Content Warning: Devil in Ohio deals with themes of self-harm and child abuse.
Devil in Ohio is a thriller series streaming on Netflix. When a girl is found by the side of the road, having fled from a mysterious cult, psychiatrist Suzanne Mathis (Emily Deschanel) searches for a way to protect the girl, even as the cult does everything it can to get her back.
What is good is often far more complicated than what is evil. It is generally easy to spot when we see truly bad things happening. When someone is being hurt or abused, there is generally little grey area involved. Good, however, can be a bit more nuanced. Why and how we do things matter almost as much as the action or the result itself. This messiness is only compounded by the fact that humans are emotional beings, and as such, we often find our view of the events around us colored by how they make us feel. All these elements of our perception of good and when a person, or character, is being good are explored throughout Devil in Ohio‘s eight-episode story.
While the core premise that this series rotates around is that of a young woman’s connection to an evil cult, the most interesting aspects of this series are the ones most divorced from that focus. When young Mae Dodds (Madeleine Arthur) finds herself staying with Dr. Mathis’s family, the unrest it causes throws the family’s life into disarray. And that’s even before the worst of the cult’s machinations begin.
This messiness of emotions and intentions does a great job of showcasing how intricate actions and intentions can be. While every character has their compromised moments, no one in this series highlights this concept more than Dr. Mathis herself. Her desire to protect Mae from the cult is noble but also comprised. Unfortunately, her fixation on saving the young woman quickly leads her to fail in other aspects of her life. When her actions stop being “good” and become “bad,” or if they are both at once, are engaging questions the show asks.
While the various interactions and intentions of the Mathis family go a decent way to creating an interesting center for the show, the actual main plot of Devil in Ohio falls into the category of just okay. The cult is depicted in a satisfyingly creepy way, but the story doesn’t pick up till episode six, and even then, most of it lands effectively but never truly excels. There are a couple of interesting twists I didn’t see coming, and I applaud how the series doesn’t fall into the trap of delivering an overly clean “happily ever after” ending. Given the emotionally complicated narrative, such an ending would’ve felt entirely out of place.
The acting in Devil in Ohio delivers each of the characters in a convincing fashion. All the family, school, and general life drama is captured well, and the various cult members sell the ominous vibe of their part in the series satisfactorily.
When all is said and done, Devil in Ohio delivers a solid, if unexceptional, thriller story. Its delivery of how complicated the actions and motives of much of its cast is interesting but doesn’t pull enough weight to fully compensate for the main story that gets moving too slowly and never delivers anything exceptional.
Devil in Ohio is streaming now on Netflix.
Devil in Ohio
Devil in Ohio delivers a solid if unexceptional, thriller story. Its delivery of how complicated the actions and motives of much of its cast is interesting but doesn’t pull enough weight to fully compensate for the main story that gets moving too slowly and never delivers anything exceptional.