In its freshman season, Evil has proved to be one of the most unexpected and consistently challenging genre shows on television. Its basic conceit is following a trio of Catholic church employed investigators — Mike Colfer's seminarian David, Katja Herber's psychologist Kristen, and Aasif Mandvi's cynical tech expert Ben — as they investigate cases labeled as potential demonic possessions, miracles or other extraordinary happenings. It sounds like any other paranormal mystery, but the creators, Robert and Michelle King and their writers, have made it anything but typical.
In fact, the greatest compliment we can give the show is that any given episode might be weird (in the very best way), bone-chillingly scary, or profoundly thoughtful and disturbing. Some episodes in fact are a mix of all of that, yet it manages to ride a tonal balance that makes Evil very much its own thing. In fact, it's so odd, it doesn't feel like anything else on CBS' broadcast lineup so we're more than grateful the show has already been picked up for a second season.
With the Season 1 finale airing on January 30 at 10PM, SYFY WIRE sat down with the Kings to talk about how they crafted a series so unlike their previous shows, The Good Wife and The Good Fight, how the stories have evolved heading into the finale, and what we can hope to see in Season 2.
Evil is nothing like CBS' other procedurals. Did you have any clashes about the stories you wanted to tell in this series?
Michelle King: They have been nothing but supportive. I wish I had an interesting story to tell you about how we have to fight our way just to get our vision on the screen, but it really hasn't been that. It hasn't been confrontational. They were interested in seeing the tone we wanted to explore and they've been with it.
Robert King: I think it helped that I directed the first episode so they could get a sense, fairly quickly, of that Rosemary's Baby tone we were going for. And I think CBS is into the expanding the CBS brand because they see what's going on around them.
A few weeks ago, the episode "Room 320" was such a potent horror story woven into the realities of what it means to be Black and admitted into the hospital. What was the inspiration for tying those two ideas together?
Michelle: Where we actually started was in the prior episode, "7 Swans a Singin," you see David being stabbed. We didn't want to play the TV trick of the next episode, it's forgotten. You know, here's a Band-Aid. No, you saw him being very seriously wounded. So, what are the consequences of a very serious wound? And it moved from there.
Robert: There is a writer in our writers' room, Aurin Squire, who is African American and he went [into the hospital] for a busted appendix. And he was just aware there's this concern. And we liked the idea of how this [threat] could be real, but it could also could be paranoia.
Now, obviously, Stephen King was ahead of us with Misery, which was such a good example of the man in a bed with no control over his life. And then, [Michelle and I] were in a hospital recently for someone who died and that reasserted that patronizing sense of listlessness to [the environment]. It really is almost like a casino, in that you're never sure what time of day it is in there. And the other thing that helps is there are so many painkillers that you could hallucinate on. It helped our premise for the show, which is you're never aware when something is scientifically based, or supernaturally based.
The alchemy of your storytelling is extremely varied. Sometimes it's more procedural and then other times, a case doesn't matter. What's been most fun for you and your writers to explore?
Robert: I think it's a mixture. We did "Fathers," which was with David's dad, where you think you're going to find something that is a supernatural threat. And then when you get there, you realize it's a comment more on generational trauma, whether you're a survivor of the Holocaust, or in this case, of slavery. You know that you're impacted by it. So, I would say that even though Evil pretends to be a procedural, the procedural goes away pretty quick and you still understand what it's about.
You introduced some major mythology with the Codex and The 60. Will they come back in Season 2?
Michelle: It won't be forgotten, I'll tell you that. How much? It's hard to say what the percentage it's going to be. I mean, frankly, it was hard to say the percentage this year and we've already written it.
Kristen, David and Ben still have a lot to tackle personally and professionally. Was where you wanted to leave them in the finale clear from early story breaking or did it evolve?
Robert: Strangely, not. I would say it evolved. We knew we wanted to answer the question of the season, and have the audience go in that way as they have with other shows. Like, 'Wow, they're loading up a lot of detail. This is not going to make sense at the end.' But we wanted it to make sense. We still want you to know, like the mechanic who puts an engine back together and it has two or three pieces left over. We did want two or three pieces to answer next season.
But then I would say the evolution was about how we ended the year. The bookend to this book is something we came to about what happens with Kristen.
When you are looking at David and Kristen's relationship, there's a lot of ways you can take it. You've leaned into their obviously emotional connection that could be physical. But then, her husband came back. What has all of that done to her growth?
Michelle: What I like about that is that we didn't want to go in the cliche area of, 'Oh, her husband's a jerk. She's unhappy in her marriage, so of course, she would turn to this unattainable man.' No, her husband shows up and he's actually an appealing guy, and they have a nice relationship. And yet, she and David continue to have this very interesting intellectual connection. That's what has made it interesting for us.
David has slipped in terms of staying on the path to becoming a priest, which feels a lot more human?
Michelle: Yes, and it's also interesting that the slip was with Renée Harris (Renée Elise Goldsberry), [the sister of David's dead lover] which feels more realistic to me anyway.
When you're looking at David's path moving forward, is it about a flawed man trying to be on a very pious path, or has it evolved into something else?
Robert: The first. We're always attracted by the Graham Greene idea of the priest who struggles, or the man who struggles. The woman, too. It's a very Catholic view of human nature that you're failing, but that's why you confess to God. What we wanted was to see someone who's trying to prove it to himself, as he does with drugs. You'll know by the last episode that there's a struggle involved with that. There was an addiction issue and that his idea of taking drugs to get closer to God may be an excuse for doing drugs. There are these challenges in his life and can he address them with religion, or does he have to drop religion to truly addresses his problems?
How many episodes have you been picked up for next year?
Michelle: We don't know yet. That's not determined.
Robert: It will be probably 13.
Michelle: Yeah, we're not doing more than 15.
Robert: We're probably going to do 13 because it's only way it fits together with The Good Fight.
Looking at where Season 2 might go, are there any mandates or explorations that are occupying your thoughts?
Robert: You know, The Good Fight got to a very interesting place in dangerously addressing present day politics. We try not to go too much there with Evil. There's an element of that in "Justice x 2" which brings in the Rwandan genocide. But what we're trying to do is have the premise be flexible enough that you could address the issues of today.
That certainly allows you, especially with technology and social media trends, to stay very topical?
Robert: Yes, it felt like Dante had a lot of fun assigning people to hell. People he knew, real people. And so, this premise allows you to explore other ways to say, 'I don't approve of this kind of behavior,' whether in the [White House] administration, or other places alike. And here, this is a story that explores is that evil, or is it a version of something I disagree with?
And lastly, is Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson) going to grow more into your Big Bad next year?
Robert: I think what will be interesting is to see that evil has an organization too and it's hard. There will possibly be an element of sympathy for even the devil. A devil working with bureaucracy is funny.