Evil S4E1 Recap: “How to Split an Atom” — 38 Days

David, Kristen and Ben stand talking to the scientists.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

The following recap contains spoilers for Evil S4E1, “How to Split an Atom” (directed by Robert King and written by Robert King and Michelle King).

Evil S4E1, “How to Split an Atom,” opens right where Season 3 ended, with Kristen (Katja Herbers) in a daze as Leland (Michael Emerson) smugly informs her that she is carrying his child thanks to DF. Kristen proceeds out of the room, silently rebuffing a tearful Sheryl’s (Christine Lahti) attempts to talk to her. Leland instead approaches her at the elevator. He tells her that his sperm and her eggs were destined for each other, and in 38 days she will give birth to the Antichrist. Kristen bursts into laughter. 

After what was probably an awkward ride down the elevator, Leland chases Kristen down the hall. Kristen finally acknowledges Leland, explaining why she was laughing: the idea of a newborn baby, Antichrist or not, tormenting Leland in its infancy, is hilarious to her. Indeed, the mental image of a “crying, sh*tting, baby” robbing the villain of any sleep he might hope to have over the course of the next couple of years is, for lack of a better word, cathartic. Leland himself is visibly deflated as Kristen verbally emasculates him. Leland always seems smug and in control, but as we’ve seen multiple times, this is a front for who he really is: an incredibly weak man. 

David (Mike Colter) sits in his room, troubled by the vision he received last season of the angel warning “Woe to Babylon, 38 days.” He conducts a search on the amusingly-named website “Total Religion” and comes across Revelation 18:10, which echoes his vision. The website also has images, with the standout being a drawing of a horned child being removed from the womb of a woman as demons look on, which is obviously congruent with the impending birth of the Antichrist—although David does not yet know of Kristen’s pregnancy. 

Father Ignatius (Wallace Shawn) has been asked to stay on with Kristen, David and Ben (Aasif Mandvi) following the murder of the Monsignor, and gives our heroes their new assignment: a research facility outfitted with a particle accelerator to split the atom. Of late, the facility has come under scrutiny from religious organizations concerned that the accelerator could open the gates of Hell, and the assessors have been asked to dissuade these concerns. 

David, Kristen and Ben stand in the office.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

At the facility, Kristen, David and Ben are each given the standard-issue orange jumpsuits and badges with green dots that will turn red if radiation down there reaches dangerous levels. We’re just going to go ahead right now and call these Chekov’s Badges. The power cycles, booming sounds of “the earth settling,” and a couple of bloody-looking demonic faces chalked up to “graffiti,” this definitely seems a little more sinister than your average research facility. 

As everyone climbs back onto their scooters to head back towards the entrance, David finds a folded note taped to his scooter with the words, “They’re lying.” Opening it, he sees an address and an invitation to learn the truth. This is the sort of stuff I come to Evil for, that constant twisting of what may or may not be the truth. The man at the address is Mateo (Victor Cruz), who works at the facility and who Kristen earlier saw nervously holding a rosary. Mateo mentions a sinkhole and shows them a video that definitely seems to suggest that sinkhole is bad news. 

I forgot that sometimes it can be a good twenty minutes into an episode before we get the title sequence, and when it finally showed up in S4E1, I was delighted to find that the pop-up book motif was back. The narratively relevant pop-up art interrupted by a demonic jump scare is just as good as it’s always been. And of course, that catchy and awesome title music increasing in intensity just feeds into that “warm blanket” feeling that this show about demonic possession gives me—not to mention one of my favorite touches, a message at the bottom of the screen warning, “Skip the intro and you will be haunted.” 

Andy (Patrick Brammall) is far from okay. While working on the house’s extension, he receives a call from Leland with brief instructions, after which he promptly leaves. When we next see him, he is once again laid up in Leland’s weird People Juice room, seemingly unconscious but with his eyes open. Leland repeatedly implants the idea in Andy’s head that Kristen and David are sleeping together, while Sheryl attempts to implant the idea for Kristen to let her back into her life, after Kristen earlier banned her from the house and from her life. Leland and Sheryl disagree on which should take precedence, and the two of them talking over each other to try to brainwash Andy is a pretty funny moment before a hard cut to the next scene. 

