The 16 Essential Evil Episodes (So Far)

“The Demon of the Road”
Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

Evil is ending with its upcoming fourth season—and it’s going to be a wild ride to the end, what with Rosemary’s Baby now part of the action. The show follows a trio of assessors (David, a priest played by Mike Colter; Kristen, a psychologist played by Katja Herbers; and Ben, a tech whiz played by Aasif Mandvi) who look into alleged possessions and the occasional miracle on behalf of the Catholic Church in New York City.

Throughout its run—the show started on CBS then shifted to Paramount+—Evil has offered a unique blend of crime drama with an emphasis on technology, supernatural horror, and religious themes, with the latter offering the show a chance to explore questions of faith and power from many different angles. It’s frequently critical of the Catholic Church, but makes plenty of room to explore individual beliefs (including Satanic ones). It also has an excellent array of both likable and deliciously villainous characters—in addition to the core trio, the supporting cast (Christine Lahti as Kristen’s slippery mother, Sheryl; Michael Emerson as Satanic minion Leland Townsend) and guest stars (Andrea Martin as a straight-talking nun, the various Broadway heavyweights who show up as priests) are top-notch—and a wicked sense of humor.

Each episode generally follows a different case, but there are episodic elements that carry over, as well as an overarching plot that’s building toward doomsday, or at least a very determined attempt to bring it about. Here’s the official Paramount+ summary of what’s to come in Evil season four (which will be 14 episodes, including a special four-part series finale):

“In the upcoming season, Kristen, David, and Ben continue to assess cases that involve wayward technology, possessed pigs, demonic oppression and infestation, a dance muse conjured by alleged witches, and an evil relic. Throughout, Leland attempts to lure Kristen into raising a baby antichrist who was conceived with her ovum. David is recruited by the Vatican’s secret service to ‘remote view’ a paranormal ability to see the unseen in order to detect evil. Ben is hit by an ion beam, causing him to see visions of a taunting jinn until he discovers an unusual solution to banish it. Finally, all three realize they only have a few weeks left to assess cases because the parish has decided to disband the team due to a lack of funds. This culminates in one last confrontation with Leland and the 60 families that make up Evil in the modern world.”

Sound intriguing? It is, and you should watch! It was hard to choose, but here are the 16 episodes that’ve stood out the most so far in Evil seasons 1-3.

Photo: Jeff Neumann/CBS

The first Evil episode introduces the three main characters (David, Kristen, Ben) and the supporting crew (Kristen’s chatty young daughters—Lynn, Lila, Lexis, and Laura; her mother, Sheryl; and her therapist, Dr. Kurt Boggs), as well as oily antagonist Leland. “Genesis” sets the plot in motion, giving us the trio’s first Catholic Church case as they investigate whether accused serial killer Orson LeRoux committed his crimes while possessed. The verdict: nope, he’s just a very bad dude, but he acted on his gruesome urges only after being encouraged by Leland, a skilled manipulator who is clearly in cahoots with some very dark forces.

“Genesis” also seeds other plot threads (Kristen’s husband, Andy, is a mountain climbing guide who’s away for extended periods of time—a circumstance complicated by her attraction to David) while establishing a tone that’s carried throughout subsequent seasons: thoughtful, provocative, and macabre, but not without levity. It sets up a theme that reverberates throughout Evil, in different supernatural contexts, as both the characters and the audience are encouraged to keep an open mind about the unbelievable things they’re witnessing. It posits social media and the internet as a conduit for sinister ideas and influence—another recurring theme—and it’s also the first time we learn about “the 60,” a mysterious group whose identity and purpose emerges as the show continues.

Photo: Jeff Neumann/CBS

Sheryl buys AR headsets for Kristen’s daughters and they swiftly become obsessed with a particular horror game. Things get icky when an online player pretending to be another kid encourages them to use an Ouija board and do some awfully Satanic-sounding chanting, then tries to scare them by saying their dad is dead. Meanwhile, the investigators take on a troubling case involving a family tormented by their middle child, a nine-year-old exhibiting diabolical tendencies. Though they do their best to get through to him, especially David, they’re shaken when the boy tries to drown his infant sister… and even more shaken when they realize the kid’s parents—seeing no other recourse—have murdered their own son.

