Evil 3×02 “The Demon of Memes” sets up a couple of very big breaks. Thematically, there’s a clear delineation between the different types of evil. The series has, obviously, made this distinction time and time again. It’s just never been more blatant about it, much less about how just the right small push can turn otherwise decent people away from good.
But then, there’s the big personal shift. Or maybe we should say there are shifts. With David trying to find his purpose in some top-secret work, there’s a giant, gaping hole in the team. And that creates problems, no more so than for David and Kristen. It’s a huge part of that disconnect “at the height of their connection” that Katja Herbers mentioned when we interviewed her alongside her costar Mike Colter.
So, to quote Father David, “let us begin as we always do” by inviting you to join us as we break down Evil 3×02 “The Demon of Memes.”
Sheryl gets a gig
We will never get enough Sheryl, especially when Christine Lahti looks like that on Sheryl’s first day of work. Going in, she doesn’t even know what Leland is dragging her into this time. But he assures her the job is going to pay for her new house, where she’ll get to still be close to the grandkids.
That is all the motivation she needs to take on Leland’s kind of genius troll job. This plot shouldn’t work as well as it does, for a number of reasons. In the first place, it’s not exactly as if TV shows run by people of a certain age handle the dangers of online technology well. Like, ever. (See also: WTF was that TikTok episode of SVU?)
And secondly, those of us who are incredibly online like it here and make connections, thank you very much.
But Leland’s advice to Sheryl, to keep the people doomscrolling—constantly agitated about the state of the world—is just right.
“…you want to keep them nervous, unbound, focusing on allll the bad things in the world. Doomscrolling, where the focus is evil—and not good.”
Anything too dark, and the people will turn to faith—to God—for hope. But give them just enough bad news, and they will see the dark. It’s perfect. Just. Perfect.
Sheryl’s skepticism about the whole thing rings perfectly true—surely, some bad online news won’t tip the balance! And then you have Leland’s just-right level of infatuation with the whole scheme. It’s Michael Emerson at his most delightfully sinister, and his character doesn’t have to set foot near a demon or a church to make him go there.
“Keep them glued to their computer so that they’re reading about the new political fight or the economy, or global warming, plagues…”
It’s so well done. And no, we’re not just talking about the glee in Emerson’s voice when he says “plagues.”
After all, with certain social media platforms giving uninformed people an over-abundance of bad news and lying propaganda, isn’t that how so many have turned to, say, insurrection? To writing racist and/or antisemitic manifestos before carrying out mass shootings? And to refusing to wear a mask during a deadly pandemic, caused by an airborne pathogen? The list is, of course, endless.
“No! The Father Below controls plagues. But we control how people react to plagues, and these days, that is everything.”
Everything indeed. Absolutely brilliant.
“The Demon of Memes”
Of course, Sheryl isn’t the only online menace here. Evil 3×02 also sees Kristen, Ben, and David trying to get to the bottom of the “Visiting Jack” meme. After you see Jack, you have to do seven “licks” in seven days. It seems mostly like a bunch of harmless pranks…except for the part where every single house with an image of Visiting Jack is connected to a suicide or murder.
Kristen’s oldest daughter, Lynn, is directly involved in the investigation. Her friend, Ren, is holed up in his room, trying to avoid certain death, after seeing Jack. And since she, too, has seen him, there’s a whole discussion of whether or not she should start the seven tasks.
The girls have been involved in a number of Kristen’s investigations in the past. But somehow, Lynn just seems more key to this than she and her siblings have ever been before. Initially, she doesn’t even want to look at what her mom and Ben find online. As much as Kristen tries to convince her it’s “just make believe,” she’s still uncomfortable. Which is smart. Why risk what you don’t have to?
But it’s specifically because Kristen is there for Lynn, and Lynn is there for Ren, that Kristen and Ben manage to find the six other houses. Including LeRoux’s. Yes, that LeRox. And isn’t it a blast, seeing Kristen play the empath with Orson’s widow while we get treated to the flashback of her ending him?
In the end, everyone’s fine and safe from the “threat” of Visiting Jack. Kristen and Ben manage to work as a duo, rather than the usual trio, to get the job done. And that brings us to…
“I miss us.”
