Here I am, just emerging from my emergency cocoon of self-care (face masks and wine in bed) after trying to cope with the horror show that went down last week on Evil -- they murdered their own son, you guys — only to find that for its Halloween episode, this series once again wants to deploy one of my biggest fears: creepy kids. Enough with the creepy kids, Evil!
Let's talk about Not-Brenda. On Halloween night, Kristen (Katja Herbers) gets a call from David (Mike Colter) in need of her assistance at an exorcism that's been going on for four days and might get shut down. When possible demonic possessions call, Kristen must answer. She has Sheryl (Christine Lahti) come over to watch the girls and tells her mom to expect two of their neighbor friends and a new girl, Brenda. Which leads me to the biggest question I had coming out of "October 31": How many children are named Brenda these days?
As the girls and their friends are telling pretty mild ghost stories up in their room, Sheryl ushers Brenda in to join them. There are a lot of red flags with this girl right away. First, she refuses to take off her princess mask, covering her entire face. Second, the girl doesn't know how to tell a ghost story: It's all exposition up front about a girl who misbehaves and her parents lock her in her room and set fire to it, burning her all over, with zero payoff. Things escalate as she asks the girls to go down into the basement and tell them how they would kill their mothers if they were dared. Girl talk, am I right?
Lexis (Maddy Crocco) is the only one who is like, You guys are outside your mind, I'm going upstairs to eat my candy. This means she misses the next part of Brenda's little game: taking the other girls on a field trip to play "Funeral" and making Laura (Dalya Knapp) getting into an open grave. This is especially awful to watch since earlier in the episode Kristen gets a call from Laura's doctor, informing her that the valve in Laura's heart is still not growing how they want it to and in three weeks they'll do another test to figure out how dire Laura's situation is. This "Laura has a heart problem" thing must pay off later, right? Either something tragic is going to happen or, perhaps, a miracle of sorts? Anyway, I'm on high alert any time Laura starts to overdo it. Which is exactly what's happening now, as she gets in the grave and Brenda continues her story about the burned girl, a girl who was so hideous the only time she could go outside was on Halloween because then she could wear a mask. Brenda starts to lift up her mask and...
Oh, so we should talk about Sheryl's evening. Before she arrives for babysitting duties, she's out on a date with a guy who cannot stop hiccuping. When he goes to the bathroom to get a hold of himself, who should be sitting at the table behind her, ready to offer some deeply concerning but apparently appealing to Sheryl banter? Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson). They flirt a little, and Sheryl digs his blunt honesty. When he says "kindness is hypocrisy," I mean, have we ever seen this woman giggle so much? Have we ever seen any woman giggle so much? As much as she tries to fight his proposition to leave the restaurant with him, when he tells her he'll wait outside for 10 minutes, you know their hookup is inevitable before Leland even gets up from the table. This is very disturbing and I do not like it!
Sheryl's on the phone with Leland (she just can't get enough, apparently) when the call waiting comes through. It's Brenda's mother... and she's apologizing for Brenda being unable to make it that evening. She's sick in bed.
Alert! Alert! That creepy mask girl telling the burn story is not Brenda! She's Not-Brenda! Lexis tells Sheryl where the girls are and they run over to the cemetery as Sheryl calls her daughter to tell her something awful is afoot. By the time the women find the girls, they are all crying. Brenda is gone, but her mask remains. We never get to see her face under that mask (sometimes your imagination is much scarier than the truth), but she's scared us all enough without it. So this is the second time the girls have been threatened right under Kristen's nose. Leland's warning in earlier episodes about Kristen protecting her girls should probably be taken very, very seriously.
Not like Kristen doesn't have enough to worry about: She's attending an exorcism at the moment. Thank goodness we finally get to see one of these babies up close — we've all been waiting! It does not disappoint. When Kristen arrives, Father Amara (Clark Johnson) has been performing an exorcism on Caroline (Karen Pittman) for four days. They had assessed her and approved her for this a while ago, but now the Monsignor (Boris McGiver) isn't so sure — that's why David's called in Kristen to reassess the situation. Caroline is doing your typical "I'm possessed by the devil" stuff, like writhing in a chair and speaking in tongues, yadda, yadda, but when Kristen gets a look at her (they all have to wear sunglasses in the room with her so as not to make direct eye contact, which adds a certain absurdity to the proceedings — very on brand for Evil), all she sees is a very sick woman who needs the care of a doctor.
She even calls in some fact-based backup in the form of Dr. Kurt Boggs (Kurt Fuller), her shrink, who arrives with such noirish Exorcist flair it is as if he's been waiting to get this call his entire life. Of course he sides with Kristen; this is clearly a case of schizophrenia. The two of them are almost giddy as they both exclaim "excited delirium" as a way to explain Caroline being able to throw a grown man against a wall. The multiple arguments Kristen and Kurt have with David and Father Amara bring us back to the central premise of this show: It's faith versus science, always and forever. When Kristen switches out Amara's holy water with tap water to prove Caroline is faking it, David is not amused. In fact, it seems like the first time he's truly upset with his new partner. Both sides claim the others are manipulating facts to prove their own theory. With a stalemate like that, how can anyone prove they're right?
David is adamant that this is a possession, mainly because Possibly Possessed Caroline starts talking to him about his vision of the three stars and the Salvator Mundi painting. Caroline tells him that it isn't a vision from God but from Satan. Satan wants David on his team. Oh, and The 60 are coming. (The 60 are coming!) For her to know those specifics, this can't just be a case of schizophrenia, can it? When Kurt and David are left with Caroline, David takes over trying to expel the demon from inside her. He talks to her, telling her that The 60 have no power over her, that "the three stars are sent from heaven and they will protect" her. When she tells him he's in danger, he wants her to tell the demon to leave her. And Caroline exhales and suddenly, she's herself again. She is fine. The demon is gone. Dr. Kurt Boggs is speechless, but his face is definitely saying, "WTF, you guys?" That will be a tough one to explain with science and facts. Also hard to explain? Why when David goes outside for some air and leans on the lamppost, the light explodes.
Some very tricky things are going down on Evil, my friends.
If those are all the tricks of this Halloween episode, the treat is definitely Mr. Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) appearing on the reality show he loves to hate, Gotham Ghosts. To add some levity to your evening of exorcisms and freaky-deaky children, we get to watch Ben as he joins this team of paranormal hunters on their show and debunks almost everything they do. Robert and Michelle King are excellent at TV show parodies — Darkness at Noon or Chicago Penthouse, anyone? — and I'm happy to see the tradition has carried over to Evil. Of course the lead of this show is named Tony Pacucci and of course his tagline in the opening is "I don't run from nuthin'." But Ben's not there for Tony; he's there after engaging in some flirty Twitter banter with the show's resident skeptic, Vanessa (Nicole Shalhoub). And while Tony and his team try to pull some fast ones on Ben, they continue to flirt.
Even after he begins to open up about not being able to explain that "angel" on the video in "177 Minutes," and how much it troubles him that we live in a world that can be so easily manipulated — something he's never been able to talk to anyone else about — and Vanessa reveals they've been recording the conversation for the show, he's still interested. Hey, she did end up putting a stop that violation of privacy, so there's that. The episode ends with Ben making a fool of Tony and getting Vanessa's number. That's a big win! For all of us! It's about time we found some love amongst all the demons.
Evil airs Thursdays at 10/9c on CBS.
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