Katja Herbers

Evil (2019) s01e09 – Exorcism Part 2

This episode actually surprised me, which I didn’t realize “Evil” could do, but I was wrong. I really didn’t expect the show to head-on confront the Catholic Church enabling, supporting, and facilitating child rape with it being a-okay and turning their number one “defending child rapists” lawyer Renée Elise Goldsberry (from the show creators’ previous success, “The Good Wife,” playing a character named Renée, and giving a terrible performance) as a super-sexy woman from Mike Colter’s past who’s going to coerce him into physical relations or die trying.

When Goldsberry showed up in the first few minutes, after the show established it’s a follow-up on the episode where Colter and Katja Herbers argued over an exorcism but also Michael Emerson’s incel shooter training camp (are all psychologists bad for incels, or just the white men?), I was happy to see her. Any good guest stars would help, especially since incel shooter-in-training Noah Robbins is so bad it’d make more sense if his character were an undercover cop trying to bust Emerson and also Herbers’s decidedly not sexy husband Patrick Brammall is back and, after briefly seeming like he and Herbers might be good together, decidedly is not good with Herbers or anyone else. So, Goldsberry, who’s been not bad in the past but I’m now wondering, was a welcome sight.

Then she started acting.

I mean, the deposition thing is really bad—who wrote all “Good Wife”’s realistic-y lawyer stuff because they ain’t working on “Evil”—where Goldsberry tries to out-lawyer Jennifer Ferrin (who probably ought to find a better agent, like, real talk) while trying to obscure Herbers and Aasif Mandvi being atheists who don’t think Colter should’ve tortured the plaintiff in her exorcism. The best part is how the case resolves because it’s so obviously how poorly thought-out the plotting.

Also Peter Scolari is Colter’s new boss at the Church and he’s terrible.

The big surprise, besides the Catholic Church propaganda (guess who the incel wants to shoot? Good Catholics who don’t abandon the Church because of child rape, isn’t it progressive) and Goldsberry being bad, is Emerson’s ostensible demon. He’s less an evil mastermind and more an incompetent jackass. He has a silly “break stuff in my room” scene like he thinks he’s Kylo Ren, he’s just in his late sixties or whatever. It’s buffoonish. Though I suppose at least it’s not as gross as if “Evil” really is about being Catholic Church propaganda.

Also, also. A correction from an earlier post. Black Catholics are a thing in urban areas and “Evil” supposedly takes place in New York, just a really poorly shot one. They still aren’t in that survey I mentioned and they still seem overrepresented on the show.

Evil (2019) s01e08 – 2 Fathers

So this episode has—you guessed it—two dads in it. Well, it’s probably got more than two dads in it, but only two where it’s important they’re dads.

The first dad is Vondie Curtis-Hall as Mike Colter’s dad. They estranged because it’s TV and there’s no way a guy’s not estranged with his dad if he’s on TV. The show doesn’t really get into the big stuff of the estrangement, but it appears to be over Colter’s religiosity. Not about Curtis-Hall running a hippie commune with his two wives (I was going to name the actors but there’s no point, they’re immaterial to the episode—the actors’ performances, not the characters… though sort of the characters).

Curtis-Hall is… sort of a guest star. Sort of. I mean, I like Vondie Curtis-Hall but it’s a nothing part; he looks great for seventy too, like they had to make him up to appear older. Colter and Katja Herbers head to the farm to see him because Colter sees Curtis-Hall is using the “Evil” demon sigils in his art. They drop acid, it’s a whole thing. Colter and Curtis-Hall bond over being Black men (sort of); what’s most interesting about that part is it’s more important they bond over being Black men in America than actual demons overrunning the planet.

Herbers just gets messed up and horny for Colter, which is particularly bad because her husband—the other dad in the title—is back.

Patrick Brammall plays the dad. It’s good the show found someone who sucks as bad as the kids to play the father. They really choked on the casting. Also Christine Lahti is tripled down on being the devil’s willing concubine. Kind of hoping she just goes all in on the bad by the end of the season, maybe kill one of the grandkids, who knows. It’d be something.

No Michael Emerson, which is fine. Aasif Mandvi has a romance subplot with returning guest star Nicole Shalhoub, where she reveals she has a really silly woo secret. Kind of hope she’s never back again because “Evil” will just waste her.

“Evil” wastes everyone.

