This The Exorcist review contains spoilers.
The Exorcist Season 1 Episode 4
I have been pretty hard on The Exorcist since it premiered. Okay, yes, I am an Exorcist purist, but that is not the problem I have with the series. I approached it as its own entity having little to do with the original film.
The majority of the fault lies in the constant introduction of new characters and plotlines. What started with two priests and a family is now about five priests, a family with a million problems, a philanthropist with a husband on his deathbed, a demon posse, and this week a convent and some carnival folks were introduced. And oh yeah, the Pope is coming!
This week in “Chapter Four Moveable Feast,” the series really broke the episode down into two plotlines running alongside each other. The first revolves around young Casey who is resisting the demon, and the second deals with what brought this surge of violence to Chicago. It’s like sociological commentary with just a light dusting of ontology. I have to say, this episode, though still far from perfect, was the easiest for me to get through.
Let’s take Casey’s story first. The episode opens with a dream she’s having. Casey wakes up in an alternate reality where her father never suffered a brain injury and her sister can still dance. Angela is cheery in the kitchen making breakfast. She greets Casey and breaks open an egg to reveal a bloody chicken fetus and says “Oh, that’s lucky!” Judging by the rest of the episode, not that lucky.
Angela brings Casey;s breakfast over to her and it’s just a bloody heap of chicken fetuses that are still moving. Casey doesn’t want to eat it, and who can blame her, right? The demon is unhappy with her pickiness and tells her, “Picky eaters, they grow up to be depressives and sexual anorexics.” Sure?
After that is where it goes back to the problem I had last week with the heavy violence towards Casey. The demon slaps Casey out of her chair and he says, “See what you made me do, do you think I want to hurt you. You force me to do this when you resist. Just say yes. One tiny little word. Yes.”
Of course the demon is talking about letting him in fully. But those words are commonly used in cases of sexual assault. Just like last week’s episode, it was hard for me to watch. Especially given current events in our political arena.
The dream ends and we learn that Casey has been committed due to the incident on the train. The doctors inform Henry and Angela that Casey, aside from everything she is going through, she is suffering from genital trauma because she has been burning herself. This goes back to last week when we saw Casey take the curling iron and burn her arm, which instead of hurting made her aroused, it seemed.
The relationship between the Demon and Casey is almost becoming analogous to a domestic violence scenario. They are sort of occupying the same space and the demon is outrageously violent towards Casey. He is inflicting a barrage of abuse onto her, and also threatens others if she continues to resist him. And though she is trying her best, the Demon owns her. He has exerted his power over her and there is nothing she can do. He has torn her down both physically and emotionally so she has no choice but to yield to him. It’s very poignant and extremely disturbing.
Watching Casey being abused was still very hard for me, as a woman, to watch this week. But I did understand it a little better. I think it was slowed down a little and focused on the real dynamic instead of just a bunch of useless violence. Which helped a little.
While Casey is dealing with the doctors and the demon, Angela is still convinced that her daughter is possessed by evil and no doctors will be able to treat her. She calls on Father Tomas to help.
Father Tomas was denied the exorcism but decides that he might not have a choice but to go at it alone, unauthorized. Which bring us to the second story of the episode, which deals with the why of it all.
Last week, Father Marcus was excommunicated. They took his collar and sent him off. Except Brother Bennett stepped in and gave Father Marcus some people to go see in Chicago that might be able to help him with Casey.
This week Father Marcus goes to a convent in search of Mother Bernadette. While there, he walks in on an exorcism the nuns are performing on a man. It doesn’t work. Later on in the episode Father Marcus finally gets to speak to the rather feisty Mother Bernadette. She explains that her form of exorcism is a lot more “feminine.”
We also see Father Marcus on something called The Moveable Feast which seems to be a Chicago murder tour. There is a carnie-looking couple leading the tour. Father Marcus has to ruin all the fun and talk about exorcisms, because he doesn’t seem to be able to talk about anything else.
Though a little unclear, it seems like Brother Bennet sent Father Marcus to this couple. They invite Father Marcus to stay with them in their RV and talk about the state of Chicago. Here’s where that second storyline really comes in. They are talking about a “surge in brutality and carnage.” By now it is abundantly clear that Chicago is infested with evil. On last week’s episode there was a lot of talk about the state of Chicago, of how to bring it out of the darkness. In this episode the conversation shifts its focus onto this question of whether Chicago, being as terrible as it is, attracts the evil or whether it’s the evil that has turned Chicago into what it is.
Lester, who drives the murder tour bus, at one point tells Father Marcus, “Consolidate poverty, and your create cultures of violence.”
Looking at that as a socio-political commentary makes sense. In our reality, poor neighborhoods breed a lot of violence. It’s become a survival tool for the communities when no one else is helping them. In this episode, that sentiment rides the line between two thoughts. On the one hand, maybe we brought all the evil onto ourselves by sectioning off the poor and leaving them huddles together and helpless, almost like grouping them into ghettos. On the other side, maybe it’s just a simple fact of evil attracting evil.
This episode focuses a lot on the chicken-and-egg scenario. At some points it seems like Chicago just attracted the evil because of everything that is going on there. At other points, though, it seems the evil is coincidence, it pops up everywhere, but now it has brought Chicago down.
What really brings the whole thing together, and has been most attractive to me, is while all of this is going on there are signs everywhere that says “The Pope Is Coming.” It is such a perfect way of not only connecting the spiritual to the reality, but also creating this really odd universe for our characters to live in. The signs are darkness and light, fear and hope.
The last shot, a powerful one, is of Casey in a padded room created by the Rances and Father Tomas and Father Marcus. The door opens to Casey standing in the corner, she turns, stares at the camera for a second then runs towards it. Clearly the demon has one. She couldn’t fight it anymore. It’s in full force.
Thankfully. The Pope is coming.