“Devil in Ohio”, the new Netflix thriller miniseries, starts quite well. In fact, the first couple of episodes are gripping enough to make me consider it as a contender for a companion piece of Mike Flanagan’s brilliant “Midnight Mass”, a work that belongs to the highest echelons of TV shows. However, and much to the dismay, “Devil in Ohio” could not maintain the same intrigue that it promised in its early episodes. As the show progresses, it does come across as overblown with tropes; a mishmash of different directions the show tried to venture. The initial intrigue might just be the only thing making you stick around till the end, for this decent-at-best thriller.
Devil in Ohio (2022) Netflix Miniseries Recap:
After escaping a satanic cult in Amontown, Mae (Madeleine Arthur) finds solace in the arms of her doctor, Suzanne (Emily Deschanel). Mae has a bloody pentagram sign carved on her back. Feeling responsible, Suzanne brings Mae to her house, and into her family. As a temporary measure. Before finding a suitable foster place for her. Her family, consisting of her husband, Peter (Sam Jaeger), and three daughters, Helen (Alisha Newton), Jules (Xaria Dotson), and Dani (Naomi Tan) are not immediately drawn to their new guest.
Meanwhile, detective Lopez (Gerardo Celasco) is assigned to Mae’s case and he quickly becomes one of the allies for Suzanne in helping Mae find a new life. Lopez looks into the working of the said cult, however, he faces pushback from his superior. His investigation in Amontown also encounters the shifty Sherriff of the town, who clearly seems to be protective of the cult. It does not take much prodding from Lopez and Suzanne to recognize that every one of the townsfolks of Amontown and perhaps some more, are heavily influenced by the cult.
Meanwhile, Mae starts to forge a friendship with Jules, and she succeeds. Jules also gradually becomes quite close to Mae. Mae helps Jules in her photographic work for the school paper, which in turn brings Jules closer to her crush. However, in the process, Mae also slowly starts to become popular, especially once everyone comes to know about her scarred background. All the while, members of the cult have been following Mae and Suzanne’s family in white vans.
Devil in Ohio (2022) Netflix Miniseries Review:
“Devil in Ohio” is based on the showrunner, Daria Polatin’s own book by the same name. It is helmed by multiple directors. Steven A. Adelson, Brad Anderson, John Fawcett, and Leslie Hope share the directorial duties with two episodes for each assignment. The efforts can be seen to take this occult-based thriller to the heights reached by shows such as “True Detective” and “Midnight Mass”. However, as mentioned, it falters along the way.
The biggest complaint of the screenplay of this series would be its lack of commitment to a single direction. It starts off as a police procedural mystery, a deeper dive into occult-based crimes. Then it gradually becomes a domestic thriller for a bit, where an intruder changes the dynamic of a functioning family for the worse. It then dallies with teenage angst and high-school drama for quite sometime after that. Before rounding it off with a rushed climax with a thriller twist.
Perhaps the intention in “Devil in Ohio” was to produce an exploration of multiple facets of abuse in its various forms. However, the story lacks the nuance and dexterity that would have made this blend of genres seamless. This incoherence made the show quite unfocused as if the story does not know what it wants to tell.
The key example would be the character arc of Mae, one of the two leads. Mae is caught between being a victim whom we are supposed to feel sorry for and a manipulative liar whom the other characters should be wary of. The show does not have the layered character writing that would have allowed Mae to be both. This hesitation to commit Mae to one single bracket creates further inconsistencies. One of them would be that it makes Suzanne’s, the other lead, family look like an extremely apathetic lot. And it also undercuts the impact of the final twist.
Emily Deschanel and Madeleine Arthur are decent as the two leads. Madeleine Arthur has some moments to shine, but she is also bound by her character, Mae’s, continuous ebbs and flows. Barring some, most of the supporting cast does well too. The show is quite well shot and edited. The first couple of episodes continuously maintained heightened suspense that was due to the steady progression of tension in each scene. The in-roads laid in the first couple of episodes are the driving force that would help you stick around with this show, even though the story starts to fumble.
Devil in Ohio (2022) Netflix Miniseries Ending, Explained:
Does Mae survive the cult?
It is revealed that Mae is the daughter of the cult leader, Malachi. She has been chosen as the next human sacrifice to Lucifer, the devil. The cult believes that this sacrifice will bring peace and save their crops. The conviction in Malachi is so strong that even his wife and Mae’s mother are ready to throw their daughter on the funeral pyre.
The cult ups their game in forcing Mae to come back. They attack Suzanne’s family. Mae’s older brother, Noah befriends Jules, which terrifies Mae. Peter, a real estate developer, gets his key property burned down. Without a doubt by the cult. In the final school dance, Mae gets bequeathed by white roses, a previously shown trigger object for her memories. Mae gets vanished and Jules fears she is taken by the cult.
Suzanne lets Detective Lopez know that she is going to Amontown to save Mae. She reaches just in time to save her, after a kerfuffle. Mae’s mother sacrifices herself instead. Lopez, a couple of days later finds that all the cult members, including Malachi, have left Amontown.
Is Mae evil?
The climactic twist reveals Mae was not taken by the cult on the day of the school dance. She chose to go to Amontown, in order to get Suzanne to save her. Mae has built a shrine to her ‘God’ in the backyard of the house. She always wanted to be with Suzanne. Even if that meant getting all the other members of Suzanne’s family out of the way.
Peter, along with his three daughters lives separately now due to Suzanne choosing to shelter Mae indefinitely in their original house. However, both Peter and Suzanne long to be together with Helen, Jules, and Dani. With Detective Lopez’s call to Suzanne about Mae being duplicitous, Suzanne might just finally take a decision on Mae’s future.
Mae might not be evil. But there are certain streaks, no doubt cultivated by her upbringing, that make her quite dangerous to people around her.