ICYMI: Evil Is the Horror Series American Horror Story Wishes It Could Be

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ICYMI: Evil Is the Horror Series American Horror Story Wishes It Could Be

Editor’s Note: Welcome to ICYMI! With so much TV constantly premiering, we’re highlighting some of the best shows you may have missed in the deluge of content from throughout the year. Join the Paste writers as we celebrate our underrated faves, the blink-and-you-missed-it series, and the perfect binges you need to make sure you see.

When it premiered in 2019, Evil was a delightfully weird and terrifying little horror series airing on one of the biggest networks on mainstream broadcast TV. It never should’ve worked, but here we are with a fourth and final season ready to scare the hell out of us one last time.

The show, starring Mike Colter (Luke Cage) and Katja Herbers (Manhattan), follows a small team working for the Catholic church sent out to investigate miracles, hauntings, possessions and all manner of weird and supernatural. Upon debut, Evil quickly garnered a fervent—if smallish—fanbase of horror fans. But on a network where shows are expected to pull NCIS and Young Sheldon numbers, Evil was a bit too out-there for that type of breakout success.

But just when it looked like the show might be yet another one-and-done that a few horror fans would remember fondly for its too-short run, CBS made the move to turn the series into a Paramount+ original for Season 2. The move worked, and Evil managed to keep stalking the halls for three more seasons to wrap up its ambitious tale on streaming. With the end in sight, the series is ironically having a bit of a moment right now, with the first two seasons periodically charting on Netflix’s most-watched lists just as the final season makes its debut. If nothing else, it’s nice to see the show have a new cadre of fans discover it before it’s over.

Evil was created by duo Robert and Michelle King, best known as the braintrust behind drama The Good Wife franchise and its spinoffs The Good Fight and Elsbeth. Which is admittedly not the most obvious creative team when you think of a terrifyingly weird horror project. But digging a bit deeper, the pair also created CBS’ short-lived (and amazing) alien invasion dramedy BrainDead. So it’s clear the Kings have had a weird side just fighting to get out for a while—and Evil seems to have been the perfect outlet for it.

And weird it is, folks. The premise is a perfectly easy one to jump into, and the title makes it crystal clear what we’re dealing with: forensic psychologist Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Herbers) is hired to essentially serve as the in-house skeptic working alongside troubled priest David Acosta (Colter) and technical expert Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi). The trio are assigned cases by the Catholic Church, ranging from possessions, a potential real-life prophet, evil dolls, and cannibals. But even that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their caseload.

The real show-stealer is veteran character actor Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest), who plays Leland Townsend, a man who presents initially as a rival psychologist to Kristen but is actually deeply into the occult and working closely with demons (yes, real-life, horned monster demons). Leland remains a foil through the entire series’ run, wreaking havoc on Kristen’s life and eventually luring Kristen’s own mother (played with plenty of slimy nuance by Christine Lahti) into his plots. Anyone who has watched Lost knows just how well Emerson can play up the mysterious and sinister, and this character finds him at his absolute best with so much to work with.

Evil’s approach to world-building never shies away from the unexpected, and as it gets deeper, stays committed to being just as weird and shocking as it wants to be (we can likely thank that move to streaming for some of that creative freedom). Horror shows like American Horror Story have broken through for shocking visuals and twists in recent years, but Evil will leave your jaw on the floor with equally incredible demon and creature designs, woven into the narrative in some of the most shockingly surreal ways. But instead of resetting its world with the anthology format that has become popular in horror storytelling, Evil just keeps building its house of cards one unsettling new deck at a time. You get to sit and simmer with these characters as they question everything from their faith to reality itself.

But despite its commitment to the shocking—with literal cloven-foot, horned demons sitting down for therapy sessions at times—Evil never loses its footing in keeping its horror saga grounded in the lives of its characters. Kristen is a mother of four young girls, and seeing the evil of this world tangle into her family is heartbreaking and terrifying in the way only small-scale stakes can be. With Kristen’s husband spending much of the series off-screen running his mountain climbing business, she develops a friendship that becomes a bit too close with David (especially considering he’s a priest). We get to see their struggles and temptation play out in the quiet moments, with David eventually haunted by a demon stalking him dressed as Kristen wearing a schoolgirl outfit (yes, really). These are imperfect people trying to do an incredibly hard, near-impossible task week-in and week-out.

It’s weird, smart, and just incredibly well-executed.

Evil is the type of show that horror fans will continue to find and fall in love with for years to come, a victim of the splintering of streaming in the post-Peak TV era of just too many shows, streaming services, and networks that make it near-impossible for casual fans to find and keep up with everything worth watching. Evil has survived as a little secret tucked away on Paramount+, and with the final season here, there’s no better time to join Kristen, David, and Ben on their last few cases to see how it all comes out in the end.

Watch on Netflix

Watch on Paramount+

Trent Moore is a recovering print journalist, and freelance editor and writer with bylines at lots of places. He likes to find the sweet spot where pop culture crosses over with everything else. Follow him at @trentlmoore on Twitter.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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