In its parallel plots, “Rose390″ examines the dark side of childhood, as well as the sinister ways technology can corrupt the vulnerable. Thanks to that horrific reveal at the end—and the lasting message that sometimes there’s no explanation for pure horror—it’s one of the most chilling episodes of Evil to date.

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

The team investigates Grace Ling, a woman who claims to be able to speak to God. To their surprise, Grace appears to be 100% legit. Turns out Vatican leadership is particularly concerned about Grace’s accuracy because her prophecies echo those found in a centuries-old codex—one that predicts the downfall of the Catholic Church. Or is it… the end of the world? Unfortunately, Grace is scooped up by ICE and deported to China before the team can figure out the truth.

Elsewhere in the episode, Kristen invites Sheryl and her new boyfriend over for dinner—and is horrified to realize that the vile, manipulative Leland has somehow sparked her mother’s romantic interest, and even worse, is in her home ingratiating himself to her daughters. It’s at this moment that the relationship between Kristen and Sheryl begins to fracture, a situation that becomes more tumultuous as Evil progresses.

Image: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

Three plots in this one: first, assessors arrive from the Vatican to figure out if Grace, who’s now back in China, was a false prophet or a true one; they give Kristen, David, and Ben access to the original codex, which has gaps in it that Grace’s drawings were helping to fill. The trio realizes the occult symbols it contains—some of which they recognize, including one drawn by Leland in a diary he gave to Kristen’s daughters—represent the sigils of different demons lurking on Earth, also known as “the 60.”

Elsewhere, the investigators meet a woman who claims to be possessed by a demon and may be a serial child killer. It’s unnerving, but the most stomach-turning storyline sees Leland start mentoring a budding misogynist named Sebastian. He nudges him toward becoming a dangerous incel—introducing him to like-minded haters on 8chan, and shaming him into taking violent action—and the arc continues until episode nine, “Exorcism Part 2,” when an increasingly militant Sebastian accidentally shoots himself with one of his new firearms… much to Leland’s disgust.

Image: CBS

Season one finale “Book 27” is action-packed: Leland and Sheryl get engaged, and Kristen subsequently informs her mother she can’t see her grandkids ever again. Then, Kristen discovers that RSM Fertility—the clinic that helped her conceive her daughter Lexis—is in league with “the 60” and may be deliberately trying to create morally corruptible children. Finally, LeRoux walks free after having his conviction reversed (thanks to Leland, of course), and promptly starts threatening Kristen and her daughters. She does what she thinks she must, and brutally murders him before he can do any more harm.

Though law enforcement doesn’t suspect her, the act does not go unnoticed: when she gets home, she picks up a rosary and it sears a cross-shaped burn into her hand.

Image: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

Season two picks up immediately after the season one finale, which means Kristen’s crime is still very much on her mind; she confesses the whole thing to Dr. Boggs, her therapist, who’s bound by doctor-patient confidentiality to keep it secret. Leland—who’s just donated a ton of money to the church—shows up at the diocese demanding an exorcism. At first the investigators are disgusted by the idea because they know his true nature, but then they decide to humor him; at the very least, it’ll help them learn more about him.

And, picking up the RSM Fertility thread, we learn that Lexis is sprouting some dangerously sharp new canine teeth.

Image: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

Season two’s story threads have inched forward a bit by “E Is for Elevator.” Leland’s exorcism, really part of a scheme to sabotage David from being ordained, lurches ahead; David begins to confront institutional racism within the church (elsewhere, Evil also takes Catholicism to task for sexism too); Sheryl and Leland split, and she realizes she regrets being estranged from Kristen; and a feisty nun, Sister Andrea, becomes an important ally.

But the main reason we’re including this one is because it is freaking scary, developing the “elevator game,” a viral phenomenon, into a nightmare-inducing scenario involving missing teens, hidden sub-basements, and bug-eaten corpses. It also gives a nice spotlight to Ben, who so often plays second banana there’s a running joke on Evil that nobody can remember his name.

