‘Devil in Ohio’ Is a Buckeye State Schlockfest Starring Emily Deschanel: TV Review

A voice cries out, “The teachings of the fire, as we seek for something greater,” as pictures of birds in the air and blood flowing from a rose’s prickly stem fill the screen. “He’s the devil in Ohio, with eyes we’ve all grown accustomed to.”

This theme tune has a self-conscious silliness about it that, in a way, is finally merited by the series it introduces. “Devil in Ohio” on Netflix isn’t so good that its mistakes wind up making sense, but it’s so schlockily unafraid of both its excesses and its flaws that it feels hard to criticise.

The early episodes play with Lifetime movie portentousness, with endless hints that something is, eventually, going to turn bad, if only because people this sunnily bland and sanded of character traits seem destined to have their lives interrupted. The question of what befell Mae in her upbringing and what cruel lessons she took from her misfortunes is whispered rather than spoken at first.

Sam Jaeger’s portrayal of Suzanne’s husband and Gerardo Celasco’s role as a detective attempting to figure out what diabolical activity is haunting the Buckeye State both play characters that float through the action, but no one in this universe ever fully feels genuine. Later in the series, Mae’s traumas are revealed too quickly to have any impact, and Suzanne’s own recollections of abuse that mirror Mae’s seem insufficient to explain all of Mae’s poor judgement decisions and a little mercenary on the show’s authors’ side. The entire purpose of what Suzanne has gone through is to help her tale make sense, which is not unique, but “Devil in Ohio” feels like it was written so quickly that the seams are too obvious.

But it doesn’t mean “Devil in Ohio” is dull. I found it amusing how the characters would refer to their teams as “Go Bucks!” or “Go Browns!” to let us know where they were. (Jenna Maroney from “30 Rock’s” making a horror movie that also serves as a tourism pitch for the state of Connecticut comes to mind.) Furthermore, the show’s ending is depressing in a way that seems like a neat and gratifying inversion of the suburban stereotypes that it had previously exploited. To get there, though, you must go through a lot of material, most of it amusing for unintended effects.

Netflix will debut “Devil in Ohio” on Friday, September 2.

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