Follow TV Tropes


Series / Evil (2019)

Go To
David Acosta, Kristen Bouchard, and Ben Shakir.
Evil is a 2019 horror/suspense thriller series with elements of Mystery Fiction and supernatural fiction. It was created by Robert and Michelle King, who previously created The Good Wife. The first season aired on CBS, while the second season onward aired on Paramount+.

The show begins when Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), a forensic psychologist who works for the District Attorney, meets David Acosta (Mike Colter), an "assessor" and priest-in-training whose job it is to investigate so-called demonic possessions and miracles and evaluate if they are actually the result of the supernatural or if there are more mundane answers. Acosta already employs the skeptical Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) as his technical support and when he needs someone to interview a serial killer with him, he gets the Catholic Church to hire Kristen as well.

Kristen is a lapsed Catholic and former mountain climber who retired from climbing to have four children (all daughters) with her husband. But her husband is busy in his job guiding other mountain climbers and she has to pay off her student loans, so she takes the job with Acosta. However, she soon finds herself over her head when she starts getting night terrors involving a demon named George...and a rival forensic psychologist named Leland Townsend (Michael Emerson) reveals that he's a psychopath that pushes others to commit evil.

This show provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 
  • Accidental Suicide: A shy young man named Sebastian is encouraged by Leland to cultivate his resentment against women and to plan a mass shooting. But shortly before the big day, Sebastian is playing with his new guns and accidentally shoots himself in the head.
  • Alliterative Family: Kristen's daughters are named Lynn, Lila, Lexis, and Laura.
  • And I Must Scream: A recurring element:
    • The fate of the victims in "E is for Elevator". Wyatt becomes obsessed with the "Elevator Game", an activity whereby pressing specific buttons on an elevator in a certain order is said to open a gateway to Hell. Instead, it accidentally opens up to a forgotten sub-basement in the building, with no exits and without a working elevator button. If the player leaves the elevator, and it is called away, there is no way for them to escape the basement or call for help. He becomes trapped there and begins slowly dying in the dark. His girlfriend is able to find him, but doesn't realize until too late that all she had to do was hold the elevator, and becomes trapped with them. Ben later has the same thing happen to him, and discovers their corpses clinging on to each other.
    • In another episode, Leland paralyzes Cheryl and injects her with a mysterious substance, an act that is framed like date rape.
    • For several episodes of Season 3, Andy is paralyzed and locked in Leland's penthouse, able to hear everything Cheryl and Leland are planning, but unable to do anything. Cheryl at one point monologues to him about how they are planning to murder him and pretend he died in an avalanche, and then manipulate Kristen and the girls into moving on from his death. She does this while nonchalantly giving a motionless Andy a manicure. Andy is clearly terrified, but unable to do anything about it.
  • Anticlimax: Done deliberately. An entire arc in the first season involves Leland grooming a creepy young incel guy into a potential mass shooter. In "Exorcism Part 2" the creepy young incel is goofing around with his arsenal of guns at home when he accidentally shoots himself in the head,
  • Arc Number: 60. Apparently, "the Sixty" are some group of demons that want to influence the world.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Deconstructed. The young incel who Leland is grooming accidentally shot himself when he foolishly pointed a gun at his own head with his finger on the trigger. Leland rants at his stupidity on hearing this.
  • Artistic License – Traditional Christianity: In the episode "Rose390," Acosta claims that prayer is just asking God for something, who is then obligated to give it to you. Most real life Christian clergy find this view of prayer very annoying and actively try to refute it. First, contrary to popular belief, prayer is actually any time you want to talk to God about anything. Second, even when you do ask for something, that episode is a perfect example of why God is not in the slightest obliged to actually give it to you.
  • Bad Influencer: Malindaz in the episode "7 Swans a Singin" makes a deal with Leland to increase her follower count and includes a Brown Note in one of her videos that causes self-harm among people who watch it.
