, he did actually advocate for violence. Also, they show that it’s not practical to actually sell everything you have and give the money to the poor.
That said, it’s not a perfect show. They act like dissociative identity disorder (multiple personalities) is a valid diagnosis when only 21% of psychiatrists believe it’s a real thing [pdf link]. They say you can’t read when you’re dreaming, even though you can (I’ve personally had multiple dreams that involved reading). Kristen repeats the urban legend that eating rice causes birds’ stomachs to explode, when this isn’t true. They also claim there is more evil in the world today due to evil people connecting on social media, when in fact, things are better now than at any other time in human history on pretty much every statistic you can measure. (Poverty, hunger, slavery, child mortality, child labor, violent deaths, disaster deaths, suicides and more are all lower now than ever. Life expectancy, education, democracy, and more are all higher than ever. See gapminder.com and ourworldindata.org for more.) But these are minor things that are easy to overlook when, overall, this is a really good show!