“A Is For Angel” raises some meaty philosophical debate as it turns out angels might be just as worrying as demons.
This recap of Evil season 2, episode 2, “A Is For Angel”, contains spoilers.
You know where you stand with angels and demons. Well, you thought you did, anyway – Evil has other ideas. But the good and evil binary has served us well in popular media for ages. Angels, with their halos and wings, are good; demons, with their hooves and horns, are bad. As it turns out, though, everything even adjacent to organized religion is just bad, period. You’re no better off being possessed by an angel than you are by a demon, and God’s inscrutable plan seems intent on a large amount of suffering either way. This is what makes Evil such a good show, and “A Is For Angel” such a good episode. It contorts and upends everything that’s supposed to be sacrosanct about religious horror. Encounters with archangels play out like ones with hellspawn. The client of the week is behaving weirdly and performing dastardly acts because an angel told him to, on behalf of the big man upstairs. You just don’t know whether you’re coming or going.
It obviously isn’t revelatory to suggest that anyone can obsess over anything, and that “living biblically” in 2021 probably isn’t a good idea, without any supernatural influence at all. But it’s the show’s cynic nonbeliever, Kristen, who gives voice to the idea of angels not being all they’re cracked up to be, and organized religion being a wee bit hypocritical. Sodom and Gomorrah, anyone? Again, this isn’t revelatory, but the challenging of the usual rhetoric and the inversion of the usual imagery is good value. Twice, David is confronted by the Archangel Michael, a horrific-looking visage who basically explains to him that so-called “rebirth” can only really occur on the ruins of destruction and that God, in His infinite wisdom, decides what’s just or not. The decision seems a bit arbitrary, which is obviously the point.
This validates Kristen dunking on the church, as is her way, but she’s particularly interested in the moral question that arises from it. See, Raymond, the guy who is supposedly “possessed” by an angel, believes that God is working through him to enact vengeance. His escalating acts of altruism eventually culminate in him pulling a family from a burning car, but leaving one relative, the uncle, to fry for over a minute before eventually pulling him to safety. When this is brought up to him, he reveals that the uncle had been abusing his niece and that God had instructed him to punish the man so he would never be able to do so again. And David, as a dedicated holy man, has some religious justification for this type of thing, which he’d better have since the bible is full of it. But the implication is that violent acts can be vindicated just so long as they’re committed in the prevention of a greater evil. Is there a better justification for Kristen killing LaRoux?
Of course, and as ever, Evil season 2, episode 2 provides a potentially rational explanation for Raymond’s behavior – he wears a scopolamine patch to help with vertigo while operating cranes – and leaves the characters and the audience to both debate over what’s what. The show’s really at its best when it’s delighting in this philosophical middle ground, but it’s also first-rate when it’s letting Leland be absolutely awful, which makes up a good amount of “A Is For Angel”. He’s determinedly winding up both David, by forcing him to hear his “confession” and then talking at length about a woman named Julia, and Sheryl, whom he spends virtually the entire episode spitefully breaking up with. There are some zingers in Leland’s various run-ins with the latter – “Take your dried up little ovaries and drag them back under the rock you came from” – as well as some leading comments about dating demons, so I can’t imagine we’ve heard the last of these disagreements, but it’s the David stuff that really sticks, in part because it seems like the church are perfectly willing to force him into being mugged off at a moment’s notice, but also because it teams him up with Sister Andrea, whose well-trained nose smells the evil emanating from Leland immediately. Blimey, it’s a lot, isn’t it?
But it’s all so good! Evil season 2, episode 2 is pretty much a how-to manual for making overly-familiar religious horror interesting again, full of awesome guest stars, meaty debate, crackling dialogue, and a genuine sense that it could be heading anywhere. Just buckle up for the ride.