  • Baphomet: Two variations:
    • A demon with this aesthetic appears at the end of the episode "Justice X 2". Hilariously, he's acting as Leland Townsend's therapist, helping him deal with his anger after Kristen put him in his place earlier in the episode. He also begins appearing to David in dreams. He returns as Leland's shrink in the Season 2 episode "U is for UFO", where it's further established that he's a Middle-Management Mook serving as a go-between for Leland and "the manager" (implied to be Satan) until Leland kills him for a direct link.
    • The fraudulent New Ministry of Satan has an unrelated statue, verbally identified as Baphomet himself.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Nurse Linda Bloch, a.k.a. "Plague", who's assigned to David after his stabbing. She keeps him too doped up to say anything and is good enough at Faux Affably Evil to get away with it for a while.
  • Brainwashed: Implied with Sheryl in starting in Season 2. While she was already becoming more malevolent under Leland's influence, she wasn't at Leland's level. So he drugs her with a paralyzing agent, and then infuses her blood with an unknown substance. Afterwards, she not only has no reaction to this violation, but is completely corrupted and willingly helps him with his Serial Killer activities, and even joins one of the demonic houses. Word of Saint Paul says that this has to do with the substance itself, which is incredibly addictive.
  • Black Comedy: Plenty of it, most memorably Sebastian accidentally shooting himself in the face while preparing to go on a shooting spree.
  • Blood Bath: Leland has Sheryl draw him one in Season 2, in order to recover from his "fake" exorcism becoming too real. He keeps multiple gallon-jars full of it for this specific reason, all eerily labelled with the names of the presumably unwilling donors.
  • Brown Note: A Jonathan Coulton song about Santa tripping on edibles carries a barely audible signal that makes kids want to puncture their own eardrums. No, really.
  • The Bus Came Back: Season 3 has Grace and Karima return after being absent for the entirety of season 2.
  • Cessation of Existence: Discussed by David and Kristen. David says he can barely fathom the idea, and that if it's true life has no point. In-Universe though it's made clear there's some kind of afterlife, and it likely fits with Catholic teaching.
  • Chest Burster: While attending Leland's second-to-last exorcism, Kristin (who may be possessed by an Ifrit) has a vision of a flukeworm-like demon bursting out of her belly and flopping on the floor.
  • Christmas Episode: "7 Swans a'Singin". A gag Santa cartoon in which Santa is tripping on edibles becomes an ear worm that people can't stop singing, with subliminal messages compelling them to hurt themselves.
  • Couch Gag: For seasons 2 and 3, the episode title is introduced with hands opening a Pop-Up Book related to the theme of the episode.
  • Crossover: To promote the season finale in January 2020, CBS aired a promo during The Price Is Right that started as a short promo bumper. But then it switched to a scene showing George bidding $666 in Contestants' Row to deny someone bidding $665, before suddenly cutting to black. Which is then followed by a scene of the normal closed captioning plug for the Showcase Showdown. There was also an ad with George similarly invading The Young and the Restless.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Two of the team members have this.
    • David Acosta. Townsend taunts him with the knowledge of what happened with "Julia," a former lover of Acosta's that presumably died. The exact circumstances remain a mystery.
    • Ben Shakir was a former geneticist of some renown in the scientific community, but some of his work accidentally led to birth defects, and gave up his entire career to become a contractor out of guilt.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: "The Pop-Up Book of Terrifying Things", a mysterious children's book that appears in Kristin's neighbor's house, and mysteriously corresponds with the events of Season 2. It also serves as the Storybook Opening for each episode in said season.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Acosta, you just told a known Insane Equals Violent child who feels murderous intent towards his baby sister that prayer is where you ask God for something, and then God gives it to you. What did you think would happen?
    • Kristen's mother, Sheryl, starts dating Leland. When Kristen finds out, she plays her mother a recording of Leland talking about a teenager getting raped in prison multiple times, in the context of him trying to make that come about. You'd think this would be conclusive evidence to Sheryl that Leland really is a psychopath like Kristen says. Instead, she concludes that Kristen just doesn't want her dating anyone, and not only continues to date Leland, but takes his advice on how to interact with her granddaughters.
