This Evil review contains spoilers.
Evil Season 2 Episode 8
What was she thinking? Why did she do that? Does she really say that? You will find yourself asking these and other questions about Dr. Kristen Brouchard (Katja Herbers) on Evil season 2. Episode 8, “B Is for Brain.” The episode is about a machine at the center of a Cornell University study. It measures and records everything going on in someone’s mind when they are too zonked out to block things. But Kristen has too many secrets, and far too much on her mind to let an EMF-on-steroids machine take notes, and it might be driving her insane.
It’s not that we don’t get it. As a matter of fact, I was surprised the people in line behind Kristen didn’t applaud when she went upside the head of a grocery checkout line cutter. Kristen is repressing something almost every minute of every day. She’s been functioning as a single mom, and now that her husband’s back, it’s just another fork grinding in the garbage disposal of the cacophony of her daily life. Of course, her kids can’t be expected to talk one at a time at any time, and yes, it is a brilliant idea to make them take a breath of helium between sentences. But they probably should take a lesson from last week’s episode, “S Is for Silence.” It was golden, Kristen had a good time, she didn’t have to worry about what she said.
Kristen’s sex life is pretty crazy too, and she’s got a mad collection of toys in the attic. Gags, animal masks, and stovetop crucifix wounds, which give Evil its first taste of body horror, make for a great coming home bash for her husband, Andy (Patrick Brammall). Kristen has been pushing herself on many levels this season, and stretching boundaries as far as her psychoanalytic mind will allow her. She’s been jonesing for dangerous sex. A lifetime of regulation marriage sex, standard issue even by mountain climber standards, is a fractious encroachment on sanity. At least Kristen can agree with her mother on one thing. It’s his fault, and it’s maddening enough for afternoon gaslighting. She’s just looking for a match.
But Kristen is also holding something else back, and we finally get the full blow-by-blow in “B Is for Brain.” T is also for temporoparietal lobes, and when hers get aroused it is enough it can’t be contained in one psyche. It is so significant that both she and David Acosta (Mike Colter) have to share it as a religious vision. When confronted by an illusion of the truth, Kristen takes all the guilt which comes from getting away with murder, pushes it into a little ball, and tries to use it to get away with more. One dismissive definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome, and Kristen is crazy enough to make an end run on the cycle. She goes to her therapist in the mecha-augmented reality, and tells him what she thinks he wants her to hear. She does the same in her real reality, and her takeaway might be a breakdown.
The illusion is the solution. Kristen knows this as well as Leland Townshend (Michael Emerson), who is incapable of deluding Sister Andrea (Andrea Martin), the clearest visionary on the series. Sister Andrea is a force of nature, and the scene between her and Leland is one of the tensest of the series. It’s all done with acting, and a little footwork. But Sister Andrea sees through everything. There is a very real possibility Kristen’s illusion will be shattered, and the people she is closest to will have to deal with the broken pieces. Much like David concludes at the end of the episode that the god helmet is too tight a fit for the minds of the Vatican College, Kristen resists the study. She agrees with the findings, but they are too relevant to her. She shuts out the idea before she even walks into the room.
When the three members of the assessment team are taking in the testimony of the people who underwent the temporal lobe manipulation, their expressions are very telling about the characters, and how they are judging the results. Ben (Aasif Mandvi) is held in rapt attention. He sees something in their stories which fascinates him with possibilities. He may have to debunk those options in the near future, but his expression says he is hungry for the details. David looks like he’s peering into the naked essence of the person in front of him. He isn’t looking to poke holes in the stories, but he is invested, personally, in what the meanings are. We can see him actively searching for something uniquely special.
Kristen offers the subjects a look of beneficent indulgence. She is also very quick to judge the outcomes as being skewered by the church’s intent and, at the end of the episode, gives medical assent. She sees the religious visions as collateral to the overall therapeutic value. Kristen is the most resistant. Ben is the most eager to go along for the ride. “A chance to see god and Keith Moon,” he enthuses while the EMF meters are being spirit glued to his temples. “How could I pass that up?” It takes a mother of a toll. Mandvi may have to trade in his comic actor card after this scene. There is no trace of funny business in it.
Ben has been undergoing the most traumatic arc of the season, and Mandvi should be up for some kind of dramatic acting recognition. He pushes emotions through his eyes into the pupils of the viewer. In this episode he does it with goggles on. His projection is amazing, and while this scene isn’t his most subtle, it is the most glaring. David Acosta’s Ben has an invitational presence, informed by an assured trust in his beliefs, and the intelligence to back the trust. The highly-educated Ben is willing to toss intelligence away for a more revelatory emotional truth. He trusts he will not be wiped clean of his accumulated knowledge, and here he lets faith shake the shit out of him. Kristen remains unshakable, possibly psychopathically so.
When Kristen is first strapped into the headgear, she doesn’t get a reading and immediately comes to the conclusion she “doesn’t have a soul.” She is being facetious, but personal soul-searching is what scares her the most. She doesn’t want to look at herself, much less through David’s eyes. It is like Spock looking at Medusan ambassador Kollos on the Star Trek episode “Is There in Truth No Beauty?.” All that ugliness can drive someone to madness.
Is Kristen crazy enough to admit to murder? Is it insane to want to confess to it? Is contrition a placebo? Kristen is making Luciferian decisions with a therapeutic mind, and the church is doing the same for possible conversion. David deliberates the benefits of technology and it burns out regions in his brain. Evil continues to blur the mental with etheric supplementals. “B Is for Brain” presents a fundamental. Don’t think too much. It can drive you nuts.
Evil airs Sundays on Paramount+.