Evil (2019) s02e11 – I Is for IRS

There are a few enormous, series-changing swings in this episode. It starts right at the beginning, a montage set to Andrew Bird’s song, Fake Palindromes (I Shazamed it to see if it was an original song since the action fits so closely); the montage ends with one of the regular cast apparently murdering someone. Doesn’t matter the rest of the episode; it’s just all in a typical day at “Evil.” The other big swings come at the end of the episode, which turns out to be—seemingly—a conclusion to the arc Katja Herbers has been on all season.

She, Mike Colter, and Aasif Mandvi are investigating a new church of Satan for the IRS (the Catholic Church does favors for the IRS, which leads to a handful of muted wry remarks about the Church being a pedophile land-grab operation but a lot less pointed than usual; maybe Paramount+ finally got their Standards and Practices division in order). The church is a thinly veiled riff on the actual Satanic Temple, but instead of fighting for women’s rights, the “Evil” version just uses Satanic mumbo jumbo to score chicks and sell t-shirts. Gus Halper plays the frontman disbeliever—his character’s name is Graham Lucian, which is close enough Lucian Greaves ought to make a t-shirt mocking the show—and John Sanders is the creepy believer Satanic preacher who threatens people.

Except when Colter clearly shows the church brochure to “in league with Satan” Michael Emerson, Emerson freaks out. So hopefully, if Sanders comes back as threatened, it’ll be to Emerson exacting whatever. I really hope they don’t team them up.

The investigation is mostly an excuse for Herbers’s arc to wrap up with the assistance of good-looking sexual predator Halper and for “Evil” to have a few half-naked women in the episode. And for Herbers, Colter, and Mandvi to talk a lot about financial technicalities. Catholic boss man Peter Scolari (it’s hard to imagine what the show would be if Scolari weren’t such a twerp) doesn’t want them giving the IRS a thumbs down on the Satanists for religious reasons; instead he wants them to get the thumbs down for secular ones. It’s ever unclear if “Evil” realizes the commentary it’s making on the Catholic Church, especially when Herbers and Mandvi are so clipped in their pushback.

The second big swing is going to involve a great scene between Herbers and Colter, maybe one of Colter’s best in ages—remember when he was going to have a subplot this season about the Catholic Church not caring about Black people, and then they dropped it—even though the new normal it helps set up is on unstable footing. “Evil” manages to make having a familiar character be a vicious murderer less shocking than Herbers actually wanting to spend time with her husband, Patrick Brammall. Brammall, despite having gone from a Mount Everest climbing guide to a Colorado truck company owner, still manages to be a hipster cultural appropriator; it’s sort of impressive.

There are some good scenes with Kurt Fuller (though he’s now playing Brammall and Herbers’s marriage counselor even though they said he wouldn’t be because of conflicts of interest) and Christine Lahti. Emerson has a bunch to do, but it’s unclear how much is acting and how much is editing.

It’s a strange episode, and there are only a couple more this season, so they may not have time to do anything but shake more things up. If so, it’ll be a disservice to otherwise rather solid second season. Fingers crossed.

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