The Exorcist: “Chapter 4: The Movable Feast”
Well, fuck me. That was a just a great, big, gigantic whole lot of nothing.
I could have gone away, learned to play an instrument and come back, and missed not a fucking sausage of important information in “The Moveable Feast”, The Exorcist’s fourth bland-ass entry into the once great genre of demon possession.
Tomas has the lightest load to carry this week. He visits with Mrs. Walters in the hopes she’ll hook him up with the cardinal, with whom he feels more confident he can talk his way into an exorcism.
He describes it to Walters as “a service” and, when she realises he’s willing to bend the rules to get his way, she does something admittedly interesting: she tells him to do the service anyway, to trust his “impulses,” and just not tell anybody. Even more interesting (and kind of stupid), Tomas somehow accepts this and leaves without securing that meeting with the cardinal. Oh, before he leaves, Walters insists Tomas cash that check she gave him and, once he’s gone, she stares pensively. She obviously knows something.
Later, he finds Sexy Jessica at the Church, and it turns out her shitty husband was cheating on her with another woman while she beat herself up over a few passionate letters to Tomas.
He lets her spend the night in his bed and despite her considerable attempts to have him join her, he resists and crashes on the couch. See, now, that’s a little bit interesting. The episode seems to establish the Church is not such a vital part of exorcism for Keane, but I’m fairly confident breaking his vows of chastity would render Tomas about as useful in an exorcism as a snowball in a microwave. If he gives in to his lust, he may compromise everything.
Jessica, too, seems to realize that, while she is now free to pursue their love, he is not, and, by dawn, she is gone and thanking him for his respect and self-control.
Galvanized, he finally cashes the check and starts to read up on the rites of exorcism, ready to save Casey.
By episode’s end, he is joined by Keane, but Keane actually has emotional growing to do.
Despite the fact it looked like he was leaving Chicago, he’s just left the part of Chicago where the Rances are living and is trying to see an abbess, like a Mother Superior nun in an abbey, in another part of Chicago. Mother Bernadette has taken a vow of silence and is otherwise busy, but, when Keane invokes the name of Bennett, he’s allowed to hang out and witness just what the nuns do at the abbey: they exorcise demons.
Unlike Keane, their approach is decidedly … holistic. They surround the possessed man in a garden of rich belladonna and chant a prayer formed of Isaiah 14:12, which essentially laments the fallen state of the Morning Star, Lucifer. The rhetoric is love and forgiveness, but it’s not without violence. The demon strikes Mother Bernadette and she takes each blow, which leaves her bruised and scarred, but returns to the demon each time with open arms, offering love. Eventually, he collapses into her arms, the demon present, but subdued, while Keane looks on, stunned.
While Mother Bernadette recovers, Keane visits Bennett’s next contacts: a pair of former academics and experts in various occult and spooky things. They tell him about “the surge,” an increase in death and violence that tends to precede great cataclysms. Then, there’s a silly moment when Keane, an actual exorcist, who knows for a fact demons exist, calls any link to “the number of the Beast” conspiracy theories. And here comes my long, wearied sigh.
The point is that others have noticed the weird shit happening and I guess Bennett was Nick Fury-ing his ass around the planet and gathering The Exorcist Initiative for quite some time. Nice of him to let Keane sit in in crappy priest prison and be horribly wracked with guilt for so long.
When Keane finally sees Bernadette, he is actually endearingly vulnerable in her presence, as if she’s a stern but favoured auntie or something. They even match body language a few times. It’s a genuinely lovely scene between two great actors.
Keane, in one breath, mocks the nuns’ form of exorcism, is sad about Gabriel, and gripes about losing his dog collar, but Mother B. is having none of his ego or self pitying BS. She explains in clear terms that it is God who gives and takes the power to exorcise the demons, nothing and no one else; so the wimple and the dog collar should not be used as excuses. She owns the fact that, yes, her approach is more gentle, but is it any worse than force and coercion? Also, Keane, you saw it subdue the demon. You saw it. You know this shit takes time, too, so why are you bitching?
Then Mother B. makes a strong argument for getting her own damn show when she, in essence, tells him to build a bridge and get the fuck over himself already, and I love her.
Later, he’s invited to try her advice on their demon and, after a shaky start and a brief relapse to his old, neck-choking style, he follows her guidance and repeats the Isaiah verse and tells the man/demon: “You are loved.”
The man falls into his arms and the demon leaves him. Keane sits stunned and emotional. Mother B. just shrugs like the boss she is. Later, cleaned up and his shit visibly more together, Keane reunites with Tomas to finally start the exorcism.
Okay, I’ll allow that the episode moved Keane along some significant emotional notches, and I guess I was right when I thought Angela would be the main power and reason the demons eventually let Casey go, but I’m taking away points because the end message is “love heals all.”
Motherfucker, I did not come here to watch the Care Bears.
