This The Exorcist review contains spoilers.
The Exorcist Season 2 Episode 8
The Exorcist season 3, episode 8, “A Heaven of Hell,” further exceeds the scope of the source material book and film, while nodding to some of the smaller details usually glossed over in the devil-made-me-do-it genre. The first episode of season 2 explored a non-exorcism, jumped on by Father Tomas, but easily debunked by Marcus. Why bother when the devil isn’t in the details? Psychology isn’t as scary as the devil, unless there’s an axe murderer waiting in the hallway. But it set up the premise that any of these cases could turn out to be costly bullshit.
In this episode, Verity brings up from the very beginning that the family has a little bit more do worry about than a possessed foster parent. First, I have to admit, from the second I saw the corpse in the bathtub I was waiting for it to come alive. But Verity brings up a good point. Besides the pantheon of demons and the international hierarchy of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, the local cops need a collar. They aren’t so thrilled to let a murderer go just because of two guys whose collars are turned around.
Trust is a big issue on the show, and in the family at the center of the proceedings. It ranks higher than household chores. It’s been three days since the exorcism started and no one has cleaned the bathroom. Everyone relies on everyone else colluding with each other, knowingly or not, and yet they have a problem with demons. Everyone saw Andy kill someone, and they all force a cover-up. That’s just bad karma, the kind that loses you friends.
Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson) doesn’t have any friends, which may pain Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan), already suffering the tortures of the damned but Catholic guilt-ready enough to let her know she hurt his feelings. Mouse lost most of her friends 20 years ago at the Abbey on the Isle of Iona. Back then Marcus wore a wig and probably listened to a lot of Radiohead. He was a lucky young priest. He felt the power of god flowing him from the age of twelve while aspiring nuns like his Church Mouse were still fumbling around in the dark hoping it’s all real. The devil gets into her because she has too much to prove, but she feels that way because she’s up against some heavy competition. Of course when it’s over they both wind up stuck on the road and living on coffee that tastes like pond water.
Father Tomas shuts his eyes when the demon Nicole (Alicia Witt) shows itself. This is troublesome. Either he is too unwilling to even consider opening up to something new or he’s too afraid he’s not strong enough to look evil in the face. Either way, it exposes weakness or reluctance. Tomas has very few small moments in this episode, but Alfonso Herrera takes several opportunities to bring intimacy into charged settings. When he is shown a little appreciation by his mentor Marcus, he lets flicker for just a few seconds that he’s not quite as happy as he should be. The moment becomes too mundane and foreshadows the devil’s mind betrayal seconds before we realize what we’re seeing.
Likewise for Marcus Keane, the jaded, faded ex-priest who’s seen it all and decided the worst demon of them all is retirement to a normal life. This leads to Ben Daniels best and smallest moment, where he lets leak a very subtle excitement in Marcus’ eyes during the pickup truck pickup. It’s not exactly sexual, and it’s not quite brotherly, it is single second of non-dialog hope without a shred of the expectation of disappointment. It doesn’t last long, which makes it downright poignant, especially set before the matter-of-fact goodbye kiss between two older men. But as a horror fan, it still begs the distraction that the promise of a regular life is just another satanic temptation.
Of course, it might be that Marcus doesn’t really see bay property as the best real estate. And he ought to know, he has dispossessed dozens of overstays from more prime locales. The power goes off a lot on that island off Seattle. It’s no wonder the devil feels at home. When you turn on the stove in a kitchen the room comes alive, even if neighbors like Colleen and her husband might not be, damn their eyes.
But the genius of the episode is the exorcism turnarounds. After all the prayers, chants, holy water, candles and abjurations, the biggest weapon turns out to be teen angst. Winona Ryder outgothed Beetlejuice in Beetlejuice, and Verity talks truth to power. The devil takes a cue by cutting out on the action like a teenager sneaking out the window after being grounded for climbing out windows. This is why the devil is always the best character, the one I root for, at least.
The devil gets into the heads, hearts and minds in insidious and playful ways. In spite of all the priestly precautions, and magical binding circles, the devil rides out. It even leaves a business card. The malevolent spirit names the alchemical animals and identifies itself as the Dragon, and then asks what are you, answering “nothing at all.” The devil offers glimpses of the true face of God because it is one and it takes one to know one.
When Andy (John Cho) and Rose Cooper (Li Jun Li) finally come together at the end of the episode as one, I cheered. We don’t know who’s dead, alive or brain dead. We don’t know which dimension is the real world nor where they keep the salt. But we can see the glee behind the eyes of Cho as he gives in to his inner demons, and Li as she waits a second too long for a proper warning.
The Exorcist is most impressive because it comes out on network TV. But Fox is the network brought out The Simpsons and The X-Files. Both series pushed the boundaries of their respective genres, and had a lot of fun doing it. They even had a crossover, like some of The Exorcist cast did on The Simpsons this season. Fox is conjuring the devil through our TV screens. The pope even tried to warn us, but we were watching television.