Wednesday, August 4, 2021

"Evil," The TV Series - The Best Network Show We're Not Watching


We don't watch network TV much anymore, to be honest.  However, a series dropped on Netflix a couple of weeks ago that we binge-watched the first season of, all weekend.

Apparently, it originally aired on CBS, but its second season was just moved to Paramount Plus because of low audience, but a loyal following and critical acclaim.

To be honest,  I'm surprised it was on CBS, actually, because it can get pretty dark - however, IMO, it's the best network-TV show I've seen in years.  Streaming stuff is still better, mind you, but this show probably comes the closest to streaming-show quality, IMO.

However, don't forget,  the X-Files originally had the same problem - it, too, was first considered too dark and also took a while to find its audience (which this show was clearly influenced by, as well as Twin Peaks and others) - but they've got to keep the writing/story going and consistent, if they want to reach that status ;)

But here's the new twist/interesting premise - a Catholic priest-to-be, a lapsed-Catholic-turned-atheist psychologist, and a lapsed-Muslim-turned-atheist tech contractor ... walk into a bar.

LOL, no, no - a Catholic seminarian,  an atheist/lapsed-Catholic court-contracted psychologist for the DA, and an atheist/lapsed-Muslim tech contractor are hired by the Catholic church to investigate demon possession VS. mental illness.

The series begins with Dr. Kristen Bouchard, an atheist psychologist,  on contract with the DA to assess a serial killer, whose wife claims he was demon possessed, and the killer himself claims to have no memory of the killings. 

She is approached by David Acosta, a priest-in-training, to ask if she will also evaluate him for demon possession.  She laughs it off, but does as he asks, takes the crucifix, and tests him with a few simple tests - to which he reacts with uncontrollable violence.

She still thinks it's an act and diagnoses him a manipulative narcissist/antisocial personality - a psychopath.  

Because of the possibility of an insanity plea versus actual prison time, the DA asks her to lie on the stand, but she refuses, and is thus given an ultimatum never to be used again by the DA if she doesn't. Still paying off her student loans, with four little girls, and her husband who is away climbing a mountain, she is now jobless. 

David Acosta then approaches her and asks if she'd like to work for the Catholic church as a possession investigator, considering they are backlogged.  She thinks this is ridiculous, of course, as she's an atheist, but David says that's why they want her - because she's rational and scientific, when the church often jumps to conclusions spiritually.

As for David's background, he's a former U.S. vet who was stationed in Afghanistan, with a master's degree, who can speak and interpret several modern languages, as well as several ancient "dead" languages like Latin, Koine Greek,  Aramaic, and Sumerian.

He also has PTSD and is a recovered drug addict/sex addict turned seminarian/priest-in-training, who believes he has seen God through a vision - and now tries to impatiently induce more visions via dropping acid, rather than waiting for another vision naturally (his temptation).  

Yes - if you're getting an X-Files sort of vibe, you've got it - now tack on demons in the age of internet communication/social influencing lol.

She's still skeptical, but needs the money, and meets the third member of the team, Ben Shakir, a lapsed Muslim and atheist, a tech contractor.  

Though she recognizes both David and Ben as being highly intelligent and likes them both, she feels most reassured by Ben's presence enough to take the job, in that he's he's also an atheist who believes science can explain most occurrences, ruling out everything else first before he pronounces it unexplained - and though he admits to some things he can't explain, most things he can, either technologically or environmentally, and the rest is just stuff that can be explained with science, he just hasn't figured it out yet.

David also explains the six different types of possession,  including diabolical oppression, which is when evil latches onto you, usually just because you're onto it/exposed it, and essentially "stalks" your life for a while by wreaking havoc with your life like Job, tempting you to lose your faith and/or commit revenge/retaliation evil yourself - which comes into play with Kristen later.

To complicate matters, the new forensic psychologist replacing her is Dr. Leland Townsend, a person whom David believes is demon possessed and Kristen believes is a narcissist with psychopathic tendencies. 

And yes, Twin Peaks fans,  I suspect his name is a nod to Leland Palmer, the possessed Dad from David Lynch's Twin Peaks.

He hates Kristen, not only because she ignored his warning to just stick to her own life and stop testifying against evil, but because she's onto him and can outsmart him.

(Well, he hates women in general, blaming his prior impotence and problems with them on them - as of course a questionably demon-possessed man would, not a shocker - so he especially can't stand it that a woman can't be manipulated by him, is onto him/outsmarts him ;)

The aforementioned serial killer is indicted anyway, based on Kristen's prior defense, but Townsend has now joined the defense team and argues for the serial killer, dismissing Kristen's earlier claims, coaching the serial killer to claim he has "found God" and has been reformed.  

Oh, and Townsend also begins dating Kristen's mother, just to hurt Kristen via by divide-and-conquer and create doubt, as now "Evil" has latched onto her, hell-bent on crashing her life for trying to prosecute the serial killer and investigate and prosecute evil.   

