Evil creators unpack Kristen's corruption in the finale: 'There's an optimism in the end'
Michelle and Robert King discuss the similarities between Kristen and The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick, and how the concept of death figures into season 2.
Warning: This article contains spoilers from the season 1 finale of Evil, “Book 27.”
Is there hope for Kristen after the Evil season 1 finale?
The metaphysically minded drama’s season ender heavily implied that Kristen (Katja Herbers) killed the newly freed serial killer Orson LeRoux (Darren Pettie), who started harassing her and her children. After discovering a gift basket Orson left inside her home while her kids were sleeping, Kristen determinedly pulled out a climbing axe and seemed intent on taking decisive action. The next time we saw her she had a drop of blood on her leg, and then Det. Mira Byrd (Kristen Connolly) called to tell her Orson was dead.
But Evil, as it is wont to do, took things a step further, and weirder: As the episode ended, Kristen picked up a cross stashed in her bathroom and it burned her, suggesting that the Devil is starting to possess her (or she has a very guilty conscience). A worried look flashed across her face right as the scene cut to black.
In other words, the hour cleverly reframed the entire season as being about the slow corruption of Kristen, who also received a dream-time visit from Leland’s demon therapist at the beginning of the episode. Moreover, it seems as though David (Mike Colter) is at least subconsciously aware of Kristen’s walk on the dark side because he had a vision of her walking toward Leland’s demon therapist in a cornfield.
But there’s a chance Kristen isn’t too far gone, according to Evil creators Robert and Michelle King. Read our interview with the Kings below for insight on Kristen’s surprising arc and how it compares of The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), David’s monologue about faith, and how season 2 will explore death. Plus, watch an exclusive behind-the-scenes video above.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: After walking this fine line between scientific and supernatural explanations for the various happenings in season 1, it seems as though the finale confirmed that there is indeed something supernatural going on. Was that the intention?
ROBERT KING: Can I say yes with a caveat? I do think the show starts with the idea that science is bizarre, and one of the things we were looking at in the writers’ room was science of stigmata. Stigmata are where, scientifically, people can have bleeding wounds on their wrists that imitate where Christ’s hands were nailed to the cross; it feels like there’s a psychological state that can create external evidence. So I will say this: We don’t want to come down 100 percent one side or the other because we want the science to be honored, but there is a science about an external evidence that reflects an internal state of mind. But again, we don’t want to say that and then undercut what I think is dramatically interesting about the supernatural in the episode too.
But we now have four characters who have seen Leland’s demon therapist: Leland [Michael Emerson], Kristen, Kristen’s daughter Lexis [Maddy Crocco], and David.
MICHELLE KING: Hallucinations are a funny business.
ROBERT: [Laughs] I think what we want to do is chew that next year. Is that the Devil? Again, we don’t want to undercut the drama of the moment by saying it’s metaphor because it’s just not metaphor. It is real, but how much of it is a demon character influencing everybody’s mind and influencing everybody’s dream life, and how much is he real, I guess is what we’re saying.
This finale heavily implies that Kristen killed Orson, and with David’s visions, reveals that this season was about the slow corruption of Kristen. That arc reminded me of Alicia Florrick’s arc on The Good Wife, which you referred to as a tragedy. What went into plotting Kristen’s journey and ending in this place where she seemingly murdered someone?
MICHELLE: Or to put it in another way, that she protected her daughters.
ROBERT: [Laughs] Right, we’re looking at how mothering can creep over into villainy because mothering involves protectiveness. In many ways, I think there’s an optimistic version of Alicia Florrick in this episode because there’s an awareness that Kristen has early on. That last look in the mirror is not someone saying, “Okay, I’m possessed. F— it, I’m gonna dive in.” There’s a real sense of “Oh s—.” I think that has enough sense of self-reflection that you can pull yourself out of it. I think there’s optimism in the end. But you’re right, I think Michelle and I are probably interested in the same kind of tragedies — the tragedy of people who start out as highly moral and then, often for the most moral reasons, corrupt themselves. We find that going through The Good Fight, too. Clearly, it is this idea that you have to often watch out for the people that hold themselves up as moral absolutes because there is, underneath it, something that is going to push them to the dark side.
