Leave it to Evil to make angels as terrifying as demons. You want a gorgeous, ethereal winged being who will make you feel safe? Look somewhere else, ya ding-dong. David runs into the Archangel Michael twice in this episode and the thing’s glowing red eyes and no-mouth-mouth will haunt you for two to five days, at least. Oh, and Michael’s whole deal about God wiping out half of the Earth’s population for “rebirth” purposes and then David looking at a computer screen to see a news video about a mysterious illness coming out of Wuhan, China? Yeah, that’s pretty chilling, too.
Our three merry assessors are handed a new case of the week that just tickles Bishop Marx. It’s not a regular possession, it’s a cool possession. I’m sorry, an angelic possession. A St. Joseph’s parishioner by the name of Ashley Strand is concerned because her husband Raymond believes the Archangel Michael is working through him. It started out harmless: a little donating clothes here, a little working at soup kitchens there — but things have escalated. He wants to sell the house and all their possessions and give the money to the poor. He wants to “live biblically” which, you know, isn’t great for women. Ashley is very pregnant and increasingly stressed out and when the team heads over to the house to meet Raymond they happen upon some extremely weird shit, which is to say, it’s just another day in Assessor Paradise.
Raymond is really out of it. He’s drawing gigantic pictures of a horrifying angel all over the walls and saying stuff like how he’s “the lord’s instrument” and Michael isn’t leaving until they “complete [their] work” and warning David about “the second bowl” while also whispering for help. All very cool stuff happening in the Strand house. Afterward, David tells Marx that this seems more like a demonic possession because Raymond is clearly being haunted. Although Kristen thinks this is clearly a psychotic break of some sort, she is quick to point out to David and Marx that uhh, actually the Bible is full of stories about angels haunting people. In fact, it’s kind of their thing, lest she need to remind David about angels destroying Sodom and Gomorrah and turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt for looking back at their city being decimated when the angels explicitly told her not to. Her bad, I guess.
This exchange is an important seed to plant for the rest of the Raymond plot, but it’s also a reminder that something’s up with Kristen. Sure, she loves to disprove the church, but this bickering with David feels sharper and more contentious than it ever has — and David notices. Whether it’s the darkness that Leland says has taken over her getting stronger or her PTSD from straight up murdering a dude coming out in strange ways, as Dr. Boggs warned, whatever is brewing inside Kristen is building.
But David’s concerns about what’s going on with his friend (remember, he’s also trying to grapple with his vision of Kristen in the field means) have to wait a hot sec, because he has a new visitor in his visions — the Archangel Michael. And that thing seems angry! In his second visit, Michael shows David a glowing bowl, the second bowl Raymond spoke about, and explains it is “God’s penance” which basically means destruction and devastation is coming so that there can be rebirth (the “second bowl” is pulled from the Book of Revelation, if you haven’t figured that out from all the apocalyptic imagery). When David questions how this is just if innocent people will die, Michael’s like aw, hell no, God decides what is just and how punishments should be doled out. But, like, in a very threatening and menacing way.
This idea plays out in Raymond’s story: The team learns that Raymond pulled a family of four out of a burning car in the middle of the highway. (He ditched his wife to do it! Poor Ashley!) They come to learn that video footage of the accident shows that Raymond quickly rescued the mother, father, and child from the car, but let the fourth victim, the uncle, burn for a full minute before pulling him out of the wreckage. When confronted, Raymond explains that Michael was acting through him and God commanded that the man burn because he had been abusing his niece. Now he’ll never be able to touch her again.
