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Understandably, when a show has a larger plan that spans across several seasons there will be a certain amount of time that will be used to set the stage for the main plot and character development. In the case of The Exorcist, this took the entire first season, which wasn’t bad, but had noticeable issues as its episodes would fluctuate up and down until finally settling into solid footing by season’s end.
In comparison, The Exorcist’s second season immediately felt as if it benefitted and learned from the mistakes made in the previous season to improve upon the story and its characters. It continued to build upon the relationship and mentorship between Marcus and Father Tomas as well as introduce new characters that were well-rounded which allowed for the viewer to invest emotionally into the story. It did all of this while also keeping the underlying story of the demon’s plans to overthrow the church from the inside in the back of the viewer’s minds throughout the season.
This season takes Marcus and Tomas out of Chicago and on a road trip to aid a young girl, Harper, who was mistaken to be possessed but in fact turned out to be the product of manipulation from her mother. This sets them upon a journey that places the priests and Harper in a foster family comprised of five children and is lead by Andy (John Cho), a recent widow who is holding on in order to keep his family together. Unbeknownst to the family, there is an evil presence that lives in the foster house and slowly begins to break the family apart over the course of the season at least until the priests decide to intervene.
While the demon’s attempt and eventual success at possessing Andy was fairly straightforward, what the show seemed to excel at this season was the balance and better pacing of revealing the malevolent spirit as well as how it chose to reveal itself to the household. This was most visible in how the rate of the story in each episode resulted in the tension being slowly tightened scene by scene that bridged across the entire season until it finally reached a point of no return. The scene that most sticks out as this watershed moment is the reveal by Verity that Andy had been imagining Grace, one of his perceived foster children, the entire time. It was an incredible about-face for a character that was shown as seemingly having it all together and then in an instant becoming exposed as being on the verge of a mental breakdown due to his inability to not properly mourn the death of his wife.
Aside from the introduction of a new family, this season also brought on a new exorcist, Mouse (Zuleikha Robinson), who used to study under Marcus during the height of his career. Her character is a welcomed addition to the mix because unlike Father Tomas or Marcus she chooses to act first and question second which can be perfectly summarized by the scene in which her character is introduced as she poisons all of the Chicago archdioceses with Holy water during a celebration dinner. What an entrance! She embarks on a journey to reunite with Marcus in an effort to recruit both he and Tomas to the fight against the Catholic church and those that have become corrupted within it. Her story arc is a nice change of pace to that of Marcus and Tomas’ and it seems as if she is meant to represent the bigger picture of the infestation of the Catholic church present in the storyline.
Along with the character progression, The Exorcist did a solid job of taking the well-worn premise of possession and showing it from an entirely different angle. We are used to seeing priests hovering over the victim fervently reciting prayers in an effort to save their soul, however, this season showed us what it looked and felt like from the possessed’s point of view. These were some of the best scenes from the entire season because they felt so unique and different. The viewer was able to see the internal struggle between the demon and the possessed, how emotionally taxing it was as well as how they perceived the exorcists themselves. Which leads into another aspect that the show did well with developing; the demon. You would think that with a show entitled, The Exorcist, this would be fairly easy to create, however, this season did so from an angle that allowed the viewer to not just see the possession and exorcism, but also the slow and steady process of the victim being courted by the demon.
It was slow, methodical and calculated but never dull. Each moment where Andy interacting with someone was a moment that led the viewer to ask themselves whether what they were seeing was real or what the demon wanted Andy to see. The demon itself was creepy, first as Grace and then as Andy’s former wife, Nikki (Alicia Witt). Both entities were frightening and intimidating in their own way, but anytime Grace wore the pillowcase over her head stood out the most. In fact, the transition from Grace to Nikki is the single most frightening moment of the season for me.
It begins with Andy becoming frustrated with his uncertainty of his sanity after Verity reveals that he is imagining Grace. His anger leads him to throw a rock through one of Nikki’s old paintings and through the hole that is made from the rock he sees Grace’s eye peeking through her pillowcase and the hole. She slowly stands up from behind the painting to reveal that she is not Grace but Nikki who slowly walks towards Andy (Even as I wrote that I got chills).
While this season did have many high moments and great scenes, it also did have its fair share of lows. The most notable of those was the flashback involving Mouse and Marcus and how it was incorrectly placed within an episode during the season. This was a powerful moment that defined their relationship going forward but was crudely misused by allowing it to be a buffer that fit between the ongoing plot with Andy. In short, it was a waste of a great flashback that would have benefited from being anywhere else than where it was placed.
The back and forth potential love storyline between Andy and Rose (Li Jun Li) did not feel as genuine as it could have. During those scenes, it was slightly confusing because Andy was being portrayed as a widow who hadn’t been able to appropriately mourn the death of his wife and yet, here he was showing an interest in the visiting social worker? Thankfully, it did not take up the majority of the season and is somewhat forgivable but in the moment its issues were glaringly noticeable.
Overall, the second season of The Exorcist was a welcomed improvement from the first. Its multiple storylines felt better-balanced and were paced exceptionally well across ten episodes. There were some missteps along the way, but the show as never near perfect and they weren’t bad enough to stop watching or lose interest. In fact, the opposite occurred with the introduction of the foster family, Andy and the history of the demon that resided in their house.
The characters appeared well-rounded this season which allowed for me to connect with them quicker and take an interest in how their stories developed. The season ended on a high note as it permitted the story to end on a good note while also leaving enough uncertainty for what is to come for Marcus, Tomas and now Mouse. Hopefully The Exorcist will build off of the success of its second season now that there is a larger narrative at play and more characters have entered the story. This should provide for some great material for the coming third season. Until then, I will keep my fingers crossed.