Back to the character who’s, you know, possessed and in real mortal danger: Casey is having an obvious dream about a very idealised version of the Rance family home, with Angela cooking, Henry and Kat uninjured, and everything bathed in warm, golden light. But it’s quickly soured by the zombie chicken embryos in Casey’s breakfast omelette and the appearance of The Salesman, visible to the family, who arrive just in time to start tearing Casey’s self-confidence down.
When she insists he lied to her about what would happen, he ruthlessly beats her while her cold dream family looks on.
In real life, she’s in a hospital, restrained to her bed, and we learn she’s under a 72-hour 5150 after the incident on the train. Regardless of how rad it was watching her tear that guy to literal pieces, the absence of even a single police officer over the show’s 40 minutes will really start to bother you the more you think about it.
Angela is fuming and agitated, but they can’t get Casey released because of how 5150 works, so, for the remainder of the 40 minutes, that’s all Angela does. All Geena Davis is allowed to do is try to get Casey released early by researching legal statutes on her iPad. I get that Angela wants Casey home to begin the exorcism, but just think for a moment about how utterly irrational she would look to absolutely everyone not a Rance, Father Tomas, or Keane. Just think about it and try not to get a headache.
In one astonishingly disturbing scene, we see Casey get a pelvic exam she didn’t appear to consent to at all, while she’s screaming and restrained to a bed. Later the doctors tell her parents that Casey has self-inflicted burns on her genitals. Remember when I thought she burned her stomach? Holy shit.
While the family is utterly helpless outside of her room, Casey is plagued by The Salesman, whose approach has shifted from wrong creepy uncle to something far more overtly sinister and cruel. Now, for … some fucking reason, he needs permission to take full control of her and, like most satanic figures, his definition of “permission” is quite broad.
He threatens to smash his way in if he has to, but Casey resists, finally understanding the terrible situation she’s in. While The Salesman is just the creepiest, rapiest thing of all time, Casey is comforted by a sweet and kindly nurse who wears a large crucifix around her neck and talks to Casey about God. Is that … allowed?
Sensing fondness for the woman, The Salesman pounces and chokes the nurse with her own cross until Casey finally submits to him.
Before he can touch her and, I guess, seal the deal because the rules of how and why he can possess her seem as changeable as a scene requires, Angela busts in to comfort Casey and utterly ignore the bleeding, choking nurse lying on the ground, so The Salesman retreats.
Later, Angela argues with the doctor that the incident with the nurse and some legal loophole she found should see Casey released 8 hours early, but the doctor reveals he’s releasing Casey anyway because they can’t figure out what the fucking hell is wrong with the girl. And, though it goes unspoken, I guess because of how that nurse almost died?
Wait, so why did Angela even spend three days looking for you-know-what? No.
I mean, no, I get it; I’m not stupid. I know it’s meant to be a callback to Mother Bernadette’s entire deal, and to underline Angela’s “mother bear” nature or whatever, but let me tell you a thing, show: we knoooooooooooooooooooooooow.
Tomas arrives just in time to vow to Angela that he will do the exorcism with or without the Church, so Casey is released, the priests set up her bedroom, and, finally, hopefully, the actual exorcism is about to begin.
So, I am not loving seeing the bones of the possession, seeing Casey’s slow, drawn-out suffering, or even just the montage of the boys setting up her bedroom. In the film, Regan’s deteriorating condition is shown in cuts that leap forward months at a time, and the effect is chilling. You’re left to wonder at the awful nightmare this family has quietly lived under for close to a year.
Seeing it play out more slowly feels, for me, like seeing behind the scenes at Disneyland. It kills the effect.
But I have notes:
Where are the police at the hospital? Not one person with a badge wanted to talk to any member of the Rance family, after that entire incident was witnessed by two dozen people? I don’t care if the demon stopped them recording it on their phones; people have fucking eyes, that man has sucking chest wounds, and his jaw is the shape of an ampersand. I mean, come the fuck on; not a single officer? However Casey has come out of this incident in peoples’ opinions, whether as the victim or the aggressor, someone, somewhere, with a badge, would want a statement. Even just from Henry.
Did he get her to the hospital without the cops getting involved? It sort of seems that way when he has to explain to Angela it was the closest hospital to the train station.
I just … what?
And the nurse: obviously The Salesman psychically picked her up, and he did pick her up: we saw her feet dangling above the ground and, later, her neck was cut where her chain dug in. But the show just glosses right over this. It ends up not even being relevant, like Angela’s search, because The Salesman can’t complete the transaction anyway. Is the nurse done with the story? She only gets to briefly encounter the Devil, and will she just slip back to her normal life now?
On that note, I’m really glad we spent so long watching the boys fail to get permission from the Church, only for that to turn out to be redundant, too.
It would be neat to think that they’re being set up to fail; that Bennett, Walters, and Mother Bernadette are all working together to make our boys actually summon the demon rather than dismiss it by performing this half-baked, unsanctioned exorcism. Maybe Jessica can be in on it, too. A temptress sent to corrupt Tomas!
But I don’t think so. I think this show has two episodes left to get good or I’m going to raise Satan my damn self and tell him what they’re doing to his scariest movie.