Satanic cults have been a topic explored in many movies or shows, but this miniseries takes them to the next level. While it is extreme in some cases, the cult is surprisingly respectful and finds loopholes to keep people away. “Devil in Ohio” is inspired by actual events and based on a book by Daria Polatin. It is a mystery-drama series focusing on the mystery behind Mae Dodd (Madeleine Arthur), her history and the family of Suzanne Mathis (Emily Deschanel).
The show delves into what it looks like inside a satanic cult and how it impacts the main character, Mae, a 16-year-old girl. Born into the cult, Mae is forced to learn and believe in the same religion and practices until she is chosen to be a willing sacrifice. This causes her to run away and be placed in the foster care system. Suzanne, an emergency foster home volunteer, learns about her through working in the hospital. While Mae is in Suzanne’s home, they both become walking contradictions regarding their wants and needs. Suzanne wants to help people in need and focus on her family, but she sacrifices her family for Mae. Mae wants to feel safe and with a real family, but she has Suzanne as her mother and no other family.
The miniseries starts relatively normal, pulling your heartstrings and making you feel sorry for Mae as she escapes from the cult she grew up in. She had to endure traumas such as getting a pentagram carved into her back, terror tactics and isolation. Because of that abuse, Mae does not want to return and clings to Suzanne. Mae’s personality and actions exemplify a battered woman, but as the show progresses, her behavior becomes questionable. Detective Lopez (Gerardo Celasco) works to uncover the truth behind the cult and Mae. Lopez delves into the mystery of what happened to Mae and why the town is trying to hide secrets. When Mae is temporarily placed in Suzanne’s home, many different odd situations confront Suzanne’s family, forcing them to act and become more suspicious over time. The suspense, questions, doubts and anxiety build for Mae and the family.
Psychological trauma is a strong theme in “Devil in Ohio.” It is shown through Mae and Suzanne as they both have suffered from abuse within their family. While they are different, Suzanne hopes to help Mae rescue her mother from the cult as she believes that mothers are saviors and are supposed to save their children. While Mae does not think of her mother as a savior, Suzanne believes the cult has brainwashed Mae’s mom.
Mae does not have the necessary skills to understand social cues. Suzanne’s daughter, Jules (Xaria Dotson), is forced to help Mae blend into society and teach her how to be relatively normal. Jules learns more about Mae’s trauma, and Mae tries to teach her that the world can be evil and that Jules is lucky to have what she has. Jules is the only daughter in the family to show concern for Mae, while Helen (Alisha Newton) and Dani (Naomi Tan) avoid Mae most of the time due to her odd interactions with them.
Throughout the show, I’ve noticed a paradox in Mae’s personality, the foster system and the cult. While in Suzanne’s care, Mae claims that she doesn’t want to return to the cult, yet when she receives a white rose, she is triggered to return. She also wants to feel safe in a loving family, but she rejects the other potential foster family aside from Suzanne’s. Mae believes that she has broken the chain, and the cult taught her that if she breaks the chain, she will bring suffering upon her family and cult. The chain represents the idea that each person born into the cult must stay and cannot leave unless they are killed. However, Mae brings suffering to two families and requests gifts from the devil for her benefit. The satanic cult has teachings in its books that are not true, so Mae is led to believe that sacrifices are always willing. This deceit helps Suzanne discover the real reasoning behind their teachings.
Regarding Suzanne’s paradox, she wants to focus on her family and keep them together; however, I’ve noticed that she cannot shift her focus off Mae as she pushes her daughters to befriend her. Along with instructing Mae to take on the lifestyles of her daughters, she pushes her husband, Peter (Sam Jaeger), to allow Mae to stay in their home. Peter notices their home and life becoming less and less safe the longer Mae stays with them. Strife builds between Suzanne and her family as she wants to hold them all together but also still allow Mae into the family. I feel that Suzanne should have made another choice for her family and Mae. Suzanne had the option of allowing Mae to go into the foster care system and focus on her family, except she allowed her family to fall apart, and all of her focus was on Mae.
From the beginning of the series, I became incredibly concerned for Mae and the family as the story kept moving. Between the third and fourth episodes, I noticed changes in the family dynamics and Mae’s personality and actions. The difference in Mae’s actions has shifted my opinions for the worse as she continues to cause suffering to Suzanne’s family. The family dynamics have shifted from a family of five to two, Suzanne and Mae. Mae’s behavior changes as her focus shifts from needing to escape to needing Suzanne to feel safe. She has pushed Suzanne’s daughters to feel uncomfortable with her actions and created a shrine for Suzanne. “Devil in Ohio” has a twist in the end that I would not have expected to see in the final episode. Why not try “Devil in Ohio” if you enjoy mystery dramas?
“Devil In Ohio” is available to stream on Netflix as of Sept. 2.
By Ayla Hooper