Welcome to our weekly column Can’t Miss Episode of the Week! Every Saturday we’ll be spotlighting a different episode of television from that week that we thought was exceptional and a must-see. Check back to see if your favorite show got the nod — or to learn about a new one!
Silent episodes — one where almost nobody speaks — are incredibly ambitious, and if done well, can become iconic. (Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Hush” is a prime example of this.) The newest addition to the club is Evil’s season 2 episode, “S is for Silence,” in which our spiritual investigators, Kristen (Katja Herbers), David (Mike Colter), and Ben (Aasif Mandvi), travel to a monastery where not a single word has been spoken for 130 years, for fear that if they do, a demon will be released. What follows is a creepy masterpiece of an episode that truly swings for the fences.
The show is pretty creative in getting around the no-talking rule. Everyone at the monastery uses those Magic Slate boards to write messages; at a couple of critical junctures, the group gathers outside the walls of the monastery to have urgent whispered conversations; occasionally what a character is thinking will appear in captions on the screen. But most often, the characters have to rely on non-verbal gestures, facial expressions, and body language — a challenging task for the actors, and one that they excel at.
Like any good silent episode, there’s the premise that communication goes deeper than just talking, and it’s something Kristen learns quickly. The trio is at the monastery to investigate a dead priest who was found completely preserved in his tomb, and is he now being submitted for sainthood, but as David and Ben examine the body, Kristen is sent away for the sole reason of being a woman. While her male companions merely shrug at the disrespect shown to their female colleague, Kristen is livid.
The silver lining is that while exiled from the group, she meets a nun named Fenna (Alexandra Socha). As they push a wheelbarrow together, drink whisky, and soak barrels with it, they (silently) joke and laugh. It turns out, even if they could talk, they still wouldn’t be able to say anything to each since the Dutch Fenna doesn’t speak English. In the patriarchy-dominated place, these two women bond. When Kristen leaves at the end of the episode, Fenna gifts her with a bottle of the whiskey that they make at the monastery, and when she returns to her room, she gleefully finds that Kristen purposefully left her “Boy do I hate being right all the time” sleep-shirt behind. In just a couple of days, in silence, a true friendship was formed.
While Kristen arguably has the most interesting arc this episode, David has his own challenges. When he tries to clear his mind and connect with God, we get a hilarious stream of him repeating “f***” in his head. He also can’t help thinking about Kristen. The two have long been attracted to each other, and it’s never harder not to think about sex than when you’re trying not to think about sex. As Kristen wonders why David is staring at her over dinner, a little box shows the fantasy happening in David’s head. As he struggles with his own temptations, David is impressed by the monks’ abilities to be at peace spiritually. Part of him wants to stay there, and achieve what they have. Kristen and Ben are baffled by the place, but as usual, David’s there to see the beauty in it.
As for the demon, since this is Evil, we have to ask: Is it real? After settling in for the night to sleep in a room full of statues, Kristen’s simmering rage at the way the monks treat women finally boils over, and she breaks the sacred silence by rebelliously saying “boo” at one of the statues. Immediately, the box holding the demon bursts open. Oops. I can’t help but think, though, that if Kristen had been shown respect by the monks, then she would’ve respected their traditions and beliefs in return. So, is a terrible demon now loose upon the Earth? Well, Ben does find an explanation for almost everything that happens. As mysterious marks appear on people’s skin, and they writhe in pain, flies burst from one of the marks on Fenna’s skin. Some quick googling by Ben confirms that it’s the botfly, which infected the monastery when they brought up Father Thomas’s coffin, which is full of them. Still, it is an awful coincidence.
There’s still so much this episode leaves to mystery – it wouldn’t be Evil if it didn’t. We still don’t know why Father Thomas’s body hasn’t decayed. Ben posits that something in the clay that surrounded the tomb might have preserved the body, but since he hasn’t been able to run his tests yet, we don’t really get an answer. No explanation is truly given for Fenna’s stigmata. And maybe, besides for the botflies, a demon really did escape from that box.
There are so many layers to this episode, and every detail could warrant an essay. For now, we’ll just say that it’s likely one we’re going to be re-watching, and dissecting for a long time.
Other observations we thought made this episode stand out:
- There’s a touching scene when Kristen cradles Fenna and strokes her hair all night while she recovers from the botflies.
- Every time Kristen and Fenna encounter each other, they grin ear to ear, clearly overjoyed at seeing a friendly face.
- David thinks Kristen wrote “I want you” on his magic slate, only compounding his thoughts about her, but it was really one of the monks, who had actually written “I want you to stay here,” but the second half of the message had been erased. David responds that God needs him “out there.”
Evil, Sundays, Paramount+