Sheryl and Leland quietly argue in Leland's apartment.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

Leland’s brainwashing seems to have worked, as later in the episode Andy goes to David’s quarters and angrily confronts him about sleeping with Kristen, something that the confused priest denies, although we do see the return of Demon Kristen laying on David’s bed and silently taunting him. When David reveals Andy’s confrontation to Kristen, she is understandably irate, and confronts Andy about it the following morning. Whether or not this was the actual intended outcome of Leland’s brainwashing, it still seems to be following his intentions of tearing down Kristen’s defenses. I’m starting to sour on Andy again, and I’m back to suspecting that he, as a pawn in Leland’s game, may not live to see the end of the show.

What happens at the facility after David’s scooter runs out of battery and he proceeds on foot is a quick series of horrifying events: David pulls the tarp off of the sinkhole, which appears to be bottomless. At that moment, the power dips again and red lights with an alarm come on. A massive centipede carrying what appears to be the severed head of a woman as she begs for help crawls out of the sinkhole towards David. At the same time, the Chekov’s Badges turn red, and Ben is struck in the face by a beam from the particle accelerator, causing him to have a very quick series of disturbing images. 

Ben claims he’s received a clean bill of health, but whether or not he’s telling the truth, he’s definitely been affected. Ben the Magnificent finally gets his own djinn back at home, and the sequence of him experiencing it is masterfully crafted, with something just barely stepping into his field of view before the camera pans over to reveal nothing. The djinn, acknowledging that Ben doesn’t believe in it, invites him to close his eyes, before rising behind him and extending its arms as an awesome organ riff sounds off. 

David has an interesting conversation with Sister Andrea (Andrea Martin), about a topic that I, as a lapsed Catholic, sometimes grapple with: the existence of Hell itself. David asks the Sister why a loving God would send people to Hell, and she responds that they send themselves. David mentions that he has friends that don’t believe in God, but they are good people, wondering whether that would be something that sends them to Hell. Sister Andrea merely responds that David should pray for them before he takes his leave. 

David and Sister Andrea sit together in her quarters.
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+

This week’s Kurt Alert is relatively minor, at least at face value. After briefly counseling Kristen’s eldest daughter, who still is interested in becoming a nun, another knock at Sister Andrea’s door reveals a frantic Dr. Kurt (Kurt Fuller). The troubled therapist is asking for the Sister’s help on account of the fact that he did a bad thing, before pushing his way in. What could this be? Knowing Dr. Kurt, it could be anything at this point. 

The centipede that crawled up to David might have been a vision, but the trio’s final visit to the facility seems to dispel that theory. On the fixed camera, Mateo is seen acting erratically before something seems to take him. Racing to the sinkhole, there is no sign of Mateo, but there are claw marks and a splash of blood at the edge of the hole. This is Evil, so we probably won’t get any confirmation as to what actually happened, just a lingering feeling of dread. 

As we close out the episode, we now know that three separate events will converge in 38 days: the opening of the facility, the birth of the Antichrist, and whatever it was David’s angel was referring to in her visitation—causing Kristen to burst into laughter once again. These things probably won’t happen in the next episode, but thankfully we don’t have to wait 38 days to find out. Evil Season 4 is off to a sprinting start, and I couldn’t be happier. 

Evil streams Thursdays on Paramount+.

Written by Hawk Ripjaw

Hawk Ripjaw has been sharing his opinion on film and TV since his early teens, when the local public library gave away prizes for submissions to their newsletter. Since then, he's been writing for local newspapers, international video game sites, booze-themed movie websites, and anywhere else he can throw around some media passion. He watched the Mike Myers Cat in the Hat movie over 50 times in two years, for science.

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