This The Exorcist review contains spoilers.
The Exorcist Season 2 Episode 6
The devils finally show their collective faces this week. And why not? This is episode 6 of the second season of The Exorcist. If you watch episode 6 three times on a large-screen TV, a demon will actually appear in your living room. If you mention episode 6 three times in a review, “Darling Nikki,” actually appears to proofread it for you, though she’s actually just making sure we only say good things about her. Devils, and angels in general, can be quite vain.
Nicole (Alicia Witt) loves what Andy’s (John Cho) done with the place since she stepped out of his life, and into the abyss. She loves how he’s locked his past in the greying amber of denial, and how he looked over the daughter they never had. Grace is gone but nobody could pluck up the nerve to tell her. She’s disappeared down the rabbit hole, but left a trail of breadcrumbs for the other kids to find her. The foster parent wants to fill in all those holes because he’s very concerned they are messing with his sanity. If Andy is so afraid he’s going crazy, why doesn’t he think to introduce Nikki to the kids when she first shows up? The timing would be perfect. She’s gone out of his way to prove she’s real. He can feel her flesh as well as her words.
Truck says he attacked Verity because he the voices in his head told him to. This tags him as having a neurological disease. He gets left behind. Andy immediately makes the decision to erase the kid, and all the emotion he’s tied into his relationship with him, so he can move on. Last week, Andy confessed to Rose Cooper (Li Jun Li), the social worker who’s been keeping an eye on him since they had eyes for each other, that he thinks he might be going crazy. The season opened with a false trail: A case of possessive-Munchausen-by-proxy with enough details to fool the normally reserved Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera). His partner, the former priest but still exorcist, Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) reminded Tomas of importance of following procedure. This was a departure on several fronts. Marcus is the one we usually associate with having a bit of madness. He’s the priest who carries a gun. But it also veered from the standard practice of exorcist shows and movies on only mentioning false exorcisms to actually exploring it.
This is where the real beauty of this episode lies. We know going in there’s a devil behind all this, the show is called The Exorcist, after all. But up until the very last second, the progression remains ambiguous over whether we are witnessing a series of psychological breaks or cases of real possession.
John Cho is excellent this episode. He is a vulnerable scab. We don’t know whether he is grieving or falling into the trap laid out by the devil. He is morose, far more morose than it appears his character normally is. But he has every reason to feel and show it. He is in a bad situation, following several mishaps at his place, and can see a very unpleasant reality coming. His confrontation with the priests over dessert comes right to the edge of provocation. Andy makes a few witty remarks under Father Tomas as he says “Grace,” and instead of saying Amen, he says Ramen. You gotta hand it to Cho, he isn’t even playing a comic character, and this joke works on two levels. The obvious school boy reaction of mental health worker to religion, but also with the pride of the cook announcing what’s cooking.
Throughout the interrogation scene, he fluctuates between grieving husband, frightened guardian and paranoid possessed guy. Seeing Nikki both calms him and drives him to the point of losing it. This is what the exorcists are hoping, but instead they are just bullying a broken man, already at odds with his own sanity. At first Rose warns the priests they have more to lose than to gain by badgering Andy, and Marcus says that’s a chance he is willing to take. He’s got nothing to lose. He’s in between demons at the moment anyway. The visionary-impaired Father Tomas excuses himself at the first sight of an overfilled blood pastry. Later Tomas gets a foot in the face for his finicky ways.
Tomas has seen the history of the island after he touched the rock of death. The island is a hunting ground for demons that have been on the island for hundreds of years. People are killed by the people they love. The demons specialty is convincing parents to murder their own children.
Demons have a really good sense of smell even if they don’t look like they smell that good. Poor Maria Walters all that wealth and power and here she is filled with cancer. The demon inside her bemoans the short lifespans of wealthy dowagers who dabble in sitting room sorcery. Her mind was willing but her flesh is weak. The Vatican vigilantes treat her with a holy water intravenous infusion.
In Chicago, Mouse finally gets her hand on a devil with influence and power. Zuleikha Robinson, who was not a whore on HBO’s Rome, plays Mouse as anything but mousey. She gets in, gets the job done, and gets out, leaving some kind of righteous conflagration in her wake. The hospitalized demon tells Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) that Mouse has quite the checkered past. It looks like she might have been hastily made by Father Marcus, possibly while on a post-exorcism bender. Her exorcist credentials are highly dubious. But isn’t that really the case with any exorcist? Reality TV ghost-hunting shows are littered with pious pundits of dispossession, but where are they getting their degrees? Not at the Vatican, which closed down the Office of Exorcism soon after the tragic events of the first season took out the shiniest half of the Holy See in Chicago.
The effects are very good for network. The second eye in the socket trick is a useful device. It shows us how to spot a demon of high standing when it’s living in a person, and it also shows us when it’s moved out. It only hints at the wreckage left behind. Regardless of how long it takes to get the devil out of someone, the damage always outweighs the security deposit. That is a very busy house. Between the visions and the demons, uninvited family with kitchen knives, priests who overstay their welcomes, you wouldn’t think Andy would ever get a chance to put his own handprint on the family’s traditional wall.
The kids wonder whether the island witch is a real person but the closing sequence is pure magic. This is one powerful energy at work. Most of the times, the priests have to contend with pea soup puke and spinning heads, but the devil on this island can an also juggle.
When you get down to it, Tomas, Marcus and Bennet are really the Ghostbusters, only with turned around collars instead of jumpsuits and holy water in place of proton packs. They are ambulance chasing real estate agents, but instead of repossessing haunted houses from the nearly departed, they dispossess diabolical squatters. “Darling Nikki” is the best episode of the season. It amps up the ambiguity between psychological causes and spiritual ones, and finally shows the true face of the devil.