Review: 'Evil' is darker, sexier and more glorious after move to Paramount+

Something wicked this way comes.

Horror drama "Evil," which premiered eons ago (actually, fall 2019) on CBS, has never been shy about showing its title trait.

In its long-awaited return (now streaming on Paramount+), the series about investigators of religious and paranormal phenomena leans even further to the dark side. And it's all the more deliciously entertaining for it.

Fans who have waited won't be disappointed by the second season (episodes streaming weekly on Sundays, ★★★½ out of four), which is comfortingly familiar but also darker, sexier and more ambitious. Yes, there's freedom to use profanity, graphic horror and even nudity on a streaming service that it couldn't on CBS, but "Evil" Season 2 doesn't really need it. The show, created by Robert and Michelle King ("The Good Wife"), naturally levels up in the new episodes, deepening its characters and the big life questions the scripts routinely ask.

Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard in "Evil."
Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard in "Evil."

Season 1 ended on a cliffhanger that suggested its heroine, Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), was possessed by a demon. She picked up a rosary and it burned a cross into her skin. The finale also implied that she murdered psychotic killer Orson LeRoux (Darren Pettie), who wormed his way out of prison on a technicality and threatened to kill her four young daughters.

It would be wrong to say the four episodes made available for review provide unequivocal answers about what happened to Kristen. But they move the more serialized, big-picture elements of the series forward while retaining the mystery-of-the-week drama, from a potential possession by an avenging angel to a little girl who mysteriously causes fires.

Aasif Mandvi as  Ben Shakir, Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard, Mike Colter as David Acosta and Peter Scolari as Bishop Thomas Marx in "Evil."
Aasif Mandvi as Ben Shakir, Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard, Mike Colter as David Acosta and Peter Scolari as Bishop Thomas Marx in "Evil."

But when Kristen, along with priest-in-training David Acosta (Mike Colter) and tech expert Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi), resumes looking into religious events on behalf of the Catholic Church, there is a tension and urgency that wasn't there before.

Ben suspects Kristen of LeRoux's murder and questions his previously firm skepticism of all things supernatural and religious. David is haunted by his visions of Kristen and the devil, and tries ever more desperately to speak to God. He is still pursuing that whole priesthood thing, although he's not exactly a model seminary student. And Kristen, well, she's not quite the Kristen we know and love, possessed or not.

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"Evil" is the rare kind of show that can easily survive both a long hiatus and a move to a new platform without missing a beat. The cast remains sharp and well connected, even as the characters' stories move them apart. The new episodes, like the last of Season 1, lean more into the horror genre, with big scares and psychological discomfort. Michael Emerson, who does wicked work as antagonist Leland Townsend – a psychopath possibly in league with the devil – is at his creepy best, more overtly evil than ever. Christine Lahti also continues to shine as Kristen's mother, Sheryl, who is drawn into her daughter's mystical world

Michael Emerson as Leland Townsend in "Evil."
Michael Emerson as Leland Townsend in "Evil."

Despite its generally pessimistic outlook on humanity and the state of the world, "Evil" maintains a sense of fun and thrill in its new season. While the Kings clearly believe there is a lot of evil out there (so, so much evil), they also never lose the inherent excitement of discovery and investigation as the mysteries unfold.

If the world is going to hell in a handbasket, we might as well enjoy the journey down.

More on Paramount+: The 40 best TV shows to watch including 'Freaks and Geeks,' 'Evil'

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Evil' Season 2 review: Darker, sexier on Paramount+

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