When we wrote our advance review for this season and mentioned that Herbers would break viewers, we were specifically referring to Kristen’s absolutely lost, vulnerable, pained conversation with David at the end of Evil 3×02. It’s a scene full of gut-wrenching angst and self-blame after an entire case spent with David constantly abandoning her and Ben.
The whole time, Kristen knows something is off; so does Ben.
“Wow. I have the sudden urge to bow to Father Acosta.”
But where Ben puts it all on David (as it turns out he should) and throws out a number of increasingly biting comments, Kristen just hurts. There are moments where she seems worried about what David might be up to. But when she confronts him at the end of the episode, it’s just…Well. Did we mention it’s pain, and angst, and we are broken by this performance?
“I feel lonely.”
“Don’t be. I’m here. And I’ll be myself again.”
“I’d like that.”
And she is so quiet and small on that last line.
There’s so much awkwardness, so much loss, and an outright mention that yes, these two people have feelings for each other. But they can’t do anything about them. And David has made the crack caused by him officially becoming a priest into a giant fault in the very steady ground they once walked together.
In Evil 3×02, David makes the choice to work for LeConte. And it means lying to everyone. It means deserting Kristen and Ben, lying to them at every turn.
Is it really worth fighting evil on a second front if the
person people who mean the most to him are left in the dark? Especially when these big, important tasks seem just as mundane as his boring, routine stints in the confessional? “Run around. Be our puppet without quite knowing what you’re giving last rites and grabbing cards for. Trust us. It’s big.”
“How is this battling evil? This all seems evil to me.”
Exactly, David. It doesn’t seem sustainable.
…and did we mention it hurts?
More thoughts on Evil 3×02
- “You’re going to want to question these missions. But you can’t. You won’t. It’s your job. Do it.” Literally all jobs in our capitalist hellscape. And, oddly enough basically the same advice David gets from LeConte about the “good” they’re doing together.
- “Social media makes motives both simpler and stupider.” @ me next time.
- “Trolling is an honored profession. Trolls are the knights of the Father’s chess board.” See also: *gestures wildly* everything out there.
- It’s Kristen’s “mom look” for me. You know the one.
- Colter’s increasingly “wtf” look in those boring scenes…a comedy.
- “Grown up” or not, I would like Laura’s little pink sweater with the stars on the sleeves for myself.
- We women always blame ourselves, huh? I just want to wrap Kristen up in a fuzzy blanket and give her some chocolate or something.
- “Bad people doing bad things. Evil governments, murderers, torturers. They exist in the world, and they must be stopped—maybe even more than demons.”
- Evil really said, “remember Season 1?” Grace Ling, eh?
- The toilet demon is my favorite thing on the planet. Every time that (literally!) damned thing groans, I crack up.
- …and there’s probably a really inappropriate joke about how catastrophically heavy periods feel in there, somewhere around the massive amount of blood that came out of that toilet.
- “I’m feeling cursed.” Mood.
- “I don’t like that word [squatting]. There are 13.9 million empty homes in the United States. And I needed one. I lost my scholarship, and I can’t afford the dorms.” These writers work the tea in so effortlessly.
- See also: “Just like those spaceship billionaires. Everybody’s into adventure these days.”
- “There’s nothing weird between the two of you, right?” “What do you mean?” He means a breakup. Or a hookup. Or both. But maybe it’s just me who means that? Whatever.
- “Wow, it’s like being with a celebrity.” “Yeah. A really hated celebrity.” Her laugh. Protect her.
- Shoutout to the folks at this series for filming “dark” scenes that you can still see—unlike so many other shows. And it made for some gorgeous shots of Herbers and Mandvi in that abandoned house. The flashlights. The backlight on the computer making Ren glow. So much beauty.
- “Being a single mom really sucks.” In Sheryl’s quest to take Andy down and get him out of the picture, as promised in Evil 3×01, she’s inadvertently hurt her own daughter.
- The kids don’t even respect Andy (same). It’s Kristen stepping in and throwing her shady line about coal mines that shuts them up.
- It’s giving: “He thinks it’s women’s work. Well. What isn’t women’s work?”
- And um, it all hurts us. Did we mention that Herbers in conjunction with breaking us enough yet?
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