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Evil - 31 October - Review

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1.5 - “31 October”
Written by Dewayne Darian Jones
Directed byTess Malone
Reviewed by KathM

If I thought that I could get away with it, this would be my entire review:

I have seen Leland and Sheryl passionately kiss, and I cannot unsee it.

Nothing else on “31 October” came close to being that terrifying. Even the pretend strip poker...oh no! Now I can see it! I knew Leland had plans to further torment Kristen, but it never occurred to me that he might try to finagle his way into Kristen’s life through her mother. The woman whose granddaughters ask her if she’s drunk because they can’t believe she’s just happy. Can’t wait to see where this one goes.

Tonight each member of the team has their own thing going on: Kristen is taking her screaming horde trick or treating; Ben is playing “guest cynic” in one of those “Ghost Hunter” type shows, and David is attending an exorcism. Oh! And Sheryl, Kristen’s mother, is on a date with a guy who seems strangely up her alley, but is suffering from hiccoughs. Where would you rather spend your Halloween?

There is a focus on Kristen’s girls for part of this episode, and I wonder why. Possibly they needed children because it was Halloween. But still...they just strike me as the most gullible children ever, albeit it the most polite ones. Can you think of any kids who would follow some creepy girl in a mask she won’t remove around their own house without telling them how stupid she is and abandoning her? Particularly a girl they didn't know very well who they hadn't invited in the first place. At least Lexis has some sense, she was uninterested in knowing what was in the hole in their basement Creepy!Brenda found that nobody had never noticed before, or how to kill your mother with poison. Because, yeah. Brenda.

We’ve moved on from the possibly possessed child who may or may have been killed by his parents to an unknown girl in a mask who many or may not be the ghost of a child who was horribly burned by her family. Frankly I think that child darkness should have been better spaced episode-wise, but I liked it. I’m a huge fan of the eerie child, and I actually prefer this one to last week’s version. His story was more was of a November sweeps tale to me, but what can you do? I also love masks; they can scare the crap out of me on-screen, and “Brenda’s” was no different. Those masks were awful in their heyday (you could not breathe in those things, much less see where you were going!), and they have not lost that vibe. If I can’t see facial expressions, I get freaked out.

It seems that “Brenda” is a girl who is new at school and who Kristen has invited over to spend the night with her girls. The horde already have their neighbors coming over to spend the night with them, but Kristen insists. Oh, Kristen! I get your kindness but, really? It’s not fair to any of the kids when you do something like that. The first clue that Brenda is some kind of spectre, obviously, is that she won’t take off her mask. Then she doesn’t know any vaguely ghostly stories like the ones the girls are telling each other, the kind where you want to be scared but not really scared and eat candy and fall into a sugar induced-coma. Brenda has a darker story which has no real ending, a statement about a girl who was locked away by her parents and then set on fire. Her face was horribly damaged, and she’s so scary-looking that she can only go out on Halloween. Can you see where this is going?

Of the three this was my favorite story just because I remember as a child desperately wanting to be scared, Halloween or not. Three of Bouchard horde (minus Lexis, who has distinguished herself by making the decision to stay home and disconnect from the Hive Mind) plus their two friends follow ghost/spectre/ghoul Brenda on a journey to the cemetery where she bullies Laura to jump into an open grave and waits to be buried. I mean, Laura is the most chicken of all of them, I can’t see this happening.

Could it be foreshadowing? Kristen was on the phone earlier in the episode talking about how Laura’s heart condition didn’t show much improvement on her heart valve, so it’s a thought. I'm really looking forward to the episode that addresses Laura's situation. Maybe we have a genuine miracle coming down the pipeline, folks!

Sheryl gets a call while playing virtual "strip poker" with Leland (he plays like he's losing but fortunately doesn't undress) from Brenda's mother. Brenda is ill, you see, and couldn't come over to Chez Bouchard. She is so sorry that she didn't call sooner. Sheryl realizes that there is some stranger hanging out with her grandchildren and calls Kristen. Lexis is snacking in the kitchen and tells Sheryl that the the rest of the gang has gone to the cemetery to play dead. Sheryl, Kristen, and Lexis manage to meet up with the cemetery girls before they "bury" Laura, and Brenda slips away into the ether, her mask gently blowing around the breeze in the cemetery. The last shot, with Brenda walking down the street alone, was great. I just wish she’d been skipping.