Kristen's mother - played by one of my favorite actresses, the irrepressible Christine Lahti -  of course, thinks Kristen just doesn't want a replacement for her father and is jealous of anyone else in her life, dismisses her concerns and dates him anyway, the divide-and-conquer complete  - but begins to slowly change in personality herself, giving into impulse more, and even helping Leland with some of his tricks with Kristen, though she doesn't know the full extent of why - she just thinks her daughter has gone nuts and needs to realize she's gone nuts, instead of her new boyfriend.

To top things off, Townsend is successful in convincing the judge that the serial killer, Leroux, is a reformed man and new Christian and he's acquitted - even giving him her personal bible.

Leroux, now free, of course, comes after Kristen and her little girls (who no longer has their grandmother as babysitter).

Additionally, Townsend joins the Catholic church, gives generously, and befriends a cardinal, claiming he's possessed after making a deal with the devil as a teenager, but is remorseful, and now wants to be exorcised - which of course is all a ruse to gain the trust of Catholic church, stop the investigations, harass Kristen, and just wreak more havoc in general.

David, Kristen, and Ben know this,  and regardless of whether or not they agree on whether they believe he's demon-possessed or just a psychopath, all three know he's not sincere and has an end game, but convincing the Catholic church is another story, especially because he gives so generously to the church ;)

Along with this running backstory, there are new cases to investigate each episode - some are absurd, but so were some episodes of the X-Files, and most pose some interesting questions and are intriguing.

So in the end, are these people demon possessed or are they mentally ill?

It leaves it up to the audience to decide -  but mostly, 80% of the time it is either technologically or environmentally explained or is mental illness, and 20% of the time, it's either unexplained, or possibly both mental illness AND evil spiritual energy :)

(Also, FYI, the show focuses heavily on what's technologically possible that we had no idea was even possible, heavily focusing on social media "influencers" and psychologically manipulative tech tricks and hacks, including those being used on "ghost-hunting" shows.)

Then again, even when technologically explained - i.e. a bored teenager hacks the Alexa of a Broadway director via WiFi, just to mess with him because he's bored, convincing him he's the devil for kicks, just because he can - what causes a person to want to do things like this to others -  boredom, mental illness, negative spiritual energy, other's influence - or some combination of all of the above?

Either way, mental illness or bored teenager, Townsend soon gets his claws into the kid to "counsel" him :/

To complicate things still further, a formerly exorcised parishioner of the church is now suing the Catholic church for the exorcism, stating the effect was only temporary and that she was actually mentally ill and mistreated by the church. 

Kristen, and her mentor psychologist, both observed this exorcism. Though they cannot explain why the woman appeared to recover, they acknowledge she did, chalking it up rationally to the phenomenon where the power of suggestion/strong belief systems sometimes result in "healing."

So now, Kristen is caught between her employer, the Catholic church, and being deposed as a witness against them - but finds a middle-ground defense.

Essentially, she admits that psychiatry and psychology aren't much more scientific than faith, that diagnoses are subjective and biased, to the point that several psychologists can evaluate the same person and vastly disagree on a diagnosis, resulting in conflicting diagnoses and confusion, wrongfully influencing each other, and doing more harm than good for the patient.

Also, we don't always know the exact reasons why psychoactive medications work, so we're essentially guinea-pigging people with synapse-changing medication in the hopes of controlling their emotions and behavior so that they can function, not just to help the person, but also to make us as a society more comfortable with them - and further, with few exceptions, all current psychiatric medications can have the side effect of suicidality.

So who are the quacks, the church or psychologists?

The answer is, sometimes both - and ye shall know them by the fruit of their labors :)

LOL - interesting perspective and true -  though I believe there are very good therapists and psychiatrists, out there, genuinely doing good work.  

HOWEVER, as I said in the post below, they are subjective and human, often with their own issues and biases that get in the way/prevent them from seeing their patients clearly, and I also know there are just as many bad ones -  or even well intentioned ones who simply don't know what they're doing - or possibly we don't know what we're doing enough yet, as psychiatry/psychology is still a relatively new "science." 

So we started Season 2 on Sunday, but won't have time to watch this weekend, due to our anniversary trip - but I'm not sure I like where this is going?

It appears out of safety for her girls, with Leroux after her and threatening her, and any self-defense being flipped back on her, she has stooped to his level in temptation and out of fear.

I wouldn't have said her character was capable of what she did previously.  And I get it, it's about if you stoop to the level of evil, what are you yourself, then?

And yet still, it's not a story turn I wanted to see, but we shall see.  

Regardless, IMO, I know it's network, but based on Season 1, it's seriously the best network show you're not watching - much like the X-Files originally.  

I know it's a bit dark at times, and very intellectual - but it's also funny?

(I hate to admit it, but Leland, in between being a cruel, sadistic a-hole, is also hilariously funny - but wouldn't the devil also be?)

Oh, and did I mention the special effects? :)

Yeah, so David believes that's actually Michael the Archangel protecting him.

Erm - I think David may have dropped too much acid - and I hope not - because although Michael is supposed to be a bad-ass with little patience for humans, I hope to God that if Michael the Archangel exists, he wouldn't look like THAT lol

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