Season 1, Episode 1
Date of airing: September 26, 2019 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 4.558 million viewers, 3.0/6 in Households, 0.830 million viewers and 0.6/3 with Adults 18-49, 0.3/2 with Adults 18-34, 1.1/4 with Adults 25-54
Words I’ve said about four or five times while I was watching the episode, as well as immediately after the end: “I’m intrigued.” Even if I hadn’t known that EVIL is from Robert and Michelle King, whom I’m biased about when it comes to television (if their names are in the credits, the minimum I can do is check out the pilot), I would have considered this pilot to be one of the better ones I have seen during this broadcast television season (it’s only twelve so far, but it’s my number one as of now and that says a lot), and the reason for that has something to do with my belief system. Because I don’t have one. I don’t even know if I’m an atheist or just don’t care about religion, since I think that these two positions are different from each other (when you don’t care you could not be bothered about God and angels and the devil, but when you’re an atheist you’re specifically stating you’re not a believer), but I am watching TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, which is very much a show focused on belief and miracles and the spirit of wonder, and I am actually thinking about tackling 7TH HEAVEN at one point, so I must have a position on religion. If I continue to watch EVIL, I would essentially have another show in my current schedule that deals with religion in a unique way, so can I say that I can’t be bothered with God and the devil and religion in general?
That question swirled around in my mind while I was watching this episode, and I was definitely not prepared to ask myself those existential questions after watching a CBS television drama. For that alone, EVIL deserves a spot somewhere high in my list, because I can count the television shows that makes me ask questions about myself on two hands and I have been watching television for about 23 years now. Answers to my questions I still didn’t get though, and for a moment I’m actually wondering if I can answer those for myself if I keep watching EVIL, or if the show only impressed and intrigued the hell out of me because of my King bias. But I can already see, as soon as I have my questions answered, if at all, I will utterly fall apart over the notion that this episode portrayed a serialkiller who met a likeminded person on 4chan of all places and decided to kill after being persuaded to do so. If you ever needed another reason for 4chan to be the hellhole of the internet that needs quarantine…
I loved how this episode went into the paranormal and supernatural without ever really going there. The monster named George could really just be Kristen’s night terrors and there is nothing nefarious behind George’s existence (as in, he definitely is not a demon who tries to cross over to our reality through Kristen’s dreams and fears), and Leland Townsend could really just be a maniac who thinks of himself as the devil, which is why he successfully persuaded a random internet user to murder. Hell, the Kings even went so far to say that social media is the evil in this world and that potential serialkillers cannot be stopped simply because they use social media, which is where all the evil collects itself. It’s almost like you don’t even need to turn your crime drama into a supernatural thriller to showcase possessions and a demon’s attempt to turn everyone into a homicidal maniac — the internet, especially the “chan” family of online message boards, is already doing that for you, which means the Kings found a very interesting and unique way to portray potential supernatural evil, without ever leaving the realm of realism. The Kings are known for writing grounded show with a heavy technical aspect in their dialogue sequences (I would consider THE GOOD WIFE the show of the legal drama genre the way ER is the show of the medical drama genre), and now they decided to tackle the biblically evil personalities. And after only one episode I am wondering if the supernatural is really at play here, making use of how social media changed humanity’s landscape like HYDRA changed the world’s fear of protection and security through terrorism in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or if nothing biblically will ever enter the fray of the narrative, because every killer in this show fakes being possessed and Leland Townsend, the proposed antagonist of EVIL, is just a psychopath who loves seeing himself as the antichrist.
I also loved how low-key this episode was, compared to the nightmares of editing jobs of previous pilots, especially with the use of pop music and the general score (I’m looking at you, ALL RISE). The cast of EVIL seems quite small, even if the opening credits don’t make it look like it is, but I would consider the show only having three central characters (Kristen, David Acosta and Leland Townsend), and that small amount of central characters helps to put focus on the central characters, even if Townsend didn’t really have a lot of screentime. And because the story of the episode wasn’t that major either, there was a lot of time for the viewers to get acquainted with the Kings’ new way of writing a television show, let alone giving me time to figure out what this show is going to be about. Because the story wasn’t jumping from one event to the next, so that the writers can keep track of an ensemble cast larger than the one for the first season of LOST, the episode was given ample time to focus on Kristen’s night terrors and how they could both be compelling for Kristen’s long-running character arc, as well as give the show the necessary horror elements that might go missing when the team investigates non-supernatural crimes. In fact, Kristen’s night terrors turned out to be an intriguing way to depict the horror of the show. At times George reminded me of the demon in Syfy’s CHILDHOOD’S END, and judging by the way Kristen interacted with her night terror, George could easily be used as a plot device for Kristen to find out clues about the supernatural state of the world she inhabits, similar to how Jason Isaac’s character used the clues of both worlds he lived in to investigate crime in Kyle Killen’s AWAKE. But if the Kings actually did that, George wouldn’t be part of night terrors any longer, and that would mean Kristen would lose an interesting element of her character arc.
In retrospect, EVIL wins the first week of the 2019/2020 broadcast pilot season, thanks to a well thought-out plan to include a supernatural narrative in a crime procedural, as well as giving me more thoughts about my own relationship with religion, let alone a view of the cess pools of social media. I am not expecting for EVIL to challenge the faith that I don’t have, but I will certainly continue thinking about how the demons from the Bible already exist among us, and they use the “chan” family of social media to express their deepest desire for violence and chaos. It turned out that the dark side of Christianity has come to exist after all, and it can be explained via technology. You don’t even need faith to do that any longer.