Ben met a girl on Twitter! Okay, it wasn’t quite like that, but still. She’s a “Professional Skeptic” on one of those No-Really-This-Place-Is-Haunted-I-Promise “reality shows” that are so popular. This one is called Gotham Ghosts, and tonight they’re going to Runway Dolls. Apparently it’s one of the most haunted strip clubs in New Jersey, and they’re on the lookout for ghostly dancing girls. I can’t say “most haunted strip clubs in New Jersey” without laughing. The show has a guy who leads the “team” of investigators which includes himself, a cameraman, and Vanessa the skeptic. Ben is the special guest on the show, who I think is supposed to be not only more skeptical than Vanessa, but able to debunk everything “paranormal” that the show features.

Ben’s mission was to be Ben, which he did to perfection. He’s tearing down holes in walls showing where cameras were planted in advance by the Gotham gang and telling the viewers that the show is a money-making pile of crap. Go, Ben! But in a moment he doesn’t realize is being recorded, gives a little more personal info than he’d normally share to fellow skeptic and Twitter pal Vanessa. He talks about the “angel” from “177 Minutes” and how he hates that sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t anymore because there is so much technology that can create illusions. Vanessa, who thinks that 95% of the show is BS but there is that 5% they can’t explain, looks like she’s ready for a real conversation when she suddenly cuts him off. Unfortunately, everything is part of the show; the cameraman has been filming and recording everything Ben says. Part of me thinks that she was trying to protect Ben by cutting him off before things got too personal and part of me said she didn’t want to reveal more about herself on camera. I don’t know. At the end of his part of the show, after he’s debunked everything and is getting ready to leave, Vanessa gives Ben her phone number. I’d be careful with that, Ben. Vanessa just rubs me the wrong way.

The exorcism storyline was interesting to me from a, “So, this is how they’re going to do an exorcism on the show” perspective. Caroline has been watched and assessed for several months and despite the Monseigneur's lukewarm approval he wants someone like Kristen there for her input on Caroline's state. I say “like Kristen” because David called Ben first, but he was unavailable as he would be spending the night at a strip club.

Kristen immediately leaves her daughters in the care of her unreliable mother and scurries off to Caroline’s house. Almost immediately David and Kristen clash: he sees a woman tormented by evil spirits, she sees a woman who is seriously ill and needs to be hospitalized immediately. When nobody agrees with her (even Caroline's husband is adamant that she’s possessed and refuses to consider anything else), she calls in Dr. Boggs, her own psychiatrist, to help support Kristen’s story that Caroline is schizophrenic. She also replaces the holy water Father Amara has been using on Caroline and replaces it with tap water to prove that she’s been faking her condition all along. A childish move, if you ask me.

What interested me was the way that this part of the show moved from David and Kristen, the amateurs in the room, to Father Amara and Dr. Boggs, each experts in their field. They dig in their heels and argue that they are right: one believes she is possessed by something otherworldly, the other sure that she’s mentally ill and needs hospitalization. But should not treated by a Catholic doctor, Kristen firmly tells them. Ouch. This is the core of the show, science or something “other”. Dr. Boggs can explain away why Caroline can throw a man across the room if she’s schizophrenic as easily as Father Amara can attest that she’s getting her strength from evil.

One thing I noticed was how everyone talked around Caroline, and not to her. Where was her husband? Shouldn’t be up there, exhausted but still trying to help pull her back from the brink of darkness? They seemed more interested in what she was then who she was.

In the end, Dr. Boggs may have become a believer. Caroline’s sudden connection to David is in parts surprising and terrifying. She talks about the three stars and a Salvator Mundi painting and the 60, and David tries to soothe her and tells her to push the demon out of her. Caroline seems to do this, but not before telling David that Satan wants him on His team. but once she talks to him she’s suddenly cured. So, possession or mental illness? Don’t ask Dr. Boggs, he is completely gobsmacked.

Kristen was gone by the time Caroline began talking to David, and I wonder what she would have thought if she’d seen it. I’d like to know more about Caroline and the first time they (David and Ben) visited her in the months before the current exorcism was being performed. Part of me thinks she might have been on a trip, like David was when he saw the “angels”. An extremely heavy trip. But the fact that she knew about David’s thoughts and dreams makes me wonder. Caroline, can you stop by at some point and share with us a bit more?

PS - I demand that the showrunners provide us with Ben’s Twitter ID immediately. And possibly Sheryl’s. I have Tweeted the request to #EvilCBS and we’ll see what happens.

PPS - Did you know that the mask Michael Meyers wears in “Halloween” is based on William Shatner’s face?

PPPS - I wonder what happened to Leland three years ago? Leland told Sheryl that something happened three years ago that changed him. True or false?

PPPPS - Note to Producers: The sunglasses worn by the "not possessed" in Caroline's room detracts from the seriousness of the situation and made me think of the Blues Brothers.

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