When Netflix goes through a content drought, I usually end up watching whatever made it to the #1 spot on the service. This week, that’s Devil in Ohio, a new limited series based on a book that at least in theory It seemed like it could be something adjacent to True Detective, the story of a satanic cult in rural Ohio and a girl who escaped from it.
Unfortunately, in practice, what could have been an interesting concept at FX or HBO suffers from Netflix’s QA issues once again. The script, cast, and production values here simply don’t compare to similar crime-based rivals. While it is easy to see how this story could been creepy and compelling, Devil in Ohio instead feels like an overly long SVU episode of Law and Order.
The show stars at least one actress you may know, Bones’ Emily Deschanel, who plays a doctor who takes in a runaway girl, Mae, with a pentagram carved into her back. The show doesn’t really seem that concerned with characters making logical connections, with Deschanel worrying about where the girls’ parents are and why they haven’t filed a missing persons report. And she keeps worrying about this after the girl with the pentagram scar. pray to Satan before a meal at the dinner tablewhich implies that maybe his upbringing was a bit…dull. Still, it takes half the show for everyone else to realize that maybe, just maybe, her family is a little suspicious.
One main problem with Devil in Ohio is that it’s not a very long series, eight 40-45 minute episodes, but it still feels bloated with additional storylines, like one daughter struggling with her sexuality, another worrying about being popular on the school. The heavily indebted family man really needs to sell a big house he built. And all of this takes away from the real and interesting core concept here, the extremely evil satanic cultwhich makes me wonder why all these weird stories are there, even if occasionally Mae’s story dips into them.
The series, to me, represents the “Netflix divide” when it comes to content quality. I can easily see this same story being adapted into an HBO series like Sharp Objects, The Outsider, or Mare of Easttown, and it shares at least some DNA with Apple’s Servant, but it’s miles below the quality of any of those, again, like an overlong episode of the kind of network TV drama we last saw Emily Deschanel in. But from the creepy premise and hell, even the title intro, I expected something more. By comparison, even Echoes on Netflix, which isn’t great either, it’s the latest #1 series, could be better than this. Devil in Ohio, even as an eight-episode limited series, is simply not worth the 5-6 hours it takes to binge, when there are so many better things to watch. Usually on other streaming services, these days.
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