blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Evil (2019) s03e06 – The Demon of Algorithms

It seems like it’s been a while since “Evil” has done a “modern technology will ruin our lives” fear-mongering episode. Or maybe it’s just Algorithms fully integrates “Evil”’s streaming status (f-bombs galore) with the format, making it feel like the epitome of the sub-genre. This episode’s about TikTok and how it ruins everyone’s life. The episode accidentally raises the real concern TikTok’s format could have terrible consequences for someone suffering Munchausen by proxy but someone psychiatrist Katja Herbers doesn’t realize it.

The episode starts with Herbers, Mike Colter, and Aasif Mandvi investigating a possession. The episode’s got two cases; teenager Malina Weissman’s live-streamed possession and single mom Lena Hall’s live-streamed house haunting. In between, Mandvi posts debunking videos, which bring him more hate than hearts, and Herbers and Colter also become addicted to the videos. Herbers watches drunk mom tips while Colter watches horny or marginalized priest confessions. The trio is constantly getting notifications to watch new videos, which raises some real questions about whether the “Evil” writers’ room knows how to silence notifications or if they just assume their viewers are too stupid to silence notifications. Neither option’s great.

Especially since we’re supposed to believe Mandvi’s a genius.

There are also some other yuck connotations once Colter gives up the TikTok for letting a demon suck on his soul. “Evil” always plays like the Catholic Church pays half the budget, but this episode also feels like the FCC is writing plot points. However, the TikTok stand-in is American (and intentionally ruining people’s lives), not Chinese. It’s also unrelated to Christine Lahti’s subplot about working for a literal demon at a tech start-up. It feels like the things should be more connected.

Other than the Gen-Xers discovering TikTok, the main subplot is Herbers’s daughters outing Michael Emerson as a sixty-year-old man pretending to be a teenage boy on their Animal Crossing internet game. It ought to be a lot more fun, though it’s nice to see Emerson getting even limited comeuppance. Then the finale has a big, concerning reveal for another subplot.

Decent direction from Peter Sollett keeps things moving, even though Hall’s bad as the haunted house mom and the script (credited to Patricia Ione Lloyd) condescends to the audience. It’s a strangely hacky episode. While it’s got the best use of cursing on the former network show, it feels most like a network burner episode. “Evil” can’t catch a break.

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