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

Wrapped in this occasionally meta episode that sees the team investigating a cop-involved shooting that might involve possession—or racism, though one of the demonic sigils is involved—is the conclusion of Kristen’s LeRoux saga. Though she doesn’t regret murdering him, her Dexter moment has been haunting her (at one point, she literally sees LeRoux’s ghost), and for a moment it seems like it’s all about to come crashing down. But after she tells her pal Mira—a homicide detective—the truth, Mira advises her not to speak about it again. Even though Kristen’s guilty, Mira says, she’ll never face any consequences: “Some people deserve to die. Cops know that better than anyone.”

Image: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

No list of exceptional Evil episodes is complete without “S Is for Silence,” which sees the team travel to upstate New York to investigate a case involving a monk whose corpse has remained perfectly preserved, and is therefore being considered for sainthood. Aside from giving us one of Evil’s all-time grossest scenes—proof that an infestation of botflies can be more horrifying than an infestation of demons—it also requires the cast to remain nearly speechless throughout the episode, because the monastery where it’s set operates under a strict vow of silence. It’s a storytelling gimmick, yes, but an effective one, and the result is impressive.

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

Despite being explicitly told not to by “the Entity”—the nickname for the Vatican secret service—Kristen, Ben, and David decide to further investigate RSM Fertility. They track down other patients from the clinic—familiar faces from past episodes, including the mother of the kid who tried to drown his sister—establishing that indeed, something is off with the children the clinic helps bring into the world. (This includes Lexis, who had those dangerously sharp teeth, and is now secretly sporting a large tail.)

Kristen, who still has eggs frozen at the clinic, is shocked to discover a random doctor has been paying the annual storage fee; when she confronts the woman, it’s obvious something is up, and nobody’s terribly surprised when the doctor scampers straight to Leland after their meeting. (More surprising: Leland takes the doctor prisoner.) When Kristen demands to transfer her eggs to a less-sinister clinic, she’s horrified to learn that one of the 12 she had preserved has mysteriously gone missing.

Elsewhere in the episode: Sheryl and Leland may have thankfully ended their romance, but their clandestine partnership continues—and levels up when Leland introduces Sheryl to Edward, an “influencer” who’s all too eager to bring Sheryl into the demonic fold.

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/CBS

David finally becomes a priest! Leland worms his way into a gig at the Catholic Church as a psychological assessor, to Kristen’s outraged annoyance! Dr. Boggs, understandably freaking out after witnessing a demon, decides to take a vacation! Sister Andrea cracks the sigil map: “This is a map of 60 demonic houses, all house of Satan, going back 60 decades! They’re like family crests and each house needs to assure its line of succession! Before the master of one house dies, he must guarantee his successor … he needs to be eaten!” Cut to: Sheryl, now officially part of the demonic elite, helping Leland induct a new member by feeding him human flesh! Kristen has an emotional breakdown and confesses to David that she murdered LeRoux! But the most important thing that happens is David and Kristen finally lock lips. She’s married, he’s a priest… what a cliffhanger, season two!

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

Well, while the kiss was real, the subsequent steamy consummation of Kristen and David’s long-festering feelings was actually between David and a succubus disguised as Kristen, something he doesn’t realize at first. Nice bait and switch, Evil.

Meanwhile, Kristen gets a restraining order against Leland, who’s been trying to make contact with Lexis—and keeps trying to, via an online game, not realizing she and her sisters know what he’s up to. Kristen’s oft-absent husband, Andy, returns home permanently, and declares that Sheryl—whose activities with Leland are being kept hidden from Kristen; mother and daughter are back on good terms because of this—must move out of their garage. Furious, she hides her sigil (literally a preserved human head in a jar) under his bed, and when he finds it he flushes it down the toilet. Problems galore will result from both of Andy’s actions.