  • Disappeared Dad: Kristen’s husband is away leading mountain climbing tours overseas when the series starts, but he returns later.
  • Documentary of Lies: In-Universe. Against his better judgment Ben winds up taking a second job as the designated skeptic on a ghost-hunting show. The show is completely faked, much to Ben's disgust.
  • Doting Grandparent: Sheryl adores Kristen’s daughters and is prone to shower them with gifts and movies.
  • Dream Within a Dream:
    • First-season finale "Book 27" has a dream, within a dream, within a dream. Kristen has a dream of talking with Orson LeRoux in an interview room. She wakes up from that into a dream where she sees George and the giant horned devil that is manipulating Leland Townsend. Then she wakes up from that to be in bed with her daughters, only for Lexis to say "I saw it too" and start vomiting blood. Then she finally wakes up for real via a Catapult Nightmare.
    • "B is for Brain" has an experimental technology that can cause people to have spiritual visions. David uses it and has a vision where he sees Kristen murdering Orson LeRoux. Then it's revealed that David having that vision was all part of Kristen's vision.
  • Driven to Suicide: Byron Duke at the end of "33 Stars" jumps out a window. It's heavily implied he was influenced into it by the demon that had been haunting him for the past few weeks.
  • Droste Image: "Rose390" opens with Eric lying on his bed, pointing a webcam at his feet, and at the TV that is hooked up to the webcam. Many Droste Image pictures of sneaker-clad feet are the result.
  • Dutch Angle: Dutch angles are used heavily in every episode; the tense or spooky moments are usually tilted from vertical.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Sebastian first shows up in 3 Stars, being a former IT person who Byron Duke fired. When he appears again in "Vatican 3", Townsend starts grooming him.
  • Ear Worm: In "7 Swans a 'Singin", the ditty from a gag Santa cartoon becomes an earworm that people can't stop singing. The choir at a Catholic school can't sing carols because they are stuck singing the cartoon ditty. It turns out that there's a subliminal message in the tune that actually causes the affected girls to try and stab themselves in the ears.
  • Enfant Terrible: Eleanor approaches the church in the ninth month of her fraternal-twin pregnancy, and comes to believe the male twin is malevolent, and requests an exorcism. She is initially rebuffed by the church, as an exorcism on a womb is highly unorthodox. Later, while attending mass, she appears to suffer a miscarriage, but her son is shown to still be alive. However, her daughter now mysteriously no longer appears on the ultrasound. Eleanor's doctor attributes this to Vanishing Twin Syndrome, whereby one twin absorbs the other. However, he conveniently ignores that this should only be possible about 12 weeks into the pregnancy, not 9 months (nearly-born babies don't absorb each other). Eleanor, horrified by the whole ordeal, attributes this to her son eating her daughter. David later arranges an emergency exorcism, but she gives birth before it can be completed, to a seemingly-healthy baby boy.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Leland, a devout devil worshipper, is highly offended in "I is for IRS" by the existence of the New Ministry of Satan, a Scam Religion that uses Satanic imagery simply as a means of getting attention and members that can be goaded into spending money on the organization.
  • Evil Is Petty: A running theme. The "evil" antagonists the characters deal with are almost always are petty dicks.
  • The Faceless: "Brenda", the little girl who isn't really named Brenda who joins the Halloween party in "October 31". She keeps her mask on for the entire episode. The story she tells implies that her parents tried to kill her in a fire, but she survived with horrible facial scars, but we never find out. The last shot of her is from behind, after she's discarded her mask, as she says "BOO!" to some trick-or-treaters.
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Leland Townsend. By all accounts, he is a nice, kindly person in front of the judge or DA...but in front of David and Kristen, that nice façade drops and he taunts them with just how evil he really is. Specifically, he will taunt Kristen with passages from her therapy sessions that he stole.
    • Nurse Linda "Plague" Bloch mostly maintains her friendly façade, even as she's abusing black patients under her care (and it's implies she eventually kills them). The mask slips when she's thwarted.