The team mulls this over. David explains that there is a school of thought that prescribes to the idea of a “just war” — the idea that if violence is used to stop a much greater wrong, it’s cool. It’s necessary. Now, whose ears do you suppose perk up at this idea? This could be Kristen’s out, at least in David’s eyes, perhaps. She murdered LaRoux (we actually see a shot of him crawling down his hallway, covered in blood, as Kristen follows with her ax…it is unsettling) to prevent him from making good on his threats to kill her family — is that not violence to stop a greater wrong? She’s holding back tears as she peppers David with questions about the details of “just war.” David may not make a connection between Kristen wanting to know if killing someone who threatens your family falls into this category — “If it is the only way to stop a killer, anything beyond that is murder,” he explains — but you know who is seeing red flags getting raised all over the place? Dear Ben! After this conversation and the one he overhears between Kristen and the detective about LaRoux’s wife having an alibi (when he asks Kristen if she’s in trouble, she responds “trouble is my middle name,” another red flag!), Ben must know in his heart of hearts that Kristen killed LaRoux — when will he voice his theory?
Speaking of Ben, he’s figured out a much more rational explanation for what in the actual hell (or heaven, I guess!) is going on with Raymond. Raymond is a crane operator on skyscrapers and Ben notices that he wears a scopolamine patch to help with the vertigo. If that medication is left on too long, it can cause hallucinations and memory loss. Ben and Kristen are pretty sure they’re dealing with some sort of psychotic break brought on by that medication. The team also knows that Ashley is thinking of leaving her husband and believe something like that could really set Raymond off, so they head over to the Strand house for a welfare check. The house is silent and empty of all furniture. They find Raymond alone in a corner and when they ask him where Ashley is, he points across the room at a large pile of something that looks suspiciously like salt. “Ashley turned back instead of trusting in the Lord,” he says. Um, What. The. Fuck. This show’s on Paramount+ now, so we can curse.
So I guess angels suck now. But also, and I know this is a hot take, so do demons. Evil packs so much into 44 minutes, by way of both the freaky shit and thought-provoking philosophical debate, that while all of this Raymond and “just war” stuff is going on, I have yet to mention that Leland is also up to some truly devilish shenanigans.
First, he’s torturing David. Leland’s exorcism has been pushed back a month because the exorcist is booked solid (who knew!), so he’s found a new way to poke and prod at our priest-in-training: Leland wants David to hear his confession! He feels he has wronged him and is seeking forgiveness. When Bishop Marx and Father John (hi, Dylan Baker!) tell David he has to do this as some sort of extra credit to make up for all the priest school he’s been missing to attend to his extracurricular job (David’s the bad boy of priest school), David just laughs and laughs. The whole thing is absurd.
By the end of the “confession” though, David’s not laughing. That’s because Leland asks for forgiveness over the time he coveted, er, also stalked, a beautiful woman who ended up getting sick. When she confessed that she felt like a burden to her loved ones, he told her she was and she should do something about it, so she did. The woman’s name was … Julia. Much of the David and Julia story remains a mystery, and who knows how much of what Leland is saying is the truth, but he is 100 percent doing it to get under David’s skin. David doesn’t take the bait — he channels his anger into the rosary in his hand (there’s blood!) and goes on his way without giving Leland the satisfaction.
Thankfully, it seems like David isn’t the only one at St. Joseph’s who thinks Leland is evil incarnate. We meet Sister Andrea (and hi, Andrea Martin! The Kings really get the best guest stars), who tells David that using pain to force visions from God “is for tourists” and teaches him to use a metronome app instead. She immediately and literally smells the evil on Leland and once she sees what David is up against, offers her services. What a team!
Leland is attempting to torment someone else, too: Sheryl, of course. Leland gets the call about his exorcism being pushed back while wedding cake tasting with Sheryl and gets so enraged he first fantasizes about stabbing the wedding planner in the eyes with a cake-topper (hey, wedding planning is stressful), and then calls the wedding off by way of informing Sheryl that he was only using her to get to Kristen and telling her to take her “dried up little ovaries and drag them back under the rock [she] came from.” The two have several more contentious run ins throughout the episode: People are slapped, threats to expose secrets are made, “die you stupid pig fuck” is scribbled in blood on people’s walls, you know, typical breakup stuff. The most interesting moment, perhaps, is during one fight between the two exes in which Sheryl, who apparently has a lot of intel on what Leland’s up to, informs him that his threats don’t scare her. “Do you know how many demons I dated before you?” she says. Even Leland looks surprised. What does that mean?