Evil Is Back to Remind Us That Horror TV Can Be Smart, Clever, and Dripping With Doom

It’s time to crack open a canned margarita and whip up some candy salad: Evil is back for its fourth and final season. All signs have been pointing to an impending doomsday since early in the show’s first season—and really, there’s no other horror show we’d rather be watching as that happens.

Evil’s last season consists of 10 episodes—plus a bonus four serving as an extended series finale. io9 watched the first four episodes and we obviously won’t be spoiling any plot twists in this review, lest the demons that populate Evil’s shadowy corners come after us. But it’s not giving anything away to say that Kristen (Katja Herbers), Ben (Aasif Mandvi), and David (Mike Colter)—who are by now best buddies, in addition to being a team of assessors (a shrink, a techie, and a priest, respectively) who investigate alleged possessions and miracles for the Catholic Church—are in for their wildest ride yet. And if you’ve seen the season four trailer, you know the big cliffhanger of season three gets resolved early in season four, as the antichrist baby created from Kristen’s stolen egg and the demonic sperm of Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson), and carried by surrogate Leslie (Molly Brown), makes his projectile-puking debut.

Evil season four picks up immediately where season three ended; we get to see what happens after Kristen realizes exactly who’s being celebrated by the baby shower she’s stumbled into. Her reaction is not what you’d expect, but it is priceless—and as you would expect, she once again cuts off contact with her mother, Sheryl (Christine Lahti), now outed as having been in league with Team Hell all along. As season four progresses, however, we see that Sheryl has grown weary of Leland in particular and Satanism’s corporate structure in general, especially as its raging sexism—something Evil neatly parallels with its indictment of raging sexism in the Catholic Church—conspires to keep her from advancement. What’s more, it’s made clear that while Sheryl may have aligned herself with the dark side, and is now estranged from her family as a result, she’s still very invested in protecting her daughter and granddaughters from her colleagues that intend to do them harm. (Also, her outfits are somehow even more fabulous this season.)

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

After last season saw the murder of Father Korecki (Boris McGiver)—a tragedy still very much reverberating in season four—the wry Father Ignatius (Wallace Shawn) is now in charge of the assessors, and Ben can’t hold back once the group is sent to a graveyard looking for an apparent werewolf: “Does it seem like these assignments are getting weirder?” Season four flips last season’s pop-up book of demons, a nifty bit of animation deployed to introduce each episode, to The Big Pop-Up Book of Science. That may sound more grounded, but it’s really just another way of approaching some of Evil’s favorite themes, including hostile technology, the insidious powers of the internet, and the often inexplicable workings of the human brain.

The assignments—pleasingly strange though they are, especially a visit to a genuinely eerie particle accelerator—seem to be taking a back seat to Evil’s characters, at least in these early episodes. Sheryl and Leland are occupied by workplace drama and trying to lure Kristen into raising Satan’s spawn; David, once again tapped to be “a friend of the Vatican” by the clandestine Entity, is guided into further developing his psychic gifts; Ben, who’s being haunted by an increasingly nasty jinn, attempts to find a scientific solution to a supernatural problem; and Sister Andrea (Andrea Martin) levels up with her demon-slaying. Meanwhile, Kristen’s husband Andy (Patrick Brammall) is still feeling the aftereffects of his hellish season three ordeal; their daughters, still as talkative as ever, haven’t gotten too much to do so far, though oldest child Lynn (Brooklyn Shuck) is still exploring her religious side, with Sister Andrea’s reluctant help.

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

Devoted Evil fans will be especially thrilled by the callbacks to earlier seasons that are sprinkled throughout these first episodes, including a return of cursed TikTok clone VidTap and some familiar faces, like Tara Summers’ homicidal nurse (you know, the one with the squeaky shoes). But even if you don’t pick up on the in-jokes, or the hints at what’s to come—we don’t get to see apocalyptic prophet Grace Ling just yet, but she’s mentioned a few times; the demonic sigils representing the 60 houses also resurface—you can still appreciate Evil’s incisive take on what true malevolence looks like in 2024.

It comes down to this: the forces of darkness are scary, but not so much in the traditional, robes-and-human-sacrifices way—an image that gets called out in season four, and swiftly debunked. Instead, they’re scary in the way they use technology and social media to perpetuate fear, hate, and anxiety; as Kristen puts it, “The world’s a crazy place and there are people trying to make it even crazier so they can control us.” As the clock ticks down on Evil, we’ll have to watch and see if our flawed but endearing heroes can find a way to put Satan in his place—or if the end of the show really will be the end of the world. Either way, we’re going to miss this twisted treat of a series.

Evil season four premieres May 23 on Paramount+.

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