  • Feet-First Introduction: "Room 320" introduces Linda the killer nurse this way. It's set up in advance when Harlan, the patient next to David, tells her to watch out for the nurse with the squeaky shoes—so we actually hear Linda's shoes before we see them. Then after we see the shoes we finally get a pan up to her face.
  • Fingore: Several occasions:
    • George has taken a knife to both Kristen's fingers and her daughter's during her night terrors.
    • Lexis, while under a general anesthesia at the dentist, ends up biting off the dental hygienist's index finger while having her teeth filed. Kristen purposefully never tells Lexis this happened.
  • Frame-Up: "Vatican III" Exorcism subject Bridget has knowledge of three child murders, and claims a demon named "Howard" made her do it. But Kristen's husband Dwight is the real murderer, and turns her in to the police.
  • Genre-Busting: The series utilizes elements of supernatural horror, religious horror, folk horror, urban dark fantasy, black comedy, domestic drama, legal thriller, sociopolitical thriller, sociopolitical satire, philosophical fiction, and conspiracy fiction.
  • Ghostly Chill: In "3 Stars" this is cited as evidence for Mr. Duke's demonic possession: the temperature of the room drops whenever he enters it and rises whenever he leaves. It turns out to be a disgruntled IT guy hacking the thermostat.
  • Glasses Pull: Dr. Boggs pulls off his exorcism sunglasses at the end of "October 31" when the possession case, which he thought was a case of schizophrenia requiring hospitalization, ends with David successfully expelling the demon.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Lila and her friend try to rescue her friend's dad from his horrible working conditions as a warehouse worker in an Amazon-like facility. Their efforts seemingly succeed and he both escapes the warehouse job and seemingly mentally recovers, but is promoted to overseeing the other warehouse workers, who are being worked near-to-death, with no indication that he will change any of the conditions, and abandons his efforts to unionize the other employees.
  • Guess Who I'm Marrying?: Sheryl informs Kristen that she's agreed to marry Leland, when the mother-daughter relationship is already at a low point.
  • Halloween Episode: "October 31", in which David and Kristen are called in to a difficult exorcism, Ben moonlights as the skeptic on one of those dumb ghost catcher TV shows, Sheryl starts a romance with Satan (that is, Leland), and a creepy child comes to the Halloween party with Kristen's daughters.
  • Haunted Technology: A recurring set piece, from the VR goggles in "Rose390" to the possessed personal assistant in "3 Stars".
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The Kings seem to love this trope:
    • Each Season 1 episode has a number in it ("177 Minutes," "3 Stars," "Rose390," etc.)
    • Season 2 episodes are titled "_ is for ______", for instance the premiere is "N is for Night Terrors".
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: In "I is for IRS", the IRS contracts the team to investigate the New Ministry of Satan's petition for tax exempt status. When their representative is introduced to the team, there's a Dramatic Thunder sound effect as the title sequence comes up, and later Ben makes a crack about the IRS being more powerful than God or Satan.
  • It's A Small Net After All: Googling the not-exactly-unique name "David Acosta", Kristen immediately hits on a video interview with David during his AP days. At least he's only the second David Acosta in the search results.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Nearly every episode.
    • That's what David Acosta is supposed to assess, whether or not a person is actually possessed by a demon or whether a miracle actually happened or not. Most of the time, it falls on the "mundane" side, although David still believes in the "magic" side. Kristen and Ben are his skeptical colleagues, who find any ordinary explanation.
    • This applies to Kristen's night terrors. First, she assumes that they aren't real, just dreams, but then a serial killer taunts her with knowledge from the dream that only she knows...but then she realizes that someone fed him that information after stealing her therapist's notes. But then her daughter starts seeing the same demon in her dreams...until Kristen realizes it's because they both watched the same scary movie that had the same looking demon. Except then they watch a Behind the Scenes segment with the person who developed the monster makeup...and he reveals that it came to him in his dreams.
    • The second episode has a Broadway producer's smart speaker get hacked by a disgruntled tech support guy to trick him into thinking he was being haunted. However, the tech insists he stopped several days before the team started investigating, and yet the hack has continued, and metastasizes to the Shakirs' own smart speaker when Ben takes it home to investigate it. After it starts ranting at his sister in Urdu that Iblis has her child, he throws it in the back of a garbage truck rather than investigate further.
