Evil Season 4 Review: The Best Streaming Horror Series Remains Grotesque And Hilarious In Its Final Season

One of the best, and rarest, feelings one can experience as a TV viewer is to watch a show and get the distinct feeling that its creators are getting away with something. That they're pushing buttons that someone asked them to avoid. That they're crafting imagery that's going to haunt and unsettle. That they're using a medium commonly associated with comfort and passivity to infuriate, baffle, and intrigue.

And across its four seasons, "Evil" has always felt just like that. Its first season, which aired on CBS, was a "Hannibal"-sized middle finger to decency and typical television sensibilities (that should be read as high praise). Later seasons moved to Paramount+, where the streaming wild west allowed showrunners Robert and Michelle King to really let their freak flag fly. The duo best known for "The Good Wife" were allowed to take every rule they learned while crafting a reliable network procedural and grind them into ooze. The result was not only the best horror TV show of the past five years, but an all-timer of a series that feels unlike anything else ever made for the small screen.

But all good things must come to an end. Thankfully, if the episodes of "Evil" season 4 provided to critics ahead of the premiere on Paramount + are any indication, the show will go out being its best self: grotesque, hilarious, unusual, and utterly terrifying.

Evil's ludicrous charm remains intact in season 4

Even as the larger mythology and mind-shredding details of the "Evil" universe have expanded over the years, the four episodes of season 4 I have seen still understand the core appeal of the show: the inherent joy of watching people who are good at their jobs doing them well. And in this case, it's always a joy to hang out with Catholic Church assessors Kristen, David, and Ben as they investigate the supernatural, always with uncertain and disconcerting results. Katja Herbers, Mike Colter, and Aasif Mandvi have showcased a strong chemistry since moment one, but the years have seen it evolve. Now, they practically finish each other's sentences — battle-scarred veterans in the war against evil, whether it be mystical or mundane (on that front, they still frequently disagree).

If that half of "Evil" continues to mine dreadful joy by twisting the seemingly typical procedural set-up until it bleeds, the most ostentatiously freaky half of the show continues its glorious descent into madness. Leland (still played with that trademark punchable smart by the great Michael Emerson) continues his methodical quest to systematically destroy society as we know it, with ongoing frenemy Sheryl (Christine Lahti, sinking her teeth into the material) finally declaring war on her demon-obsessed mentor/boss/former lover. That "Evil" still doesn't let know how much of their mission is literal and how much of it is razor sharp parody (or is it both?) remains part of the show's ludicrous charm.

Evil season 4 is, more than ever, a show about the Hell of modern existence

Like "The X-Files," to which "Evil" owes a clear debt of gratitude, the series continues to blend its singular adventures with ongoing mythology. Each episode stands alone, telling a complete story, while furthering all overarching narratives. That the series remains true to this reliable structure while feeling so stylistically bold and narratively off-kilter is a testament to how the Kings and their team balance what should be an unwieldy structure — this is a series that looks and feels unlike anything else on TV or streaming, but the bells and whistles are attached to a foundation that proves television foundations remain strong. No one needs to reinvent what's worked for decades when these formats are flexible enough to completely transform, provided those calling the shots have an actual vision.

Even when it's dealing with monsters and demons and otherworldly portals, "Evil" keeps one foot firmly planted in reality. Not because the show is ashamed of horror (on the contrary, it's as gooey and upsetting as it's ever been), but because the series has always planted even the most outrageous horror concepts in a field primed for sheer terror: life in the 21st century. Past seasons used "ripped from the headlines" storres as fertile ground for tales of the supernatural, and season 4 doesn't let up, with early episodes exploring concepts like "what if a large hadron collider opened a portal to Hell?" and "What happens when sinister forces with demonic intent hack robotic drones?" Like the best of "Evil," these storylines typically conclude with an ellipsis rather than a proper conclusion, with the characters seeing what they want to see in the fruits of their investigation.

That's what "Evil" has always done well, and what separates it from anything else on television. It's not a show about rising above the discomforts and agonies of life in 2024, but a show about the confusion and horror of living in an age where every given moment is dominated by an uneasy sense of not knowing. We all define evil in our own way, and something hairy and horned from the depths of Hell is just as horrifying as an act of barbarity committed by someone all-too-human.

We'll never see another TV show like Evil again

Let's not at like "Evil" is a show that's not above simple pleasures. As stimulating and engaging as its intentionally obfuscated blend of horror and social commentary remains, this is still a show that understands the joy of an actor in a monster suit lurking in the shadows, or a well-executed gore gag. But when "Evil" isn't being the gnarliest, scariest show out there, it's being the funniest, rotating between slapstick, dry wit, and scathing satire. The blend of tones, all adding to a general sense of unease where even the most awful reveal feels both possible and inevitable, best recalls something like "Twin Peaks." It's a good feeling when television so accessible also feels so dangerous.

So, "Evil" ending is bittersweet. I could've watched another 100 episodes of this show, but I'm glad to see it concluding before it ran out of ideas, before it had a change to grow soft and complacent, before it felt the nerve to explain too much or water down its creatures and give up on its goofier aspects. When someone writes a book about the history of television, "Evil" deserves a chapter. Mainly because no one, and I mean no one, has ever made another show that feels quite like this one. And it's hard to imagine we'll see its like again anytime soon.

/News Rating: 9 out of 10

"Evil" season 4 premieres on Thursday, May 23, 2024 on Paramount+.