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Evil: How to Dance in Three Easy Steps

“It’s a metanarrative. I’m evoking the tropes of the genre to ask questions of the genre.”

This episode was, perhaps unwittingly, extremely meta, just like Dr. Boggs’s novel. What do I mean? Let’s start with AOLs.

David, like most of us, suffers from too many “AOLs,” which are “analytical overlays” that present us from truly understanding a thing. (It’s an actual term in the remote-viewing and psychic communities, according to Google.) Although his AOLs made it hard for him to remotely-view what Father Dominic wanted, David was triggered into a non-analytical fugue state during the exorcism, allowing him to see the missionaries in Ethiopia. What prompted his mental shift? Was it the anti-demon element of the exorcism, or the prayer, or the state of total concentration?

I want it to be the line in the exorcism about being overcome by the “noonday demon,” because that’s often associated with the sin of accedia, which can be translated as useless busyness, the “filler episode” elements of our lives that we get too caught up in, like AOLs. Or like creating a show that refuses to move past its case-of-the-week structure even with the apocalypse looming.

I’m pretty sure I’m doing what one former professor of mine called a “strong reading of the text” that “reads against the grain,” but I’ll just also mention that this episode has so many references to the difficulty of artistic creation. The main plot focuses on a dance troupe that must be miserable to be great. Or Dr. Boggs, whose novel may be a chaotic mess, and who can’t write without some demonic influence. Is his line above about his novel being a metanarrative, a subtle nod that this show, like his novel, isn’t quite making progress with its goals? In doing too much, it sometimes doesn’t do enough? That we should at least be happy it wasn’t generated by teenagers with access to AI?

Truthfully, I doubt the show intends to imply that it knows it’s doing busywork but not moving at pace towards any sort of reasonable apocalyptic goal. But who knows?

The case of the week was more interesting to me than the faux cross we saw last week. Katherine, a dancer, apparently killed her children. She definitely seemed to be possessed, and during the exorcism, the demon claimed that “Hell has opened up.” Katherine died, so we don’t get much more information than that about hell, which I continue to assume is located underneath the particle accelerator.

We do, however, get the return of the sigil map, which always makes me think of Alias. Katherine was marked with a sigil of a necromantic community that had been destroyed for years. Well, I guess not. Does that mean that old evil is coming back? Or that the church was wrong about them being stamped out?

There’s also the unexpected queer B-plot as Kristin continues to fail to think about what is happening in her marriage. In the previous episode, Kristin’s friend Yasmine implied that Kristin dated a few women before Andy, which I guess lays the groundwork for the sexual frisson between Kristin and Isabella, the tall dancer. (Check out David’s face in the screencap below!)

Is this just a flirtation to avoid dealing with her marriage? We’ve seen Kristin tempted before. Does it imply a link between queerness and evil things? I certainly hope not. The forest revelry seemed more Dionysian than demonic, even if it was meant to enact vengeance: “you just surrender to your body’s desires” isn’t the worst advice in the world after a tough day.

Is it feminism? After an awkward team meeting, Kristin pointed out how many women they’ve exorcised rather than men. Is it because women are more sensitive, as David said? Or because, as Kristin retorted, “When women go against their accepted roles, the church labels them as possessed or witches”? (This can also be read as another meta-moment, as the show points out its own gender imbalance to critique the genre.)

Isabella was clearly manipulative, but so was Megan, who wound up being demonic. Both David (at the staged performance) and Kristin (in the forest) saw the woman in white. Angel? Harbinger? Wilkie Collins novel? I suspect we’ll see her again, and I'm excited by the implication of stuff actually happening.

Too Many AOLs:
  • Choreographer: “A priest? I love you guys. Ritual. Incense. The robes. Oh my god, so theatrical.”
  • Choreographer, again: “If people want to dance for fun they should do Zumba at the Y.”
  • Dr. Boggs was (for a moment) trending higher than Taylor Swift and Elon Musk.
  • I hadn’t realized that Sheryl wasn’t totally aware of what Leland had programmed Andy to do. I hope she does even more damage to him, and maybe plays an important role in triumphing over evil by the end.
  • David’s remote viewing is starting to turn into a version of telekinesis. Are the two Schrodinger universes merging together?
Four out of four tarantellas, because this episode doesn’t answer all of the questions it raises, and that’s a good thing.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. And I am again getting frustrated with this show. There's something about Evil that makes me wonder if I'm just not smart enough to understand what's going on.

    Although I love your reviews, Josie. :)

    This episode's message in the credits is "How to stop the haunting... show the intro to someone else."

  2. I don't think you're missing anything, Billie. You've reviewed so many shows with really strong multi-season arcs (Lost, Breaking Bad) and really strong seasonal arcs (Buffy, etc). This show isn't very good at maintaining arc consistency, which makes things seem more confusing than they actually are, because we always know so much more than the characters.


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