    • Leland Townsend. By day, he acts as an Evil Counterpart to Kristen, giving false testimony as a forensic psychologist and trying to discredit her work for the D.A., For the Evulz according to him. However, David speaks to him as if he's an actual demon, and he appears in scenes where David is praying or trying to interpret a psilocybin-induced hallucination trying to distract him.
    • 'Z is for Zombie' has Lila and her friend thinking the friends dad and workmates are Zombies, they get a special serum to cure them, and whether it works, or they were just imagining things because they're kids is left open ended.
    • This is complicated by the fact multiple characters are either suffering from mental illness and/or are experiencing run-ins with the supernatural, but have a very difficult time telling the difference, but tend to insist to themselves that they are hallucinating.
  • Mistaken Death Confirmation: The team investigates a possible miracle where a high school athlete was pronounced dead after a sudden cardiac arrest, only to awaken at the start of an autopsy. They determine a rare cardiovascular disorder as the root cause, coupled with evidence for a pattern of providing black patients about half the average amount of CPR as white patients.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: In "2 Fathers" David and Kristen go to visit his father. It turns out his father lives in a hippie art commune with two wives, and a big crowd of artists that conduct weird seances and have wild parties where the sangria is spiked with hallucinogens.
  • Nightmare Sequence: A recurring motif in the series, where one of the protagonists is haunted by at night by a demon who terrorizes them while they experience sleep paralysis:
    • In Season 1, Kristen starts getting night terrors where she opens her eyes in the middle of a dream and becomes paralyzed as a demon named George walks around her room and hurts her with a knife. Despite the fact that she proves these are dreams and not real (via a sign she previously wrote in her room that she couldn't read in the dream), they don't stop and she keeps having them. Even her youngest daughter Laura starts having them, although Kristen realizes it's because they both saw the same scary movie that had the same looking demon in it. They stop when she hides a knife under her pillow and summons the willpower to break the paralysis and stab George repeatedly.
    • In Season 2, Ben experiences similar night terrors, but with a succubus named Abbey, who instead of cutting him with a knife, sexually assaults him night after night.
    • In Season 3, Dr. Boggs begins seeing George.
  • No-Dialogue Episode: "S is For Silence" has Kristen, David and Ben investigating miracles at a monastery where the vow of silence is strictly enforced to the point where monks sleep with mouth gags to avoid talking in their sleep. As it turns out, there's a cabinet where demon is imprisoned and would escape should anyone utter a word. The episode itself only has three scenes with spoken dialogues when the trio reunites outside the perimeter.
  • Offing the Offspring: Eric's psychosis/demonic possession escalates to the point where he tries to drown his baby sister. When the team returns with an exorcist, the police have been called. Mom says Eric ran away but strongly implies she killed him to protect the baby. Cue credits.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: In "7 Swans a'Singin", an Ominous Pipe Organ sets an appropriately creepy mood in the scene where David comes into the church for confession.
  • Only in It for the Money: Kristen makes it clear that she’s only joining David’s team to earn the extra money she needs to pay off her student loans.
  • Oppressive Immigration Enforcement: Minor recurring antagonist, the quiet mysterious ICE agent Adam Gardner secretly serves Doctor Leland Townsend and his satanic agenda, who uses his position to further Townsend's goals, such as arresting and deporting suspected Prophet Grace Ling. It is also him who Townsend dispatches to train budding Incel Sebastian in handling guns, out of Townsend's desire to groom the young man into becoming a mass shooter, with Adam doing his own part to corrupt Sebastian, assuring him that killing will prove him to be a real man.
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: David for the most part. His training for priesthood is the assumed reason, but "7 Swans a'Singin" it is revealed that he is a former sex and drug addict.
  • Polyamory: In "2 Fathers" David visits his father for the first time in years (with Kristen tagging along) and is shocked to discover that his dad has two wives.
