With S2E7, “S Is for Silence,” Evil rewards us for the mid-season wait with an episode that delivers an ancient demonic curse, physical comedy and flourishes of silent film stylings, plenty of sexual tension, and some solid body horror to cap things off. This one is wild. Right off the bat is another clever take on the motif of the pop-up book, complete with a bowels-loosening jumpscare scream from a demon on the page. Oh yeah, baby. Evil is back.
I was already excited by the main hook of the episode, that being our heroes visiting a monastery which has taken a vow of silence for over 130 years—making for 45 minutes containing probably less than a couple dozen lines of dialogue, and the episode’s script fully delivers on the challenge of a mostly silent story. There are also some shots and moments of physical comedy that hearken back to Charlie Chaplin, which was a great touch.
What initially brings our heroes to the monastery is the death of one of their own, Father Thomas—or rather, the fact that a year after his death, a humming sound is heard coming from the crypt, and when they open the coffin they find that the body has not decayed. This is the first possible miracle of the two needed for Father Thomas to be considered for sainthood, and Kristen, David and Ben are being sent to confirm the first and find the second.
The reason the monastery has taken the vow of silence? An ancient, oozing box, around which the monastery has been built, and the belief that any word spoken within the walls of the monastery will unleash a demon that wants to destroy the world. The monks even wear gags when they sleep to prevent crying out words in the night. The characters respect the monks’ vow of silence, even surrendering their phones (although Ben gets to compromise and relinquish his SIM card, still allowing him to use the camera and flashlight).
Surprisingly, this might genuinely be one of the funniest episodes of Evil so far, and stands as testament to how the show skillfully weaves light comedy to cut the tension—of which there is still plenty this week. That’s not to say that any of that comedy detracts from the horror/thriller focus of the show, but “S Is for Silence” mines some very funny moments from our main characters, who have to emote more elaborately in the absence of spoken word.
Kristen’s sexual frustration and loneliness plays well against Fenna’s own repressed emotions: in a blatantly misogynistic community, both women have found kindred spirits, and in just a scant few scenes, they develop a strong affinity for each other. Their initial meet-cute, in which Kristen helps Fenna soak barrels with whiksey in preparation for wine storage, results in the pair partaking in the spirits and getting absolutely blitzed together, giggling like children as they clumsily try to finish the task. The scene has some shades of Charlie Chaplin and is just a delight. The icing on the cake is when David and Ben show up with the rest of the monks, and Kristen’s two friends immediately notice how trashed she is as well as her embarrassed attempts to conceal it.
There’s a lot more to the dynamic between Kristen and Fenna, however; and the fact that the two actresses have such incredible chemistry is why their relationship in the episode works so well. There’s definitely a romantic spark between them, and a wonderful sense of sweetness—all conveyed without a single exchange of dialogue. They don’t even get the benefit of communicating via the writing pads, as Fenna does not understand English. It’s genuinely sad when the trio leave the monastery at the end of the episode, and Fenna produces a parting gift of a bottle of alcohol to Kristen. It’s damn near heartbreaking when Fenna turns to leave before Kristen can move in for a hug. As a lonely and dejected Fenna returns to her room, she finds that Kristen has left her own parting gift: her night shirt, which Fenna happily clutches, finding relief and joy that her new friend hasn’t entirely left her behind. Their interactions comprise probably around 20ish minutes of the episode proper, so for all of those emotions to work so well and feel so complete in that amount of time is just sublime.
Clearing one’s mind to focus on prayer is a vital aspect of the Catholic/Christian faith, with the goal being to remove the clutter and better listen to God. And as anyone who has tried to completely clear their mind—whether for spiritual reasons or otherwise—knows, the task often works in the opposite, with invasive thoughts pouring in through the broken mental levee.
Invited to a prayer session, David is told to completely clear his mind, though he sees a spot on the pew in front of him and thinks to himself that it appears to be dried vomit. He then wonders which of the monks around him might have been the culprit. “Jesus died for my sins…all I have to do is not think about a monk throwing up for a few minutes.” He glances over at the ancient Father Winston (Kenneth Tigar) next to him, then looks forward and thinks to himself, “F*ck.” The expletive is repeated multiple times in subtitle form as David gets increasingly agitated, the word eventually sliding from right to left across the screen with increasing speed as David continues to fail to prevent his mind wandering. It’s an absolutely hilarious moment, and the editing of the subtitles is perfect.