Image: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

As the episode title suggests, “The Demon of Memes” puts nearly full focus on a topic that frequently creeps into Evil’s plots: the many ways the internet can cause harm. While the main story sees the assessors checking out a supposedly “cursed” viral image that turns out to be an elaborate prank, we also see Leland installing Sheryl—who’s in need of income now that Andy’s kicked her out—as the boss of a tech company serving you-know-who. There’s an excellent scene where Sheryl wonders why Satan’s army needs to put forth such an effort to keep people glued to their screens, and Leland breaks it down. “Trolling is an honored profession,” he explains. “Kill people, take their children—you run the risk of them turning to God … if you give people too much tragedy, they’ll turn to Him. You want to keep them nervous, unbound, focusing on all the bad things in the world. Doomscrolling: where the focus is evil, not good.” (A few episodes down the line, we realize the boss, known only as the Manager, is a giant, hairy, foul-mouthed, five-eyed demon.)

Two other important plot points in this episode: David is recruited to join the Entity, doing cloak-and-dagger stuff for the Vatican; and Andy decides to take one last trip to Nepal. (He’s reluctant, but after flushing that malevolent shrunken head, the plumbing is barely functional, and he and Kristen don’t have the money to fix it.) The twist? The rich client who wants to buy the trekking business is Edward, and while the money may be legit, the “trek” is clearly a front for Sheryl wanting revenge on her son-in-law.

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

While Leland schemes to force Sister Andrea—who’s so close to God she sees angels and demons on a regular basis, an ability that’s also emerging in David—into retirement, the demonic-sigil storyline makes a key advancement. A long-haul trucker’s reports of strange occurrences leads the assessors to the culprit: a man in league with the 60 who’s using drones and freaky radio transmissions to perpetuate online tales of a haunted “Ghost Highway.”

But the case doesn’t end there. David’s Entity contact, LeConte—who brings a bit of X-Files conspiracy flair to everything—materializes to tell him he’s helped “eliminate a demonic family” because the drone operator apparently committed suicide (or was more likely murdered) after the assessors uncovered his operation. David realizes the Entity’s whole deal is holy war: their goal is to wipe out all the demonic families, in order to achieve, as LeConte wryly puts it, “peace on Earth.”

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

This episode is mostly about the team investigating a TikTok-like app after it popularizes videos where kids pretend to be possessed. But we also get the supreme satisfaction of seeing Kristen’s daughters scheme to out Leland as 60-year-old who pretends to be a kid to talk to kids online, which gets him booted from his prized gig behind enemy lines as a church assessor.

Most importantly, we learn why all the video calls Andy’s been making from “the Himalayas” are so glitchy: they’re fake. He’s not thousands of miles away on a high-altitude mountain, he’s awake but medically paralyzed—and being held prisoner by Sheryl and Leland in Leland’s apartment. And, as Sheryl tells him with diabolical glee, he’ll be that way forever: Edward will be calling Kristen soon to deliver the sad news that Andy “died in an avalanche.”

Photo: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

“The Demon of the End” begins on a somber note: after being freed from a Chinese prison, Grace returns to New York under the protection of the Catholic Church. But it’s not enough to shield her from Leland, who goes after her when she makes an enigmatic drawing for Kristen that alludes to Andy’s imprisonment. Grace survives, but Monsignor Korecki, a priest that’s been helping her, is killed—something even she wasn’t able to foresee—and she’s whisked away by the Vatican.

Then, as Edward is Skyping Kristen to let him know of Andy’s untimely demise, Kristen’s daughters use their computer game to discover that Leland is somehow involved—and it’s enough to spook Andy’s captors into letting him go. Kristen is devastated until Andy suddenly appears at their front door with no memory of his ordeal, though something is decidedly off. He’s now seeing demons, for instance.

And about that missing egg. After a false lead, Kristen—who learned in an earlier episode that Leland’s been targeting her all this time because of her connection to RSM Fertility, and because he believes Lexis is a demonic heir—discovers her egg was recently sold. When Kristen goes to the buyer’s address—surprise! It’s Sheryl’s office. In a cross-cut scene, David receives a vision: an angel telling him “38 days… woe to Babylon.” Kristen realizes she’s arrived in the middle of a baby shower for a very pregnant woman (a woman who looks to be due in, oh, 38 days). A look of dread comes over her face as Leland appears, turns to Kristen, and crows, “We’re going to be parents!”

Season four arrives May 23, and there’s already lots in motion—but that Satanic baby is definitely going to lead the charge.

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Cheryl Eddy