  • Precision F-Strike: As a CBS series, Season 1 had to have the show hold to network standards. The Season 2 premiere shows the jump to Paramount Plus with Kristen openly calling Leland a "fucker."
  • Psychic Nosebleed: In "October 31" the TV crew in the haunted strip club starts getting nosebleeds. Subverted when the nosebleeds turn out to be an allergic reaction to a chemical in a projector illusion.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Leland Townsend is a forensic psychologist in league with actual demons. As such, he uses his knowledge to push unstable people into committing murder, and label innocent ones with falsified diagnoses which destroy their lives.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Townsend presses Sebastian to go on a wild shooting spree, giving him lessons on guns and prepping him for a massacre. At home, Sebastian is posing in the mirror with his loaded and cocked guns, blowing imaginary smoke off the barrels...and then squeezes the trigger with one pointed at his head and blows his own brains out. Townsend actually loses it at the realization his big plan was ruined by vastly overestimating Sebastian's grasp of how to handle deadly weapons.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: In "Rose390", Eric attempts to drown his baby sister, but when David pulls her out of the pool, she starts crying almost instantly, with minimal CPR. This is most likely to the due to the Infant Diving Reflex, which puts babies in a state where they use less oxygen upon being fully submerged in water.
  • Recovered Addict: Pops up from time to time.
    • In the second episode, David tells Kristen that he used to have visions, but he doesn't anymore. At the end of the episode, it's revealed why: in order to have those visions, he needs to ingest mushrooms that he bought from a drug dealer. He finally gives in and buys some in order to have a vision in the end. Later, in "Exorcism Part 2", David admits to having gone to cocaine rehab several years ago.
    • In season 2, the exorcist the team works with, Father Mulvehill, is revealed to be a recovering gambling addict who falls off the wagon. Leland uses his accumulated debts to blackmail him to faking an exorcism. The church later forces him into a monastery as a form of Going Cold Turkey.
  • Retired Monster: In "Justice x 2" David's friend Sonia abducts and assaults a stand-up comic because she's convinced he's a former DJ from Rwandan hate radio, and thus an active encourager of the genocide. She turns out to be correct.
  • The Reveal:
    • Season 1:
      • Episode 12: Leland Townsend: is actually Jake Perry, an insurance adjuster from Des Moines whose real past is less impressive than he'd lead you to believe.
      • Season Finale: Eric, the boy from Episode 4, and Lexis were conceived at RMS Fertility - a fertility clinic that serves as one of the many institutions for The Sixty’s operations; whose purpose is to propagate fetuses with infernal natures.
    • Season 2:
      • Episode 6: Ben has a dark past that involved founding a gene-editing program called CAS 3. Something he deeply regrets.
      • Episode 12: Sheryl’s Eddie doll from Season 2 Episode 6? There is more than one.
    • Season 3
      • Episode 6: Kristen never returned to David’s room after leaving. It was an incubus who took her form and whose true form is that of a mosquito-like monstrosity.
      • Episode 7: The Entity has had their sights on Lexis for some time; speculating that she is a potential usurper for demonic forces. And that Leland has been targeting the Bouchard family since Season 1 for this very reason.

  • Serial Killer:
    • Orson LeRoux, the first case of the week, is one who fakes his possession. He later has evidence falsified to be released from prison, and is actively begins stalking Kristen and planning to murder kill her whole family. She kills him first.
    • Leland Townsend is one by proxy, inciting other people to kill. In season 2 he begins actively murdering men after having Sheryl seduce them. Word of Saint Paul says they aren't killing these men, but the fact that in the same episode Leland is shown to have multiple gallon jars of human blood, all labelled with people's names, suggests he's still killing people.
    • Nurse Linda "Plague" Block is heavily implied to be one of black patients under her care (either as a result of racism or because they're more vulnerable isn't clear).
  • Series Continuity Error: Both "177 minutes" and "3 Stars" involve deepfaking. The concept is introduced in "177 minutes"... and yet has to be explained to Kristen in "3 Stars".