Was this part of your original construction for the season, or did you discover it along the way?
ROBERT: We thought this was something we were going to go toward in the second season and third, if there was going to be a second or third. When we started the show, we thought there was going to have to be something where the lead character found herself being influenced by the darker elements that she’s confronting. I think the only twist is that we didn’t think we’d get there so early.
My favorite scene in the episode is the one between David and Kristen in which David uses a Shakespeare quote to explain why he values religion. Why was it important to have that moment in the finale?
MICHELLE: I think it’s really embroidering on the theme we’ve had since the beginning, which is these two people do not share the same philosophy but there’s a tremendous amount of respect. So we wanted to give an opportunity to hear exactly what it is that moves David, and do it in a way that is powerful and makes a lot of sense. To have him quote Shakespeare, who sort of qualifies as a secular saint, could potentially speak to the part of the audience that doesn’t come from faith.
ROBERT: For me, this is probably the monologue in all of the episodes that most reflects my point of view, which is I don’t know how else to handle the concept of death. How else does one handle it except to think that the soul — or even if you worry “soul” is too religious, the spirit of someone, what makes them essentially who they are — does that just disappear? I think that is just a fascinating dilemma you don’t often find dealt with in TV.
Looking ahead to the second season, how do you plan on delving into that dilemma?
ROBERT: I think the difficulty is TV deals with status quo; you want to keep returning to the status quo each year. What we’ve been doing since Good Wife is that when you break the status quo — when you either fire Cary Agos [Matt Czuchry] or kill Will Gardner [Josh Charles] — you actually create true drama. Not drama that is recyclable the way TV does, but you bring in real-world concerns and events. So I think the second season is going to be dealing with some death. Now, that is not really what you put on the poster to bring people in. [Michelle laughs] But if we’re just talking as writers, you know, death is an interesting part of life, and I think so much of our entertainment just pushes it aside because everybody loves a little bit of a song and a dance, but there is a sense we’re dancing around the edge of a grave. [Laughs]
The finale also revealed that the demons/psychopaths may be messing with this fertility clinic. Can you tell us about what you had in mind there and how that might figure into the show going forward?
MICHELLE: The sense is that if you do believe in Satan, why wouldn’t they try to corrupt human beings as fetuses? Why wait for the fun until they’re actually on the earth?
ROBERT: We wanted the clues of the year to lead toward this. You know, the demon child born in the cornfield or that crouching boy who looks like a vulture in David’s vision — all of these elements of the weeds that are being dispersed among the good seeds. We just kind of wanted the audience to think that the kids were irrelevant to the show, but in fact that the catching of innocence is the real thrust of the show in many ways, at least the first season of it. The thing that corrupts Kristen is the sense that she has to protect it.
I’ll admit I haven’t been able to figure out what the episode title puzzle. Is there a clue you can share?
ROBERT: It’s tied to the puzzle pieces in the episode. The numbers don’t mean anything on their own. It needs to be tied to the puzzle pieces. If it’s solved, it leads to the clue that informs what next season will be about.
What else can you tease about season 2?
ROBERT: I think we underplayed Ben this year, because Ben is a fascinating character, as is [Aasif Mandvi] as an actor. I think we’re going to meet his father [next season]. We’re definitely going to continue the relationship [between Ben and Vanessa, played by Nicole Shalhoub]. As someone who is scientifically based, how do you deal with a girlfriend who really thinks that she needs to detach herself from a phantom sister? There’s a town upstate New York that deals with psychic phenomenon and fortune telling, so to see Ben go to this place with his girlfriend to try and solve it is kind of funny to us. Most of it will be things that bring Ben a little bit more to the forefront.