The Exorcist: This is a Show About Possession, Right?

 

vlcsnap-2016-10-04-14h02m09s148Way back when, a small child, whom we’ll quickly learn was a 12-year-old Marcus Keane, is locked in a basement with several other terrified boys and a creepy older priest.

Ummmm…

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Thankfully, it’s some kind of Child Exorcist training facility and nothing more sinister than that. When one boy emerges from the shadows and pukes, Li’l Marcus is told to select a Bible and a crucifix from a pile, and he follows the priest into the shadows. From the darkness emerges a possessed man with the blown pupils/all-black irises that seem to indicate possession. It hisses at him in Latin and Marcus starts to work.

In modern times, Keane rides a bus and clutches the same Bible and crucifix, only now he’s been scribbling in it; notes and edits of his own making.

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At her house, Angela is getting a late-night snack and is spooked by Creepy Casey sitting at the kitchen table, all possessed-like. Tomas gave her the skinny on the attic creepiness, so Angela knows to gather evidence. Casey rubs her own body like someone giving a slightly creepy hug and talks in a distinctly male voice about how her mother is watching her, causing her to suddenly wake and freak out. Angela catches it all on film and sends it to Tomas.

We pause briefly to see a kid named Andre take his bike and leave his home for the day. This matters.

Tomas has Angela’s video, and so takes it to the Auxiliary Bishop to ask for permission to perform an exorcism. The Bishop doesn’t need to, but he lists all the reasons this could impact Tomas’ career before giving the far more rational Church position that Casey needs to go to a shrink first.

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This is actually what the Church would advise and, truth be told, if a psychiatrist thought she needed an exorcism, she’d get one, so I do hope any resistance from the Church on that is demonic, and not just bullshit contrivance. Tomas is also asked about his visit to St. Aquinas (How? How can anyone know he was there? Nobody worked there; there was no sign in book; there was barely a fucking fence!) and told that Marcus Keane is “missing,” but is truthfully oblivious as to where he could be.

Angela is back at work in a hotel and greets a Maria Walters. Maria is taking over some business for her cancer-fighting husband, we learn, while I’m distracted by the blocking and framing of this first scene.

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Because of the Walters’ family church contributions, they’ve managed to secure no less than a Papal visit to Chicago. Holy shit. I don’t think that’s something the average citizen can just … do. You don’t call up the Vatican and just book him in for a weekend.

Her advertising material is a curious choice as well, which is clearly rich in double and triple meanings for the show. “He is Coming” could mean so much.

Oh, and this Pope is fictional in name, but modeled after the current one, who is working hard to be a decent person and undo a lot of Vatican wrongs.

Angela is delighted to host the visit, but Maria assures her Pope Sebastian will sleep in an undisclosed secret location (on his humble bedroll instead of in a real bed), but the hotel will be hosting the Papal team.

Angela wants to care, she really does, but a gibberish text and scary breathless call from Casey sends her racing home in a panic.

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The house is empty because the girls and Henry were out for the day, but, when they move Casey’s phone and pillow, her bed is full of millipedes.

I guess no one threw Kat in the river for being the most obnoxious person in the world. Angela, now you know she’s not possessed, how about dealing with what a troll she is?

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Tomas returns home from a jog and finds that Marcus Keane has moved his skinny ass into the apartment. I’m … a little more concerned about the fact Tomas has cut the sleeves off his sweatshirt — like, is Tomas trying to encourage our lusts? While Padre Hottie is sexy all over everything, Keane mocks his attempts to involve the Bishop and his love for Nicolas Cage movies (depends which Cage movies, Keane; you back up off the boy). He talks about his belief that the demon is hiding out right now, but, once it shows its teeth, Keane will be the one to kill it! He’s so derisive and mocking about Tomas in this scene, it’s as if he forgot Tomas knows for a fact Keane’s last exorcism ended in the death of a small child, but, sure, okay, Keane, you’re the man!

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Casey is playing Lacrosse at school, and some nasty piece of work keeps throwing in body checks and tackles that have to be illegal. Kat, who, I guess, just got super-duper over all her problems because, twice this week, she’s left the house voluntarily, is watching in the audience, but Casey is more entranced by the weird man in a three-piece suit who appears behind Kat, as if from nowhere.

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Don’t worry; they didn’t rip a page out of Sam Esmail’s playbook. Not a whole page. Casey waves at the super creepy dude and his presence seems to relax her, but, later on, when the other girl tackles her again, Casey (or Casey’s demon) psychically snaps the girl’s knee sideways. The special effects are … unfortunate, and the actress playing the girl whimpers like she cracked a nail, so the payoff isn’t quite there, but it’s a decent little glimpse at the demon perhaps tapping into a side of Casey that could be curious later down the line.