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Townsend finds a disgruntled Hollywood Homely teen named Sebastian who has bad luck with the ladies, grooms him into a full-blown incel, and has a man implied to be another member of The Sixty teach him how to fire guns so that he can shoot up David's all-women prayer group. We then cut to Sebastian toying around with his guns, building up to him finally going out to commit his act of terrorism... only for him to accidentally blow his own brains out before he even leaves his house.
  • Shoot the Dog: Kristen attempts to record Townsend admitting to his motives in reversing her work for the D.A. It fails due to him anticipating it and using a jammer. So she has Ben deep-fake what he said and passes it off to the defense as the real thing. It's technically evidence-tampering, but he did say it and mean it, and it means keeping a fifteen-year-old from being tried as an adult.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Townsend recites part of Abbot and Costello's famous "Who's on First?" routine when trying to distract David from his prayers in "177 Minutes".
    • In "3 Stars", Townsends efforts to distract David from his studies with impure thoughts lead him to quote John Donne's "To His Mistress Going to Bed".
    • "October 31" features a Shot-for-Shot Remake of the iconic scene from The Exorcist where one of the priests arrives outside of Regan's house.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: In "Justice X 2", Leland starts on another rant to Kristen about how he's going to kill her whole family and make her suffer, only for her to curtly cut him off by stating he talks too much. She then proceeds to lay into him, revealing how she's uncovered his original identity as a nebbish loser in high school with two failed marriages behind him. Leland is left speechless and indignant, able only to walk away trembling in rage. He later vents about the event to his therapist, a currently enigmatic Baphomet-looking being.
  • Sickbed Slaying: Linda the hospital nurse in "Room 320" turns out to be a Serial Killer who uses her position to torture and murder black patients on her ward.
  • Significant Background Event: As Mr. Duke's assistant in "3 Stars" talks on the phone about how much better Duke has been in the foreground, Duke is seen jumping to his death off the balcony in the background.
  • Sleep Paralysis Creature: In each of the first three seasons, one of the protagonists is tormented by a demon. that acts like this. Kristen by George in Season 1, Ben by Abby in Season 2, and David by Demon-Kristen in Season 3. Sister Andrea's vision of Demon-Kristen as a demonic mosquito implies that they are all some-sort of parasite that feeds on their victims minds as they sleep.
  • Social Media Is Bad: A minor thematic element. The greater connectivity provided by social media means that everybody can find a group of people they have something in common with. And this includes evil people. The reason the world is getting worse, David theorizes, is because the sociopaths and monsters who would otherwise be living isolated lives where their potential societal damage is limited are now able to find each other and organize.
  • Storybook Opening: The framing device for each episode starting of the second season is a children's book called "The Pop-Up Book of Terrifying Things", which is alphabet themed, with each pop-up presenting a different letter. Each episode takes its name from one of the entries.
  • Streisand Effect: In-Universe. In "7 Swans a'Singin", the dimwitted influencer Leland has been manipulating comes to him for advice, after Kristen and the gang discover an evil hidden message in the video. Leland tells the influencer to take her video down, which will only make it more attractive.
    Leland: The forbidden is always more desirable.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Kristen. She’s neither widowed or divorced, but her husband is overseas for work and she’s burning the candle at both ends with work, raising four children, and while managing her mental health issues.
  • The Teaser: Played with. Pre-credits sequences on this show tend to be long - ten minutes or more - and hit several dramatic breaks, making them more like the first act.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Leland and Sheryl when they're a couple. In real life Christine Lahti is a couple of inches taller than Michael Emerson. The crew tends to enhance the disparity in filming.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: A demon...named George. And the serial killer Orson LeRoux said that he was possessed by a demon named Roy.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: "Rose390": The McCrystals have had to deal with their eldest child Eric exhibiting homicidal behavior for two years. This culminates with him trying to drown his infant sister, after which it's implied they choose to kill him in order to save the rest of the family.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: David Acosta, Ben Shakir, and Kristen Bouchard are the assessment team.
  • Unfortunate Names: Julia Lemonhead. Goofy name, and she hates it so much that apparently the character took up the practice of law to enable her to lash out against others because of it. You'd think she'd just change it.
