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2016 featured two shows based off 1973 movies, The Exorcist and Westworld. The latter was a good film but by no means considered a classic which gave the show creators a bit more room to be creative. The Exorcist, on the other hand, is a classic, one of the best films in its genre. Because of this, the show was going to receive harsher criticism no matter what. Fox wasn’t the first to spin-off the time-honored horror film, but like the others, the Fox rendition doesn’t compare to its source material.
The first half of the season was pretty forgettable. It was full of tacky jump scares, slow writing, and just predictable horror film antics. As a new show, the writers’ main goal with the first few episodes should have been to pull the audience in but they didn’t do a good job of this. For much of the first half of the season, I found myself checking the clock while watching. And even as the show got better towards the end, unfortunately, my uninterested mindset stuck with me.
My biggest complaint with the show is it struggled with simplicity and consistency. At first, it seemed like a simple and interesting take on the source material. I mean let’s be honest, it’s hard to go wrong with a story about a possessed girl. But The Exorcist quickly turned into a jumbled and inconsistent story. The show took several unnecessary and uninteresting steps to get to the parts everyone wanted to see, particularly an actual exorcism.
On top of it all, the entire storyline about the pope was laughable. I realize the writers needed something else to fill ten episodes besides the story of the Rance family, but it was terrible. Originally, I praised the potential of the storyline. I thought it could propel the show to something more than just an extended remake of the movie, but the writers did a poor job of developing the story, particularly the character’s motivations for assassinating the pope. For weeks, the show inferred something mysterious and intense was going to happen with the Catholic Church’s top dog. But all of the secret meetings culminated in a brief scene that never saw the pope leave his car. This made the finale a huge disappointment. What’s worse was that it really didn’t have anything to do with the main storyline. If the show wants to have multiple seasons, it needs to develop better stories. It needs to be more than just little girls being possessed by demons. The writers tried, but it’s apparent the first season’s story was meant for a two-hour movie, not a ten-hour series.
However, all this criticism doesn’t mean the show was terrible. In fact, it’s was the perfect show for a Friday night: thrilling(ish), mindless, and a bit cheesy. One of the best things about The Exorcist was its visuals. Much of the horror genre has a reputation for being low-budget and artistically uninspiring (I know I’ll get some heat for this but I don’t think horror films are anyone’s go-to example for great cinematography), but The Exorcist did a good job of representing a creepy and paranormal Chicago. Most of the episodes were stylish, dark, and fun to watch. Low-budget never crossed my mind while watching this show.
Also, sure there were some tacky and poorly written parts, but for the most part, our main characters were compelling and made the show worth watching. For example, Father Tomas was interesting and the best-developed character this season. He went from a promising but deeply flawed young priest to someone with a real identity. The Exorcist didn’t do the best job with character development, but Father Tomas was one of the exceptions. He was a character I actually found myself rooting for and by the end, I wanted the best for him.
For as many flaws as The Exorcist had, the writers were still able to make the main story worth watching and not a total waste of time. Because they were able to get people invested in the important parts, the poorly written and executed subplot was easier to stomach. I don’t know if The Exorcist will get a second season, but if it does, it will be interesting to see where the show goes from here. It will need to tell a better story than assassinating the pope and I’ll be interested in seeing if the Rance family will still be involved. But, I just don’t know if a show about exorcising possessed children is worth multiple seasons.