Evil (2019) s01e07 – Vatican III

This week’s “Evil” is a sixty-forty split between “why Catholics don’t get the mental health care they need” and “how to make an incel.” There’s more to both, obviously. The main plot is about possessed Annaleigh Ashford (who should sue her agent for malpractice) confessing to a triple homicide of Hispanic tween boys. She gives the Scooby Gang (clinical psychiatrist and lapsed Catholic Katja Herbers, true believer, priest-in-training, and hallucinogen abuser Mike Colter, and lapsed Muslim professional skeptic Aasif Mandvi) the location of the bodies and so they sit on that information instead of investigating for themselves, despite having the full power of the Catholic Church at their disposal.

I mean, they can hack into ICE and get surveillance camera footage, which might be international espionage given Vatican City and all, but they can’t take the time to go see if maybe Ashford buried the bodies where she said.

Meanwhile, nebbish Kevin Spacey impersonator and apparent sex god Michael Emerson recruits another disillusioned young white man, this time—through implication—a young white Jewish man—to the incel lifestyle. Noah Robbins goes from getting turned down by his barista to giving her a dead animal to plotting to mass murder women in the span of forty minutes, with a couple “therapy” sessions from Emerson to egg him on.

Now, we’re also finding out Emerson thinks he’s a demon and it’s his job to inspire… incels, basically. And to be a sex god who—unbeknownst to Herbers because, thankfully, her family is off-screen this episode—can make women do whatever he wants. I really hope Christine Lahti gets to play the sex-positive grandma with an appropriately attractive partner after this show. She deserves it. She’s not even in the episode and she’s one of the show’s biggest regrets. Though most of the show is just wishing Herbers, Colter, and Mandvi were on an actually good show and not this “deplorable Catholic men are in the control of wannabe demons” thing.

The politics of the show are still a little hard to discern—the Catholic Church isn’t portrayed bad, just behind the times. Also grossly incompetent (their secret manuscript from 500 years ago somehow has had all its iconography scanned and added to a wikipedia Demonology page. Yet they can hack ICE. Or maybe only because they have lapsed Muslin Mandvi on the payroll, which has optics of its own.

Hey, it’s a CBS show. You just wish it were a better one.

Evil (2019) s01e06 – Let x = 9

So in addition to Christine Lahti becoming bride to the unclean one through some really good third grade poetry imagery because “Evil” is really condescending to its target audience, the Christians who vote blue, the episode also confronts the whole “child rape” thing with the Catholic Church. Confronts as in lapsed Muslim skeptical charming aloof guy Aasif Mandvi makes a crack about it; a serious crack about it sure but a crack. “Evil” really wants to pretend people haven’t figured out the Catholic Church basically functions the way it does to protect child rapists. Like, when did it start. Was it before the Borgias? After? Because it started hundreds of years ago.

And “Evil” wants you to forget about it because Mandvi is the most successful character on the show and because it’s like “American Horror Story” for your grandma or something. It’s a CBS-ed horror story. With conspiracies and symbolism and blah blah blah.

But it’s also one of the most successful episodes in a while because Katja Herbers gets a bunch to do and she’s awesome at it. The scenes themselves vary, but she’s always good. Until the second half twist—surprise, sexy grandma Lahti’s new stud is none other than decently not sexy grandpa Michael Emerson, who also has kind of been stalking Herbers since the beginning of the show in order to further his life goal of promoting evil in the world. Can Lahti give him up for Herbers and the four adorable granddaughters, who Emerson has drawing secret symbols and singing creepy religious songs? Oops, I spoiled it in the first sentence. But whatever, doesn’t matter. “Evil”’s very deliberately plotted. To the point it supersedes everything else going on in the show; in some ways it feels like a very standard eighties nighttime mystery drama—Herbers and Mike Colter’s workplace romance—and very edgy for the USA Network in 2005. Like if they’d done a “Da Vinci Code: The Series” and it was surprisingly mean-spirited. But with some patronizing exploitation.

Still, the acting can be great. Herbers is great here. Colter is not. But he’s okay, it’s the script. And Mandvi’s awesome. Of course he’s awesome, he gets tapped selling the “eh, it can’t be all priests, right?”

I mean, icky. But also… CBS tame for 2019. Both sides but we’re pretending politics don’t exist.

Also… Emerson basically just seems like he’s doing a Kevin Spacey impression.

Evil (2019) s01e05 – October 31

There’s something up with the racial optics on “Evil.” The all-Black Catholic parishioners is a thing. The show kind of dares you to notice it, but it’s a thing. Black Catholics are not a familiar TV trope; I can’t think of one besides Frank Pembleton and they made a big deal out of the Catholic thing. Irish folks, Latinx folks, they’re mass media Catholics. Not Black people. Or maybe “Evil”’s just doing a godawful job introducing the general audience to the realities of Black Catholic life. Like the possessions and the ominously mentioned “Sixty,” which the head Catholic guy (who’s white, see, optics) told Mike Colter not to worry about.

