While not without its flaws and a serious mid-season dip in quality, I really enjoyed season one of Fox’s The Exorcist – now the series is back and it up sticks across The States to deal with a wholly different God-fearing, gun-toting, rootin’-tootin’ society.
With Pazuzu the demon defeated in Chicago, it feels only right that we bid goodbye to the Rance family as Angela (Geena Davis playing the Linda Blair character from the original 1973 film) and her kid’s story never had the legs for a second season. What this season opener gets right is to follow the two most compelling actors, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels from one of my fave ever series Cutting It) and his young apprentice on their journey into hell…
With our two pastoral protagonists on the run, the action picks up in rural Montana in the back of a pick-up truck as Father Marcus consoles a possessed woman, Cindy while Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) drives… pursued by Cindy’s policeman husband and his Cracker Barrel-fuelled mate.
It’s a breathless opening with a car-chase, gunfire and a possessed soul so within two minutes, I was hooked.
Set on an island accessible only by ferry in nearby Washington state, Story B sees Andy (John Cho from Star Trek) playing foster father to five problem kids, each with thier own disability, baggage or flaw – each perfect fodder for demonic possession… just promise me you won’t go into the woods or visit the abandoned cabin where a witch used to live!
Feisty atheist emo Verity perfectly contrasts Shelby’s god-fearing polite young black man. Truck is an overweight, sleepwalking lummox while Caleb is blind venture into the woods and visit the old abandoned cabin… you get the picture.
The youngest foster kid, Grace (who’s lack of confidence and social anxiety mean she hides behind masks made from pillows) stays at home with Andy in anticipation of the social worker’s visit.
Back in Montana, Tomas and Marcus hole up in an all-American barn straight outta Warlock and the upshot is that the demon inside Cindy gets into Tomas’ head whereupon it shows him visions including children’s spooky paint handprints on an unidentified church.
Caleb, the blind kid sneaks out at night, into the misty, Northwest Pacific woods (much scarier than a misty downtown Chicago – good call showrunners) for a Candyman-style initiation ceremony which involves standing on creaky planks above a well and counting to ten.
He’s surely gonna fall, Bruce Wayne-like into the well, but no – John Cho grabs him well before he falls into the well and all is, well… well.
Until, in the final shot of the episode, when the children’s handprints appear on the walls of the foster home, perfectly linking Story A and Story B.
Writer Heather Bellson and director Jason Ensler know how to eek out tension and excitement and also blow fresh ideas up the asses of overused tropes (like the scene in the barn from Katherine Bigelow’s 80’s vampire flick Near Dark when Cindy is shackled and on an intravenous drip) by having Father Tomas invite the demon into his own body – which it does.
I’m not sure if Tomas is now semi-possessed or not, but it takes season two off in an interesting new direction with another state – an hallucinatory, inner plane of existence where Father Tomas can smote the teeth of the wicked and generally slug it out with the demons he’s trying to exorcise.
In this video, creator Jeremy Slater explains that they’ve filmed scenes “so scary, they don’t know how we’re going to get them on network TV” so I’m sure The Exorcist novelist William Peter Blatty – who died in 2017 and who this episode is dedicated to – would approve.
What doesn’t work so well is the fact that any tension that does build in the Candy exorcism is oft-interrupted by introducing the foster kids or simply cutting to Story B. While it did grate slightly, I’d rather see a little tension lost this way than each story told in the course of two separate episodes as The Walking Dead is inclinced to do.
Also, while The Exorcist’s world thankfully got bigger in scope than just one family in Chicago, season two does look to have written-off the whole Satanic cult infiltrating the Catholic church storyline. While I don’t mind, as it was a little silly, I can understand if others think it’s a missed, forgotten opportunity. Maybe it will come back around, like Linda Blair’s head as her mother sucks cock in Hull.
The Exorcist continues on Friday, October 6th on Fox and is well worth the watch.