Season 2 Premiere Of Evil Raises The Stakes Considerably, All-In On Magic
One of the delights of the first season of Evil is that the viewer can never immediately tell what is actually happening. Normally, this would be a bad thing for a network procedural, but in this case it helps. The viewers never know (and only rarely do the characters) if what they are seeing is reality or a dream, vision, or other less-than-corporeal event. The season 2 premiere of Evil continues this trend, but it feels as if a revelation one way or another is inevitable. Of course, there are also very real stakes here, especially considering the cliffhanger that the first season ended with. Don’t worry, we’re not spoiling anything, but the question audiences had about Katja Herbers’ Dr. Kristen Bouchard and Darren Pettie’s Orson LeRoux is answered definitively.
Evil is no longer a network procedural, technically. The series is now an exclusive to Paramount+, like Star Trek: Discovery or Picard. In fact, this is something that the Evil producers decided to take advantage of by including one of the seven words you can’t say on television in the premiere of season 2. While this change in venue probably won’t affect the show too drastically this season, it could greatly change the scope and execution of future seasons of the supernatural drama. CBS only announced the move in May during their latest upfront presentation. Meaning this will be one of the rare occurrences where a TV series gets edited to be more graphic and not-safe-for-work.
It also means that the series can go darker and darker, though this also felt inevitable. (For Heaven’s sake, the show is called “evil,” after all.)
Hedging Means the Evil Season 2 Premiere Can Still Walk the Line
Pictured: Aasif Mandvi as Ben Shakir of the Paramount+ series EVIL. Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS 2021Paramount+ Inc. All Rights Reserved.
The storytellers definitely want audiences to believe that all the visions of demons, devils, and angels are real. Still, they stop short of confirming this for both the viewers and, more importantly, the characters. So, while it may feel like a definitive answer one way or the other is coming, this may be the panache and trickery of the magicians weaving this story together. Part of why I enjoy this show is because I suspect that any episode could be “the one” that establishes firm rules for what is and is not real. Yet, that question is part of what drives the series forward. The core group of Bouchard, Mike Colter’s David Acosta, and Aasif Mandvi’s Ben Shakir depends on both Ben and Bouchard being skeptics. If they start believing, the dynamic of the series changes drastically.
Also, there are some very real-world evil things to deal with here. There is the plot from last season about how a shady organization is tampering with babies in the womb. There is also the lengths to which the individual characters will go to protect themselves and their families from the growing number of people who seem to want to hurt them. As an examination of “evil,” this series gives us plenty of avenues to explore. Sure, the magical mystery of it all is the hook for the story. But, as the first episodes will show us, there is space for discussion about where the line between harm and evil falls.
The Series Remains Fun and Full of Tension
Pictured: (L-R) Michael Emerson as Leland Townsend and Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard of the Paramount+ series EVIL. Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS 2021Paramount+ Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Emerson is back as Leland Townsend, a villain who I think works perfectly for this show. Some may find him over-the-top. If you preferred the understated scheming of Ben Linus from LOST or his character from Person of Interest, Leland is probably not your favorite. However, Emerson definitely seems like an actor who’s just “going for it” playing his villain as over-the-top as he can get away with. It’s a stark contrast to the gravitas of the other characters, but it works for me. It makes him both fun to watch and despicable to the point where you hate his guts. Often actors go one way or the other with their villains, but Emerson continues to thread that needle.
The other interesting thing about the season 2 premiere of Evil is the group dynamic between our heroes. Ben, Kristen, and David are friendly, but that friendship is not without strain of its own. David and Kristen are also both on individual journeys in these first episodes, and things are starting to get weird for Ben. Throughout this season, I expect the group to be rocked to its core, possibly ending up at odds with each other. For any other network TV procedural, this would be schmuck bait. Yet, in Evil it really feels like anything can happen, and with the shift to Paramount+ from network TV, anything could. The rules are different for “prestige” TV shows, especially those that may need to thin out a cast for budgetary reasons.
Either way, the show is still what we loved in the first season, just more. There are strange missions the team must tackle, all while Leland and his strange associates (one of which who may or may not be a devil-goat) work on their evil machinations.
Evil is available on Paramount+, new episodes released on Sundays.
What do you think of the season 2 premiere of Evil? Do you think the show will change as it finds a new home on an FCC-free streaming service?
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.