The Daily Stream: Evil Is Small-Screen Horror At Its Best And Strangest

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Series: "Evil"

Where You Can Stream It: Paramount+

The Pitch: In the simplest of terms, "Evil" is a case-of-the-week procedural in the vein of "The X Files" or "Fringe." Only, instead of investigating unexplained phenomena for the FBI, forensic psychologist Kristen (Katja Herbers), Catholic priest-in-training David (Mike Colter), and tech expert Ben (Aasif Mandvi) are looking into potential supernatural encounters for the Catholic church, in order to see if they meet the criteria to warrant exorcisms. But like I said, that's just the simplest of terms. In reality, even the wackiest episodes of "The X Files" barely touch the outlandishness of "Evil," a show that thrives on surreality, dark humor, creative practical and special effects, and a deep vein of supremely timely distrust in the world at large.

In "Evil," demons are as likely to come in the form of memes, TikTok videos, or massive corporations as they are the form of winged and horned creatures. Although, rest assured, "Evil" has those too, sitting in therapist offices opposite sinister occult expert Leland ("Lost" alum Michael Emerson), or being beaten with a shovel by no-nonsense nun Sister Andrea (Andrea Martin). There's a sense of palpable paranoia to "Evil," especially as its third season dips into "The Da Vinci Code" territory, but the show is also committed to smart social commentary about misinformation, fearmongering, and religious and political zealotry.

Why it's essential viewing

Three seasons in, "Evil" is quite simply one of the most unique shows on television. It's sexy, scary, unsettling, hilarious, thought-provoking, and weird on a bone-deep level. The show's internal logic often teeters on the brink of collapse, but in a seemingly purposeful way; it's meant to evoke confusion and provocative disorientation in us the same way its events do in its characters.

Strange things happen, and keep happening, like the steady and discreet corruption of Kristen's mother Sheryl (Christine Lahti), or her four daughters' eternal dance with the devil in the form of cursed online games and trends. The show is eternally preoccupied with big questions, not just about faith and reality, but about the ways a hyper-technological, late capitalist world makes any sense of truth hard to hold on to.

"Evil" is contemplative and clever, sure, but on an episodic level, it's also just extremely cool. Each new episode brings something you'd never expect, whether it's a group of scientists trying to weigh Wallace Shawn's soul, a fertility clinic that seems to be working to bring about the apocalypse, or a catchy Christmas jingle that makes schoolgirls die by suicide. Much like series creators Robert and Michelle King's legal drama "The Good Fight," "Evil" plays with form and genre as much as possible. When you click play on the next episode, you never know if you'll get a seductive dream sequence, an impressive creature design, an animated interlude, or something else entirely. "Evil" has an uncompromising and compelling vision that sets it apart from its contemporaries in a dozen ways. Bold and weird and endlessly inventive, it feels like the special surprise in the bottom of the comparatively mundane box of horror television cereal.