  • The Unreveal: We never do find out just what is up with "Brenda", the little girl who shows up at the Halloween party in "October 31". Is she horribly burned, as she implies with her story? Is she a demon? What's her real name?
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Kristen and David, though neither can act upon any feeling (David is training to be a priest, and Kristen is married with four kids). This makes them Star-Crossed Lovers, with no confirmation they will ever progress further into a relationship.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After Sebastian accidentally blows his own brains out and his arsenal is found, Townsend loses control of his emotions for the first time in the series, screaming and trashing his office. Luckily for him no one else is around.
  • Vorpal Pillow: In "Room 320" this is how Linda the murderous nurse appears to kill Harlan, the patient on the bed next to David.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Season 1 Episode 7: The codex illustrates an intricate, diagrammatic hierarchy of demons nestled in Earth’s infrastructures; each one is represented by a sigil. One of the sigils has been adopted by David’s father.
    • Season 2 Episode 10: Cara Autry, a doctor affiliated with RMS Fertility has been paying money to illegally obtain Kristen’s 12 eggs from storage. Later on, after Kristen enacts the necessary legal actions to repossess her eggs, it is revealed that she has regained all but one of them; which Dr. Autry sold to an unknown buyer. Meanwhile, it’s heavily implied that Sheryl has been recruited by the Sixty to partake in their operations.
    • Season 2 Finale: Leland and Lexis have been regularly meeting ever since the former broke up with Sheryl. We also see how the next generation of the Sixty’s houses “inherit” the sigils. Kristen confesses to David that she murdered Orson LeRoux… and he absolves her of her sin before they tenderly kiss.
    • Season 3 Episode 6: Andy never made it back to the Himalayas. All of those video chats he had with Kristen were just deepfakes by Leland to cover up the truth: that he and Sheryl abducted Andy; and are holding him captive in a state of paralysis in a storage closet in Leland’s penthouse.
    • Season 3 Episode 9: In an attempt to murder Grace Ling, Leland ends up killing Monsignor Korecki, instead.
    • Season 3 Finale: Andy is released and happily returns home to Kristen and his kids… but has been converted into a conduit for the Sixty’s machinations. Kristen locates the carrier of her egg at the Makob headquarters… where she discovers that her mother is a high-ranking employee who is still aligned with Leland. And the carrier of her egg is Leland’s new wife.
  • Wham Line:
    • Season 3 Episode 2: Victor LeConte reveals the name of the person The Entity and David are trying to save through their clandestine methods: Grace Ling. Who is being held captive in a Chinese work camp.
  • Wham Shot:
    • Season 1 Episode 8: Leon’s (aka David’s father) wife giving birth to a ghoul.
    • Season 1 Episode 12: Leland’s therapist is a giant goat demon.
    • Season 1 finale, "Book 27": The final scene shows Kristen picking up a crucifix and it burns her hand.
    • Season 2 Episode 8: The final scene in the episode features Kristen engaging in self-harm by heating a crucifix over her kitchen stove and burning herself with it. Judging by the other burns under her shirt, she has been doing this for a while now.
    • Season 3 Episode 4: Near the end of the episode, we finally see what angels look like in the show’s universe.
    • Season 3 Episode 5: Sheryll’s boss at the Sixty-aligned cryptocurrency/troll farm company is revealed as a five-eyed goat demon.
  • Word of Saint Paul: Christine Lahtin cleared up a few things regarding Sheryl's experiences in Season 2.
    • She says that Sheryl has absolutely no memory of Leland and Edward roofie-ing her, and injecting her with the brown substance.
    • The brown substance makes her "feel amazing" (i.e. is very addictive), and her working with Leland is based on his providing her with a continuous supply.
    • She categorically isn't (despite evidence to the contrary) killing the men she seduces for Leland. Instead, she is only boring a hole in their skulls to harvest an unknown chemical, and that this process, while horrific, is neither fatal or permanently debilitating to her victims.

Alternative Title(s): Evil