Ben is trying as hard as he ever has to rationalize spiritual phenomena. Each week he appears to be more dogged in his attempts to deny the supernatural, with increasing agitation. In the coming weeks, I suspect he’s going to be targeted by even more creepy stuff, and he’s going to start running out of ways to explain it away. This week, he actually has a clever reason for the deceased monk’s lack of decomposition: the chemical properties of the underground catacombs have actually been preserving the body. Although this theory isn’t tested on any other bodies down there, the fact that the conclusion of the episode sees Father Thomas starting to decay now that he’s spent some time out of the crypt lends some credence to the idea.
What’s harder to rationalize is the second miracle: Fenna’s stigmata. A stigmata is a concept in Christianity of sudden and unexplainable bodily wounds congruent with those sustained by Christ’s crucifixion. Fenna has bloody wounds on both of her hands, which could easily be caused by her pushing around a heavy wheelbarrow of bottles all day. But she also has similar wounds on her feet, and even has the gash on her right side—exactly where Christ was speared to confirm His death. I don’t have any answers for this one. It could be psychosomatic, but it could also be something divine. True to form, Evil doesn’t have the answer, at least not right now.
After a several-week hiatus, Evil definitely didn’t intend to let us off easy with the spooky. Ben’s trip down to the crypt and his discovery of the weird scratch marks on the wood are mysterious enough. But when he glances down the catacombs and sees what appears to be pure darkness coming towards him, quickly and completely engulfing more of the walls in inky, impenetrable black, Ben has an “I’m a man of science but absolutely miss me with that crap” moment and gets the hell out of there. The darkness kind of makes a sound, too. It’s so, so creepy.
Kristen’s quarters end up being what appears to be a tiny room filled with unused life-sized sculptures and statues of religious figures. Most noticeable is the very out-of-place skeleton in the corner, holding a scythe. Just before applying her gag, Kristen looks at the skeleton statue and defiantly says, “Boo.” And boom, goes the dynamite—which in this case is the doors of the centuries-old cursed, ectoplasm-oozing box containing a demon that wants to destroy the world.
Kristen’s skeleton dream sequence is another example of how Evil can be really spooky, but also kind of amusingly weird at the same time. I’m starting to suspect strongly that this dissonance, as well-executed as it is, is a way to cleverly build even more tension by confusing the viewer with a few different emotions. When Kristen “awakes” to see the skeleton with its head turned away, we all know that he’s going to turn to look at her. When he steps down in a jerky stop-motion gait, that’s definitely a little creepy…until he picks his teeth with the blade of the scythe…and then advances towards a paralyzed Kristen. There’s good reason to both chuckle and pull the covers tighter during this sequence, and the whole way this scene is constructed feels like another play on silent horror films.
“S Is For Silence” climaxes with some honestly gnarly body horror, as the monastery is filled with wails of pain and numerous residents, including Fenna, find themselves with painful, pulsing growths, which David notes all look like very similar sigils. Seeing the demon box open, the monks summon their on-site exorcist…who turns out to be none other than Father Mulvehill!
If you recall, Father Mulvehill was forced into taking a break by David, on account of Mulvehill’s gambling addiction resurgence. Mulvehill ending up here is definitely weird, but there’s no time for questions, because the episode’s almost over and we still need to have the graphic exorcism scene where blood pours from Fenna’s mouth and hands before flies burst from the growth on her abdomen. Yes indeed, we got some body horror here.
Ben, having finally gained access to the internet, concludes that the growths are from botflies (brought up from the crypt with Thomas’ corpse) having burrowed into the skin of the residents and laid eggs—and Mulvehill, applying vaseline to the spot, plugged the air holes and forced the botflies to violently erupt from the growths.
Now, a botfly explanation is all well and good, but it doesn’t disprove the demon box. It wasn’t until the box was opened that the botflies all suddenly started hatching in the hosts, and the timing is too convenient there not to have been some sort of demonic intervention. And what the hell was that goopy ectoplasm dripping down the sides of the box that necessitated that the monks mop the floor below on the regular? This is probably one of those things that will not be revisited, but the design of the box and just the overall vibe of the curse and the episode overall are satisfying.
As fun as it was, “S Is for Silence” felt like more of a bottle episode, and I’m really hungry to explore some of the myriad threads set up thus far in the show. We’ve still got a lot to tie up in the second half of the season, not the least of which is the imminent showdown between Sister Andrea and Leland—something teased with great gusto in the post-episode preview for what’s to come. The fact that Evil continues to up the ante in creativity, creepiness, and quirkiness just reinforces the fact that this is still one of the best dramas currently running. It was sorely missed during the hiatus, but “S Is for Silence” was totally worth the wait—and I’ll say it as loudly as I need to.