Clearly it’s a building storyline because this episode leaves Colter and Katja Herbers on the outs. Even more than on the outs, Colter didn’t help her save her kids from a possibly dangerous Halloween prankster. We don't really know if she's dangerous because deus ex machina; even if she's not it's some really exploitative manipulation. The grandkids are in danger because grandma fell for a psychopath because she's a drunk. And easy.

See, grandma Christine Lahti starts the episode getting picked up by the guy who’s stalking and threatening her daughter, Michael Emerson. Emerson and Lahti are a lot closer in age than I thought—she’s only four years older—but one assumes, even if Emerson is playing his actual age of sixty-five, Lahti isn’t playing her age of sixty-nine. She certainly seems like she’s playing at least ten years younger. Though, I guess both Emerson and Lahti look great for their ages (I seriously thought he was like forty-nine)… so maybe it’s some CBS boomer thing. I don’t know.

Regardless, I don’t buy Lahti would fall for slick, slimy, and not hot Emerson. I also don’t buy that Herbers is keeping her mom in the dark to the degree of not mentioning the psychopath-creating clinical psychologist she met. Emerson gives her his real name. She checks his LinkedIn. Or whatever the “Evil” variant.

It just doesn’t seem likely. Even if you assume the characters are real dumb… it doesn’t seem likely.

Anyway, Aasif Mandvi has an okay (comparatively) plot about meeting YouTube ghost-hunter Nicole Shalhoub and getting flirty while appearing on her dumb show, but comparatively is the key word. Mandvi doesn’t get anything to do where you’re left wondering how he can function when the show isn’t happening. Colter and Herbers are all of a sudden dangerously near that point. This episode does them no favors. Not them, not the show.

And the Exorcist homages were stupid.

(Also, I checked the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI)—Black Catholics aren’t a statistically significant thing according to them).

Evil (2019) s01e04 – Rose390

The show goes a little overboard with the scary tech angle. Even more than last time. This time it’s pedophiles hacking AR games and grooming kids when they’re playing on their headsets. The kids in question are lead Katja Herbers’, as it’s not clear the problem child at the center of the episode (Luke Judy) is even using the headset. It’s also not clear if the hacker is a pedophile or if they’re Michael Emerson, who doesn’t appear in the episode, but maybe because he’s hacking AR games to encourage kids to kill.

“Evil” appears to work a lot better either with Emerson and without Herbers’ kids or without Herbers’ kids and with Emerson. Maybe because with Emerson around you can’t believe Herbers wouldn’t have her family locked in a safe room, clutching a shotgun. The show hasn’t really done anything with Emerson threatening her family. It’s just an “of course he did, he’s the bad guy,” which seems narratively and dramatically suspect.

Mike Colter gets something to do except mope about not getting as good of God visions when he trips anymore. Funny how he played Luke Cage but now he’s the one chasing the dragon. Wokka wokka. This episode is all about him bonding with annoying little Judy and even trying to give him psychiatric advice even though Colter’s just guessing what he ought to say. One would assume, despite him shrooming to see God, Colter at least knows not to mess with burgeoning serial killers’ minds. Surely the Catholic Church wouldn’t let him act so irresponsibly. For a different kind of wokka wokka.

Speaking of the Catholic Church, Clark Johnson’s back as Colter’s exorcist priest buddy. It’s nice to see Johnson but it’s a kind of crap part. He’s around to add some dramatic heft and he doesn’t even get to add much.

But it’s a more solid episode. The stuff with the family is actually good and disturbing instead of being annoying. Sure, the show’s take on hacked AR games probably ought to be a little more grounded in reality if they’re going to terrify parents. It’s all so creepy they could’ve gotten away with Herbers reading a number aloud to call to report the game or something.

Evil (2019) s01e03 – 3 Stars

If it never does anything else, “Evil” was probably worth it just for this John Glover performance. It’s John Glover as a brilliant theatre director who’s a tad eccentric and has gotten to be mean in addition to it. Dascha Polanco (from “Russian Doll”) is the one who brings them the case; she’s his Catholic assistant. “Evil” seems like its goal, as far as the religious stuff goes, is to somehow launder lapsed Catholics into atheism through the absurdity and awfulness of the Catholic Church. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

So about a third of the show is Glover turning it up to eleven in playing this asshole genius. He’s phenomenal. It’s not a good part, as it turns out, because it’s just a guest star part and “Evil”’s guest stars are just caricatures in the end… but he’s awesome. It’s nice to see him still able to let loose. Acting like John Glover for so many years apparently did not stop John Glover from acting like John Glover.