*siiiigh*

*siiiigh*

Keane has read all the Jessica letters and we finally get the background: Jessica helped Tomas with his English and he helped her with her Spanish before he took his vows and she got married. Yes, the relationship was … something; enough for mentions of smelling hair and other such lusty pursuits and Keane insists it be ended; that the shame and guilt of it will fuel the demons. Keane points out he only knows about Jessica because of the letters Tomas kept. Any other secrets he’s keeping could be dangerous .…

At the Rance Family manse, the girls and Henry are having a giant Jenga game night, and Henry shows his architecture background off by telling Kat not to move a load-bearing block. Kat gently teases he designed toilets, but he corrects her that it was complex piping systems, actually.

Has Kat apologized to her father yet for being so awful to him?

Angela arrives home, apologetic for getting caught up at work, but the absolutely terrible, awful Kat won’t let it go and has Feelings about her mother being so busy. Kat, for fuck’s sake, girl. Your father has a brain injury. I don’t see your ass racing out to get yourself a job, so, while your mother is the only reason you have a roof over your head you hold your fucking tongue about how late home she is. Also, Kat, isn’t this the first time you’ve left your room in months? Shut the hell up. You know how you should be greeting her your mother? With a glass of wine.

Kat spills the beans on Tomas’ visit and Angela’s demonic concerns and, while Angela tries to explain to Henry she’s been worried the girls aren’t themselves, Casey gets all weird. She grabs the weight-bearing Jenga block and pulls it out, but the tower defies physics and hangs there for a few seconds while Casey stares at her mother through a gap in the blocks. The tower collapses and Casey keeps staring.

If none of the Kat stuff had happened, that could have been my favorite scene.

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The next day, the Rance clan are helping Tomas in serving warm lunches to local homeless people. We learn from a story told in the background that Tomas is actively helping lift homeless people out of poverty, finding them homes and jobs, but we’re hanging with Angela and Tomas, who talk heatedly about his failed meeting with the bishop. Angela is concerned it’s getting worse, but Tomas has to feed her the church line about Casey seeing a shrink. Angela is upset and, when alone, decides to steal some holy water to take home.

Can you not … just buy vials of that from the church? You can in every church I ever went to.

Keane spots her, looking homeless his damn self, and creeps over to reveal he knows who she is. He tells her to put the holy water in a drink and let Casey have it. It will look scary but only hurts the demon.

He then has his own little chat with Casey about the food, but nothing happens between them, if he was expecting it to. However … the creepy homeless guy from last week turns up and begins to tell Casey, “He chose you,” and reaches out to touch her, freaking her all the way out.

What did I say? What did I say would happen?

Keane hustles the guy off and the man spits the same Latin at Keane that the demon from his childhood did.

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Later, in the most pointless, boring scene of the night, Tomas meets Jessica to put some sort of end to whatever you would call their relationship. She is pushing for it to go further and, considering Padre Hottie’s entire face and body, I do not blame her, but Tomas is trying to wind it down. Upset after a 3-hour drive to be rejected, she leaves.

Erm. So are they broken up? I don’t … super care, to be blunt; not yet. Let’s see how Jessica plays out.

Keane is spying on the homeless man while Andre, the kid on the bike, cycles past. Excellent world building, show.

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Keane watches the homeless guy get picked up by that weird Tattersall truck from the pilot, which: oooh!! And, then, rushes over to try to search his makeshift shelter. A woman is hiding within the shelter and it becomes quickly apparent that she’s possessed, too. She (and homeless guy) have the same weird facial blisters and boils like Gabriel had back in Mexico City.

The woman, or her demon, mocks Keane for having once been the one they all feared — until he lost the little boy. She talks in Gabriel’s voice and Keane tries to bust out an on-the-spot exorcism, ordering the demon to emerge into the light. It asks on whose authority, and he invokes the Holy Trinity, but nothing is working. She presses her own head against Keane’s crucifix and they’re both stunned when nothing happens and the demon breathes, “It’s true what they say ….” That he lost his power? His faith?

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He feebly intones, “The power … of Christ … compels you?” and the demon spits, “Do I look compelled?”

She wanders off while Keane stands there, absolutely stunned, and, as she leaves, the wind stirs up dust from the ground all around him. It seems to part around an unseen figure beside him.

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Great scene. Creepy as shit.

At the Rance house, Angela has made pea soup for dinner because this show is crushing the subtle references; really, it is. Angela spikes Casey’s drink with the holy water and, after a slightly delayed prayer from Henry, Angela apologizes for her recent distracted behavior. It’s nice she cares so much, but we’ve yet to see her do anything any more wrong than handle her life incredibly under the circumstances. Kat, ugh, asks if Angela is sorry for thinking she’s the devil. Angela tells her she’s sorry for not seeing just how much pain Kat was in and not knowing how to deal with it. Damn, she’s a good mom.

Henry sweetly raises a toast and says they’re all getting better, day by day. It’s like they want me to hate Kat more, because Henry knows exactly what is going on around him and I’ve yet to see Kat apologise for her awful behaviour.

