Algorithm and Blues: Evil’s app is certainly under the Influence…

'Evil' goes online and viral, but oh, what interwebs we weave when first we practice to deceive?

Kristen, David and Ben are looking into a potential ‘possession’ but when the girl in question keeps posting her perfectly-timed experiences to a social-media platform, the team wonder how much is possession and how much is performance. Their investigation leads them to believe that the girl isn’t faking her traumas, but raises the question of why they are happening… which in turn takes them into the world of social-media and a never-ending spiral of ever more extreme videos. Are they searching the web or is the web searching them?

Elsewhere the Bouchard children, warned of the danger Leland might be to the family, decide to play the nefarious manipulator at his own online game…



The most compelling thing about Evil is how smartly it frames the infernal in recognisable ways. Yes, there’s wicked – even literally demonic – 0fferings but the way it infuses modern maladies and temptations make it more about everyday life rather than the afterlife.

Much has been made about the way that social media affects us without us realising. Free services such as facebook, twitter, instagram and others may be ‘free’ services but while you don’t pay in cash, you do pay in personal information, either in what you freely provide or what can be more worked out: the algorithms behind the platforms consistently looking at what you’re surfing, how often, when and for how long and predicting what you’ll do next. Such information can be used to steer your experience in subtle ways and the information about those habits can be sold on to further the process and benefit others. The sites recommended and the adverts displayed are often particular to you, whether you realise or not.

While investigating a supposed ‘possession’, the team note that the girl in question has perfectly timed videos of herself, the experiences going out on a new app called VidTap  (think TicToc but with more explosive content). It seems that the victim might not be faking, but she is being influenced. But even in raising suspicions, Ben, David and Kristen demonstrate how scarily easy it is for the average person to get sucked down that rabbit-hole and the manipulative problems its leaving in its wake. Ben’s efforts to educate people on how easy it is to fake dangerous stunts produces pages and pages of examples and then a backlash against him, David investigating the blogs of other priests leads to extreme examples and Kristen finds herself making DIT cocktails detailed by desperate mothers needing a break. In each example, the follow-ups become more and more extreme. A tech friend of David’s merely shrugs… can the tech company be held responsible when it’s the user who hesitates or willingly goes down the rabbit-hole, even if the company is holding the travel-guide? That’s one of the real-life quandaries and dilemmas that the show notes so well…

Broadway star Lena Hall takes time off from another hit series, Snowpiercer, to appear as a mother who seems to be terrified about the moving furniture and injuries to her children and who also has video evidence of the events in their home. Ben, however, remains skeptical…

Michael Emmerson’s Leland is the delightful boo-hiss villain of the piece, unapologetically manipulative, with the cold stare of a weasel and the ethics of a scorpion, so it’s great to see him flailing and apoplectic in (momentary) defeat brought on not by Kristen and her colleagues, but the Bouchard children themselves. He has been using the internet as well: creating the friendly ‘piggy’ persona in Bumblebee Valley platform, the avatar-driven children’s chatroom as a way to get the young Bouchards to hurt their mother, without alerting Kristen herself. But Momma Bouchard didn’t raise fools and the sisters have immediately realised what’s happening.  Unbeknownst to Kristen they’ve decided to deal with it all themselves and they take great pleasure in publicly outing ‘Pollie the Pig’  as a 60 year old man pretending to be a littleboy and possibly a paedophile. Seeing him splutter and froth behind the keyboard at the turnaround is pure magic, but even better is to come.  It’s good to see the other foot dropping when it comes to the church’s reaction to Leland’s activities. They’re finally applying the same pro-active, ‘circling of the wagons’ as they did over Sister Andrea – ironically instigated by Leland himself – and they essentially fire him saying that perception is everything and they can’t tolerate the look of impropriety or destabilising behaviour of any kind. When Boris McGiver’s Monsignor Korecki dismisses him Leland says “You’re going to be sorry…” the response is a delightfully wry “It’s a rare day when I’m not“…

While much of the preceding running-time always feels (deliberately) as people falling victim to their own schemes, devices and need for air-time rather than genuine paranormal activity, the last few minutes are genuinely scary. The show makes a habit of regularly writing out Kristen’s husband, the mountain climbing Andy (Patrick Brammall) and in recent episodes we’ve only seen him through the bad-connection to his Himalayan base-camp. We get the reveal in the last few moments that far from being so far away, he’s actually being held by Leland and Sheryl, paralysed in the same side-room and way we saw another hapless vivctuim earlier in the run. Anyone who has ever experienced any form of body-paralysis will tell you how scary that is ad to be effectively tortured emotionally and physically while being so would be a special kind of Hell. It also shows how far Sheryl has fallen. The show seems a little inconsistent with how comfortable Sheryl feels about her actions, but here she’s almost gleeful in the way she boasts how Andy is going to be killed and Kristen will mourn but financially benefit. With this show, we know things often don’t go as planned, but Andy’s fate is very much in the balance and I, for one, want him to survive.

Evil is as evil does, but in its third season (with a fourth confirmed), the show has gone from a guilty pleasure to essential, smart, funny, dramatic and consistently-questioning television…

'Evil S03  Ep06 - The Demon of Algorithms'  (Paramount+ review)
'Evil S03 Ep06 - The Demon of Algorithms' (Paramount+ review)
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