This The Exorcist review contains spoilers.
The Exorcist Season 1 Episode 2
After watching The Exorcist premiere, I couldn’t help but feel like a part of me was being torn to shreds by terrible television out to ruin all that is sacred. The thing is, though, I’m used to it. Since the 1973 Exorcist, there have been plenty of follow-ups that have completely soiled the original’s good name. With that in mind, I decided to treat the television series as something new, try to see the potential in it, and cut it some slack. That did not work. If last week was bad, this week sucked out all hope.
The main problem I had with, “Chapter One: And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee,” was its lack of focus. It seemed to throw all its tools out at once. “Chapter Two: Lupus in Fabula,” had the opportunity to slow things down and delve deeper into some of the storylines introduced in last week’s episode. Instead, it chose to climb deeper down the rabbit hole and made a bigger mess of things.
The opening scene introduces some sort of Boy Scout group dedicated to exorcisms. We soon learn that Father Marcus, the foul-mouthed wayward priest, was forced to be a part of the group, which is where, presumably, he developed his obsession for exorcisms.
From that point on, the rest of chapter two divides its attention between Casey (Hannah Kasulka) growing more and more demonic, and Father Tomas and Father Marcus deciding whether they should trust each other and when’s the best time to schedule an exorcism on Casey.
The episode title is an idiomatic phrase that translates to “speak of the devil.” The line, in Latin, “speak of the devil, and he shall appear,” is said quite a few times in the episode. Father Marcus explains it to Father Tomas to illustrate the point that the demon has infiltrated the city and is only going to grow. On the flipside of that, Casey calls on the demon for support. Unlike classic tales of exorcism, the series personifies the demon as this mobster-looking fellow with a pinky ring.
We first see the demon at Casey’s lacrosse game. She looks over at the bleachers and perched next to her sister is this manifestation of whatever is possessing her. Casey calls on him again during family game night when Angela is telling Henry (Alan Ruck) she thinks Casey is possessed. There’s a cool moment where Angela and Casey are on either sides of this giant Jenga tower and through an empty space we see Casey’s eye quickly shift into that of the demon’s. By the end of the episode, Casey has her head resting on the demon’s shoulders while she recounts the troubles of her day, like a daughter would to her father.
Speaking of her father, what the hell is going on? Last week, Henry was nearly catatonic. He barely spoke and spent most of his time staring silently at the television screen. This week, he is running around, making jokes, talking about Jenga architecture, acting completely normal. We learn that he suffered a traumatic brain injury, but what we don’t learn is how he is miraculously back to his old self. At first I thought it had to be yet another weird thing that was happening in the house, but no one in the series seemed to share my complete confusion over this new Henry. It went unnoticed. Is this just one of those things they decided to change after the pilot? Like when the teams decide they want different home décor or to get rid of Michael Scott’s brother? The show spent quite a lot of time on Henry’s affliction in the pilot for them to just let it go. But that is exactly what they did on this week’s episode. I wonder if that will be touched on at all next week.
Chapter two introduced about as much as the pilot did. “Camp Exorcism,” the mobster demon, Henry’s sudden recovery, the Pope is apparently on his way, and then the last minute or so of the episode introduced us to yet another major plot point! The demon squad is apparently harvesting organs from a Southside Chicago neighborhood. Because why not?
The socio-political commentary of murdering and harvesting organs from low-income neighborhoods could be spun into a very interesting narrative for the series. However, by that point, I was so tired of watching the episode that it was a complete waste. Last week, in the last minute, they threw in the Shyamalanian twist that Casey, not Katherine, was possessed. Which made enough sense for a pilot episode that wants to hook people. But then “Lupus in Fabula” went and through another curveball at the end of the episode. Do I want to know why organs are being harvested by a group of people, one who we know to have been possessed?
Of course I do! But did I need another plot point thrown in right before the buzzer? No, I didn’t.
Again, I gave The Exorcist pilot the chance to live up to potential. In my review, I wrote that if the series finds focus and takes its time with the points it has already established and the characters it has introduced, then it could turn into something. But, as I feared, they did not do that. They hurled even more at us.
If a show is going to really jam-pack episodes with thing after thing than they really have to make sure that everything is compelling enough. Because the exorcism concept is one that people are very familiar with, I understand the need to try and spice it up or reinvent it. However, the way The Exorcist is going so far, I’d rather they play with what they have even if it is stuff we already know. The idea is to make us want to watch it again. To experience it again and feel something between excitement and nostalgia. So I will say it again, all the tools are there, the series just needs to pick something and dive deep. Navigate old waters in a new way. Or even the new waters in a way that is at least a tiny bit titillating.