The point is, Casey drinks her water and she’s fine. However, after dinner, she excuses herself and sprints upstairs to projectile vomit pea soup (hell, yeah, show!) all over her bathroom, then, from deep in her throat, drag out the biggest, longest, nastiest centipede thing thus far. She whimpers in fear.

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I would already have set my entire body on fire, but maybe the demon is helping her not to freak the fuck out.

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Later, she sits outside and the creepy man in a suit, Grandpa Satan or whomever he is, stops by to talk to her. They’re familiar and friendly and, though she’s scared about what’s happening, he’s comforting and tells her it’s a beautiful thing, like a seed breaching the soil to see the sun for the first time. She leans into him like he’s family and talks about the lacrosse game and the puking.

Henry watches from inside as Casey leans against and talks to fucking nobody. Grandpa Satan is invisible to everyone except Casey. Again, not a huge surprise, but a clever way to show her perspective of her possession.

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At his home, Tomas has found Keane’s bug-fuck crazy books and journals and wants the man to leave. Keane wants to talk about the homeless man who quotes the same Latin at him as a demon from his past — “Talk of the devil and he appears” — but Tomas is in no mood. Keane emotionally admits that, when he was a kid, his father murdered his mother in front of him and he wound up in care.

One day, he was bought for £5 by a priest and … um … between this and the cold open, I don’t know how the writers think 1970s England worked, but, if a priest bought a boy for £5, it … it wasn’t for exorcism.

Keane says he was relieved the first time he saw a demon because it gave him purpose. He was the gun; the church was the hand holding it. It meant the words in the Bible were true. He says how, once, he had a beatific vision; saw the face of God during an exorcism; could just remember an impossibly loud sound in his head. He defends his editing the Bible because the words within are mostly man’s, anyway. But he wants to try.

He and Tomas pray together.

It would have been a powerful scene if I wasn’t so hung up on Keane’s backstory. So, was this guy working for the church? The timing is exactly as dead-on as I had pondered last week; Keane would have been a child exorcist in training when Merrin was still around, so maybe he did meet him, or at least hear about the MacNeil incident.

Curious.

We’re going to see Andre arrive home. Right, just when I thought this benign, quiet kid was going to be a demon, holy SHIT, did this show get me. He greets his father, oblivious the man has been gutted where he sits. Andre’s headphones drown out his mother’s gasps for help as her throat is slashed, and Andre doesn’t even hear his own death coming. The apartment is a carnal house, and we linger long enough to see the bodies emptied of organs being tipped into coolers.

The killers leave the house and are joined by others carrying more coolers, more organs, including those of the crazy homeless guy — at least five or six more. They all board the Tattersall truck and drive away.

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Later, the massacre of 9 people is in the news, and a disturbed Keane stares out of his window. He sees a poster for the Papal visit, showing the Pope cloaked in red with his back to the camera and the message “He Is Coming.”

All of a sudden, that feels like a threat.

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So, a pretty significant slowdown, considering the genuinely unsettling intensity the pilot reached at times. The scares, such as they were, were very atypical for possession-themed storytelling. Casey’s growing powers and her increased awareness of how strange her life is becoming are usually the kind of thing you’re done with in the first twenty minutes of a movie on the same subject, so to see them here, slooooowly rolled out as signs of her possession, is certainly a little jarring.

The shoddy special effects in the lacrosse scene killed what could have been a decently disturbing moment. However, Casey’s pea soup and centipede puking, her imaginary Grandpa Satan, and the absolutely brutal massacre of the innocent families in the final minutes did something to salvage the episode.

This show needs to double-down on scares in a major way if it wants to hold any water. Casey’s spooky walk last week was affecting. But even Keane’s aborted exorcism of the homeless lady felt less scary and shocking than it did … sort of expected. I mean, it was obvious a bunch more people would be some level of possessed, too, right? You can’t build the whole show around one girl, so, obviously, there had to be a greater conspiracy and, now, we see glimpses of it, but rather than an eerie shock, it felt like ticking off boxes of what must obviously happen next.

Right now, we’re seeing nothing to convince me this series has anything new or exciting to say and it’s feeling more and more like Kat’s only purpose was so the show could “shock” audiences with the reveal that Casey was possessed instead. Now that’s done, Kat could leave forever and the show would continue as it is without her.

On Cindy’s advice, I consumed the other possession TV show, Outcast, over a few days last week. Now, that’s a show taking a new run at the possession trope and it doesn’t even have the legacy of being the descendent of one of the scariest books and films of our time.

Pull it together, The Exorcist. I’m rooting for you, but I can only root so far.

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan is really terrible at the ‘About You’ part of life. Nadine developed her reviewer skills writing epic facebook rants about the details script supervisors forget and trying to explain why Carol on The Walking Dead broke Lizzie by accident. Nadine loves TV, film and books but she wishes someone would pay her to be the continuity editor. She can be found on Facebook and in her forest garden and if she’s not yelling at her TV she’s trying to convince a cat to be an Instagram model and refusing to let 90's fashion die.

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