This The Exorcist review contains spoilers.
The Exorcist Season 2 Episode 9
“Lather, rinse, repeat,” Homer Simpson once fantasized answering about how he kept his hair so luscious and full if he’d grown up in a hippie community instead of on The Simpsons. “Always, repeat,” he emphasized ethereally. The title of The Exorcist season 3, episode 9 is “Ritual and Repetition,” and the way former father Marcus (Ben Daniels) tells it, they go heavy on repeat.
While you can’t really say exorcists have a boring job, they are on the same kind of run mill they would have had if they stayed at their day jobs. Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) can attest to that. He ran a comfy parish filled with friendly faces hiding mundane lapses of faith. He could have gone on to be Bishop, he was so beloved. But he traded in an easy path to glory for an arduous life on the road. Exorcists get out of the frying pan of the Holy Roman Catholic political in-fighting and into the frying pan of hell. But they can’t eat anything off it or they’d lose their souls. That’s one of the rules.
The rules, regulations and regalia aren’t the only restraints of an exorcist’s life. The exorcists on The Fox series aren’t allowed time for a regular life, personal connections or roots, which went the way hearing weekly confessions from the same old sinners. It’s not like that in New York City, whose police department keeps exorcists on the payrolls. Sgt. Ralph Sarchie of the 46th Precinct in South Bronx, and retired Cult Awareness Task Force cop Marcos Quinones, who holds two master’s degrees in religion, get to go home to their comfy apartments after a long day collaring demons. That’s because they treat the devil like any other perp. He’s got his rights, they make sure he knows them, and anything he says can get him in a lot of trouble. That’s why the devil only speaks in tongues in Manhattan, as much of a mouthful as that sounds.
It is here that The Exorcist jumps off the treadmill as a series. The men with the turned-around collars have to play detective while John Cho as the possessed Andy gets to channel his inner Jack Nicholson in a surprisingly nuanced performance. Most movies about exorcisms repossess the devil before he does the most damage. The Exorcist already showed the kind of damage that can result from a demonless exorcism. This week they let Satan inside and it comes out to play.
And boy does Andy play. He ties his family up, knocks them around, kicks some of them for good measure and does it all with a smile big enough to sit on King Ezekiel’s face on The Walking Dead. It’s not a smirk. It’s not a mirthless grin. The devil is having the time of his life, extending the lives of his family long enough to torture them with dread and worry. The malevolent spirit that inhabits the island is only trying to bring families together. Blood is thicker than water, after all, and water has been a strong spiritual conductor on the show. Between the pond swill islanders pass off to coffee, to the tide Nicole (Alicia Witt) drowned herself in, to whatever came pouring out of Andy’s mouth when he remembered, or down the well with Rose, it is a powerful force. Marcus keeps a bottle of the holy stuff in his backpack for bouts of cotton mouth.
While Andy denies absolution to last season’s demoness in the land of nod, Marcus gets to play Homicide Detective Columbo, first name unknown. The ex-priest examines crime scenes like he’s auditioning for a CSI: Puget Sound. He fits together broken glass, measures impromptu weaponry, checks the blood on a pitchfork, openly wondering if the pitchfork might be a little too “on” under the circumstances, and follows the clues to the shack where the Rose (Li Jun Li) and the kids are hidden in Andy’s malicious game of Hide and Seek. Although he never gets tired of playing Duck Duck Goose. It’s up there with Blind Man’s Bluff for the furious foster parent. We know that the demon of the island infects parent’s minds to kill their families, but Andy metes out his murderous rampage at reasonable pace. He takes time to roll out some one liners mocking god, and also amps up the suspense with the pure terrorizing power of his voice. And, while his magic is strong enough to dangle Rose over the Island Witch wishing well, his sense of self-preservation isn’t refined enough to keep Verity from pulling a Houdini.
While Marcus might make a pretty good cop, Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson) would be a great asset to any Secret Service, Her Majesty’s or His Holiness’s. She outguns the all-too-proper-Italian-speaking Vatican cops and still makes it to Father Tomas in time for a serious wakeup call. Hannah Kasulka returns as Casey Rance in a knock-out reprisal of the dual roles of possessed and demon that floors the priest like the bulldozing of St. Anthony’s Church.
“Ritual and Redemption” works as an action episode more than a horror offering, except in the obvious loving tribute to The Shining. There is nothing scarier than the possibility of having to run away from a parent who is trying to kill you. All work and no play would make this a dull scene and the best play is pulled by Verity, who retraces her steps in the mud the same way Danny stepped back in the snow in the frozen over maze at the Overlook Hotel. The split dimensional points of view divide and conquer the proceedings with dark spiritual overtones. While it’s a little harder to root for the devil now that we see what possession actually leads to, in this case mass murder, it evokes a little more sympathy because we can see the varicose veins.