This The Exorcist review contains spoilers.
The Exorcist Season 2 Episode 1
Exorcists Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) and Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) are taking it on the road, and they’re doing it in a hurry in the opening segment of The Exorcist season 2 premiere, “Janus.” The priestly pair open the episode on the run from something more devilish than the demon-mommy-to-be in labor in the back of their pickup truck: Men with shotguns and a whole lotta gas gaining on them in a road rage race in rural Montana. We leave behind the Rance family of Season 1. The mother of which, played by Geena Davis, turned out to be – SPOILER ALERT – the little girl Regan from the 1972 classic The Exorcist, all grown up with a possessed daughter of her own. She was saved by Marcus and Father Tomas and a nun who only spoke for fifteen minutes a day.
Tomas has been a faithful follower of everything Marcus has preached until this latest escapade. The pair disappeared from Chicago after turning the town’s clerical hierarchy upside down in a massacre with a long range of collateral damage. Now they are running from the cops who tagged them with a kidnapping charge because they offer services the church doesn’t. We plainly see how Marcus got his weathered visage after he gets into one of the best staples of serial TV, a knock-down, drag-out fight. This is one former man of the cloth who does not offer the other cheek. Well, he does, over and over again as he is pummeled, but Marcus would live and die by the sword. He carries a .45, or bigger, for personal protection. His ceremonial garments would fetch quite a bit at a hock shop.
Tomas and Marcus are appropriately harried throughout. They barely have time for the gallows humor that brought them together last year. Actually, Marcus should be funnier in general because he has the British accent, but he’s far too serious. His light moments come across warm, but never fuzzy. Tomas is having more fun slipping in and out of time and space during the exorcism rituals. He loses himself in the inner worlds the demon provides. Most of his worlds are dreamlike realities that turn into gooey centered piñatas of temptation or recrimination.
The subplot is set Nachburn Island, Washington, where a small foster home is run by a the friendly and concerned Andy Kim (John Cho). He’s a little weird, but all the kids have problems. Some are physically challenged, others mentally, some straight out sociopathic. They are a family that dysfunctions as one. The island itself boasts a legendary witch who poisoned a bunch of kids and dumped them down a well. It’s might only be a myth, but it makes for an interesting game of blind man’s bluff.
“Janus” contained some very effective gross-out, as per the horror dictum of Stephen King’s Danse Macabre. From creepy-crawly worms in the woods to the viscous fluids and mottled lips of the possessed, a full spectrum is presented. The makeup effects are first-rate, especially the mottled scars on the possessed mom, but no less so on the wounds and bruises Marcus receives in the fight scenes. Tomas does a spooky double take with just the whites of his eyes when he is sucked into demonic trance. The distortions of the possessed woman are on par with season 1. She must do a lot of yoga.
The atmosphere is appropriately creepy, even on the sundrenched dusty roads and parched off roads. But they are at their most effective in the possessed fantasia, especially as the foreshadowing in the opening scene comes into view at the end as the priests are drawn to their new family drama.
The rites of exorcism are rushed, and become more part of the adventure story than the horror tale, in spite of the religious overtones. There isn’t much in the way of the satanic blasphemy that marked the original film. Instead of Catholic Guilt, we get a whiff of sexual tension as former Father Marcus Keane professes to unavailable because he’s married to the man upstairs. Tomas lives down the hall, and the demons he faces are more mundane. Both men are haunted by the lives they might have lead of they hadn’t turned their collars around. Neither regrets the choice, but Tomas would obviously be happier in a quieter diocese.
“Janus” is fast paced. There are few moments for quiet spiritual reflection, besides the kids communing with nature on their walks. There is a love story history between Kim and his ex, Rose Cooper (Li Jun Li), who is overseeing the progress of the kids, which will probably be used for future peril. With the episode making virtually no reference to the Rance family of the first season, it truly becomes the story of the exorcists themselves. Once they get stuck on an island with a bunch of impressionable trouble-children, the priests will be in surrounded by potential Regans. Although it looks like the blind kid Caleb (Hunter Dillon) will get the honor of hosting the devil.
“Janus” was written by Heather Bellson, and directed by Jason Ensler. It is loosely based on the novel The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.