Otherwise… it’s got problems. Michael Emerson is way too evil—this time he’s trying to get a Black kid tried as an adult so he can be raped into sociopathy—and lead Katja Herbers (they love saying her character’s last name, Bouchard, way too much) even says, “Isn’t this a little much?” But then it turns out he’s not so smart, which means his big conspiracy to turn people into violent sociopaths to bring about the end of society is just like a little project. It’s weird. Also the writing on D.A. Danny Burstein is ludicrous. He’s an idiot, the way he falls for Emerson. Again, weird.

The show also is starting to reveal its hook on the debunking thing—this episode is about Echo and similar devices being used to manipulate the technologically uninformed boomer. Very obvious stuff. Very anti-tech.

Herbers’s daughters aren’t on the episode.

They aren’t missed.

Not even Christine Lahti is missed.

The Clark Johnson cameo doesn’t pay off either

Evil (2019) s01e02 – 177 Minutes

“Evil” doubles down on the debunking of magic this episode. This time it’s about a miracle, not a possession. The heroes are looking into a girl being pronounced dead then coming back to life after a priest whispers to her. Dakin Matthews plays the priest. It’s a small part but it’s nice to see Matthews. He’s a solid character actor.

And this episode is definitely an improvement over the first. The teases of religious explanation are shorter, the debunking is better… though I was shocked how far they take it in the last scene, revealing former priest-to-be Mike Colter gets high on shrooms to talk to God. No wonder it doesn’t matter how much Colter prays about something God never helps; God’s his trip.

Duh.

Sorry.

There’s more with lead Katja Herbers’s night terror demon, even putting her kid in pseudo-danger because nothing says serious network show like the willingness to mutilate children. Herbers and the kids are fine, there are just too many of them. Plus grandma Christine Lahti who apparently goes out partying every night, which is cool, but also means Lahti’s just a constant cameo (I forgot to even mention her last episode); it’s like she’s doing the part as a favor to the producers or network. Anyway. There are so many kids on this show it’s like a seventies sitcom.

Michael Emerson is back—working at the D.A.’s office, planning on reversing all of Herbers’s old cases to let the evil free. Herbers’s boss just thinks she’s a jealous silly woman, apparently unable to appreciate Emerson’s wild performance (he seems like a villain from the “Batman” TV show; he’d be less absurd in a leotard).

Boris McGiver (another fine character actor) shows up as Colter’s higher up at the Church who’s keeping a secret about angel sightings for some reason.

So, better than the first episode, but still sort of uneven. It’s too thorough where it needs some brevity and vice versa.

Evil (2019) s01e01 – Pilot

I’ll just say it now. “Evil”’s religious politics are either going to get it in a lot of trouble or they’re going to do some “Heaven is for Real” shit. It’s going to be one or the other. And the pilot really makes it seem like it’s going to be the former, but not in any daring way; “Evil” is very safe.

Katja Herbers is a forensic psychiatrist who consults with the district attorney’s office. She’s a professional witness and has to be because she’s got an absentee rock-climbing, thrill-seeker husband off in the Himalayas, four daughters at home (you’d love to see the show bible on how Herbers managed to have all those kids, go to college, be a celebrity rock-climber, go to graduate school, become professionally successful, and not yet be forty; but whatever). It’s all going fine until she gets the case of serial killer Darren Pettie. See, Pettie says he just blacks out during his murders. But Pettie’s attorney says Pettie’s possessed. Herbers ends up quitting because the D.A. wants her to lie about something with the possession angle.

Couple days later, Mike Colter shows up to offer Herbers a job. He’s with the defense… sort of. He’s actually with the Catholic Church; he and partner Aasif Mandvi triage possession and miracle reports for the Church. Herbers needs paycheck and she’s also hot for Colter’s bod, so she signs up.

The rest of it is them finding a religiously informed clue, then a rational, scientific explanation. Non-believer Herbers talking to believer Colter about his faith and blah blah blah.

It’s all fairly predictable. Though maybe not when Michael Emerson shows up as an evil forensic psychiatrist out to make the world a worse place by encouraging people to do bad things. Hence the show title.

Also seems like show creators Robert King and Michelle King really liked that similar and dumb subplot from Halloween H40.

Herbers is likable and pretty good. Colter is likable and pretty good—he’s much more suited for this part than the Hero of Harlem. Mandvi’s fun.

There’s some poorly executed nightmare stuff and the script fails villain Pettie; both those fails seem foreboding for the future and the show’s potential. It’s uneven but has a lot of good pieces.

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