December 1, 2019

THE CULTURE WARS ARE A ROUT:

SUPERNATURAL DRAMA 'EVIL' PROVIDES NO EASY ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS OF FAITH, REASON, AND THE NATURE OF EVIL (Michael F. Pettinger, 10/30/19, Religion Dispatches)

 As the two of them spar over questions of faith and reason it feels like a spiritual striptease, with each character becoming increasingly vulnerable. It would be easy to supply rationalizations were Bouchard and Acosta to give in to the resulting mutual attraction. They're both attractive, her husband is AWOL, Acosta hasn't yet taken a vow of celibacy. Would it be so wrong?

That question exemplifies the lines Evil draws between the familiar situations of day-to-day life and the inscrutable, possibly cosmic, roots of evil and suffering. If the Church is just another, deeply flawed, employer, then the flirtation between Acosta and Bouchard might be just another workplace romance frowned upon by HR. In this context, however, it might be a weak spot ripe for diabolical exploitation. An apparent resurrection might be an unexpected artifact of unconscious systemic racism; a Boss-from-Hell might in fact be under the influence of a devil. The mysteries of digital technology and the Internet give grim plausibility to what once seemed like obvious paranoia. Is the voice coming from that virtual assistant an impersonal algorithm, a malicious hacker, or something worse? The serial killer might not be possessed, but what if the person chatting with him on 4chan is? The line between the human and the demonic is a fuzzy one, particularly in the case of Bouchard's professional rival, Leland Townsend. His description of the eventual fate of a teenage boy he hopes to have tried and convicted as an adult is so monstrous and yet so utterly convincing that even hardened skeptics might ask whether possession isn't a real possibility.

Whether it's the mysteries of technology or the inscrutable malice of the people around us, Evil explores the individual's sense of powerlessness. However problematic, the Catholic Church, as represented by Acosta, Bouchard, and Shakir, is proffered as hope when scientific reason offers little. As one woman explains, she and her family "aren't good Catholics," but she's called upon the Church because she's exhausted every other option in dealing with a nine-year-old son whose behavior, whether psychopathic or demonic, is terrorizing his family. Believers or not, viewers can't help but hope that Acosta, Bouchard, and Shakir will succeed in helping. It's to the show's credit that it offers no false assurance that they will. By the end of the fourth episode, the team of investigators have, at best, a 50% success rate. Ultimately, the fear that inspires Evil is that they, and the deeply flawed Church for which they work, will fail.

Posted by at December 1, 2019 8:33 AM

  

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