Evil bosses explain how they made the silent episode, tease Kristen's perverse future
Evil (TV series)
Warning: The following contains spoilers from Sunday's midseason premiere of Evil.
David (Mike Colter), Kristen (Katja Herbers), and Ben (Aasif Mandvi) couldn't speak in Evil's midseason premiere because doing so would, according to the monks at this silent monastery, free a demon caged on the premises. Of course, you know that means someone did speak — but no could've predicted what happened next.
Titled "S is for Silence," the spooky Paramount+ drama's return saw the team travel to a silent monastery to examine the corpse of Father Thomas, which hadn't decayed after year. While David and Ben investigated this potential miracle, Kristen got drunk with a nun named Fenna (Alexandra Socha) because the monks sidelined her for being a woman. That night, Kristen broke the rules and said "boo" at the overbearing statues that filled the tiny room she was staying in. And then suddenly the box holding the demon burst open, causing a panic on the grounds.
Fenna and several monks suddenly started writhing in pain and developed marks on their bodies that looked like demonic sigils — except they weren't. After a quick Google search, Ben discovered that the marks were actually the place where botflies — which were housed both in the box and the crypt where the corpse was being held before it was moved upstairs — burrowed into people's bodies.
Beyond Kristen's rebellious "boo," there were only two other instances of dialogue in the episode and the rest of the hour was completely silent, which is an impressive feat for any TV show. After watching the installment, EW spoke to showrunner Michelle and Robert King, who co-wrote the episode, and asked them how they pulled it off.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What inspired you guys to do a silent episode?
MICHELLE KING: Well, I'll give you the backstory, which is Robert has wanted to do a silent episode of some show for years [on] Good Wife, Good Fight, Evil, and he kept getting pushed off by the rest of us.
What was holding it back? Was it the fact that you couldn't find a good in-story justification for the silence?
MICHELLE: I think it was that, and it's also having engines for the silence so the silence didn't seem irrelevant. It seemed essential to the nature of it. It was, I think, a two-step process. One was [co-executive producer Davita Scarlett's] idea and I don't know where the other idea came from. It could have come from us or from [writer-producer Aurin Squire], but the first idea is a silent retreat, or a silent monastery where our people have to be quiet. But the other is if any word is spoken, that this demon will escape. Suddenly that became the engine, because then suddenly the silence made sense and wasn't just an affectation.
At one point, Evil's second season was supposed to air on CBS. Did you encounter any obstacles from the relevant stakeholders when you pitched this?
MICHELLE: No, there wasn't. There perhaps should have been, [Laughs] but no, they embraced it. They said, "That sounds tough, but go for it." They could not have been more enthusiastic about the script and the episode.
ROBERT KING: They were very kind to us to experiment, I think because they see it result in some good things ion The Good Fight. Evil is this bizarre, supernatural but not supernatural. I think sometimes it's beyond the usual scripts that they go for, so they allow, I think, some taking chances.
In both writing and directing this episode, did you look past examples of silent episodes for examples? Like Mr. Robot did one, as did Buffy.
ROBERT: We watched Mr. Robot, which I hadn't seen before, and we watched BoJack Horseman, which I had seen and watched again. I'd forgotten the Buffy one, so we didn't watch that. I think all those told us was that it's pretty darn difficult, and how do you keep a story going? Obviously the heist part of Rififi, which was all in silence, probably we went a little bit back to John Huston, who has wonderful silent sequences. I've always been a fan of what Buster Keaton did. You're looking at the shows that had the least number of title cards and just how did they do it? Our version of the title cards was the magic slates that they're writing on. We wanted to reduce the number of those.
Katja told me she had a lot of fun playing drunk Kristen. Did you give her any guidance for how to do that?
ROBERT: You know what? She is so comedic in spirit, I think we could only ruin it by suggesting things. I think what was really good was she really embraced the actress who played Fenna, Alexandra Socha. Both of them seemed to really get into how much they could communicate. The problem we had was maybe even pulling back a little bit so they didn't fall into each other's arms up front. It felt like my job was probably pulling back their affection for each other, because as performers they had so much affection for each other. You didn't want that to not give them anywhere to go.
I feel like we all knew either Kristen or Ben would speak first. What do you think compelled Kristen to be the one?
ROBERT: Misogyny. The monastery is so misogynistic that I think she just got pissed about being told what to do, and cleaning up after the priest, and the monks. I think it was she saw how these women were being reduced in their roles, at a certain point she rebelled.
The room she slept in was wild. Is there a fun story behind how you picked which Jesus statues to include?
MICHELLE: What I recall was every conversation was, "No, they need to be bigger."
ROBERT: Here's the thing, it was a very small space, we then had to move a wall out because we had so many statues, because it was like "No, we want this forest of statues." I think everybody thought that meant some sweet, smaller statues. It felt like they needed to be looming over, so the only thing fun to say was we shot it, and we had them hold on to the statues because I didn't feel that we got all the footage we wanted. Then we went back two days later and shot more statues [Laughs]. Oh, so the other thing is Katja's interaction with, I think, John the Baptist about starting to strip was all improvised on the set because it just seemed like a funny concept.
Where did the fly twist come from?
MICHELLE: This is our second rodeo with botflies. They figured into Braindead and it felt like time for a reprise.
ROBERT: I think the bottom line is what we always thought the show was about is that nature is often the weirdest thing. You don't need the supernatural to look at nature and go, "Oh, my god. How can that exist?" The botflies are in upstate New York, and they're disgusting. It just felt like yeah, that's kind of the devil at work. Do you need the devil when you have that element of nature? Anyway, what the show is often about is you think evil is coming from the supernatural, but it's really coming from something that is very prosaic.
In the episode before this one, Kristen broke down, confessed to murdering LeRoux, and then got away with it because of white privilege. It felt like this episode gave her a bit of a reprieve from that. Where are things heading with her in the back half of the season?
ROBERT: I do think Fenna, who might have some miraculastic element, I think is a really interesting influence on Kristen's character and where she's going. You probably saw it on the episode after this.
Oh yes, I did…
ROBERT: There's a lot of perversity in her future, but also this sense like, is it enough to be forgiven by the police, especially when it comes down to white privilege is the reason for you to be forgiven? Is that playing into the guilt that she truly feels? If you want to call it karmic guilt, the sense that something is out of whack in the universe, and what do you have to do? I kind of think those are the struggles going on with her, and I do think what we've got is a bit of an uphill, downhill battle going on between this good influence that is David, and Fenna, and Leland, this tug of being drawn towards doing what is wrong.
Evil airs Sundays on Paramount+.