It’s become increasingly difficult just to describe the events this show depicts, for a couple of reasons:
It’s harder and harder to figure out the most succinct and convenient way to identify certain characters: for instance, Geena Davis’s character is named Angela Rance, but her real name was later revealed to be Regan MacNeil. Recently a demon integrated itself into her body, and therefore it’s not Angela/Regan acting so much as it is the demon. The demon was first introduced to us as The Salesman; turns out he’s the demon Regan once knew as Captain Howdy, whose true name is Pazuzu. Thus, I could accurately describe one figure driving much of the action in this and the previous episode as Angela/Regan/Salesman/Captain Howdy/Pazuzu.
Furthermore, the characters keep getting sucked into what one could describe as hallucinations or dream worlds or physical manifestations of the characters’ psyches. This has been happening a LOT.
In the first scene, Tomas shows up just as Angela/Regan/Salesman/Captain Howdy/Pazuzu is about to murder Angela’s daughter Casey. Angela/Regan/Salesman/Captain Howdy/Pazuzu sends Tomas into a mysterious nightmare realm of his own mind’s most torturous thoughts, which is both real and not real. Marcus is in there, wearing a porkpie hat and alluding to feces, because even in an otherworldly prison of Tomas’s imagination, Marcus is still a LONER PRIEST WHO GOES WITH HIS GUT.
Meanwhile, the Satanic cabal has Bennett and the real Marcus tied up in some warehouse. Father Simon slits Marcus’s and Bennett’s wrists and tells them they can either die in the name of a Church that doesn’t care about them or live on in Satanic glory and power and have spirit dinners at Comet Pizza every night, but either way, their time is running out.
Kat owns Angela/Regan/Salesman/Captain Howdy/Pazuzu by reminding the demon of his defeat in the original Exorcist. This sends Angela/Regan into a tripped-out fantasy flashback sequence taking place both in her head and perhaps also in some demon dimension, in which she is in her old bedroom and Pazuzu is knocking on the door. It seems he failed to fully incorporate himself into her, and she now has this one vestige of sanctuary in her interior self. Pazuzu in this scene is all charred and black and red. My dude looks like Darth Maul. He looks like a member of Mudvayne.
Meanwhile in Tomas’s mind fortress of emotional torture and symbolism, Tomas’s abuela putters around sadly. Mind-Marcus, or Pazuzu-as-Marcus, tells Tomas that she died alone, weeks after their last conversation, and cats ate her face.
Back in the warehouse, the real Marcus asserts that he has seen God so he is happy to die for what he believes in. The Satanic Cabal has to go kill the Pope now so Simon casts a spell and releases this demon dust to hover over them and Maria while he’s gone.
Angela/Regan/Salesman/Captain Howdy/Pazuzu threatens to rip Henry’s arms off unless Casey smashes her sister with a hammer. Casey hits Kat in the knee.
Marcus taunts Maria, calling her Renfield, until Maria sucks up the dust in order to get demonic. While she’s distracted, Marcus and Bennett bust out of their chairs and punch out the one Satanic goon guarding them. I assume they also tend to their rapidly bleeding arterial wounds!
In the face of fake Marcus confronting him about his failures, Tomas realizes that he has a lot to be grateful for: cool best bud, nice relatives, a sweet gig as an exorcist. He basically gets so grateful that he starts doing yoga and putting up shit that says “Live. Laugh. Love” all over the house. It’s clunky, but a lot of this episode is about the idea that Satan—in whatever form he takes for you—is really good at arguing, but one has to soldier on against it even when true goodness seems really abstract and intangible. Good never triumphs because of logic, it triumphs because of conviction and love and faith.
The whole house is getting torn apart as Tomas exorcizes super hard. Pazuzu is in that hallway going ape. The Pope parade is happening, and a piercing noise rings out on the streets of Chicago. Angela stands up to the demon, and Marcus stops the assassination attempt by killing Simon with a rosary right in front of the fuckin’ Pope!
The demon breaks Angela’s back and Tomas prays at her. Call 9-1-1, my dude!
Marcus consoles and encourages Casey on the porch, telling her she’s the strongest person he’s ever met. It’s a touching scene between two characters I’ve grown attached to over these past weeks. Then Marcus talks to Tomas, who wants to be a full-time exorcist, because he, too, has seen God. Angela is in a wheelchair but alive, and Kat is walking with a cane but her bond with her sister is stronger than ever. Meanwhile, Maria is gearing up for the Satanic Cabal to start fresh, and it looks like we might really be in for—
Wait a minute. Why was Marcus not apprehended by, oh, I don’t know, every police and security officer in all of Illinois?! Even with Simon a disgraced priest, wouldn’t Marcus have been held for questioning for, like, a long, long time? How does he prove that he was stopping an assassination attempt and not just murdering someone? And what answers would he have given that authorities would have possibly listened to or believed—especially with the police Lieutenant a member of the Cabal? All of this would have been interesting to watch!
At the time of this writing, Fox has not renewed the show for a second season. I have had a great time watching it and writing about it and interviewing Mouzam Makkar, who plays Jessica. If I were just watching it in my spare time I might see it through to the end or I might fall off. I wouldn’t talk it up to my friends as some masterpiece the way everybody talks about every show nowadays, nor would I hate-watch it or moan about how bad it is.
But I root for it. Its flagging ratings make it an underdog, but that’s not it. It feels like everyone involved in the show cares a lot about it, like a lot of love went into it. The show admirably stays true to its source material by being legitimately ghoulish and creepy, both religious and sacrilegious. It unabashedly deals with moral issues using metaphysical imagery. It is a show about faith, family, catastrophe, seemingly unbeatable systemic evil, molestation, the state of America today. These are decidedly unsexy, un-water-cooler themes. The good characters seem to actually care about each other; they are not locked in a perpetual cycle of performative competition and pettiness against one another like on most shows. There are no catch phrases, no ludicrous hypothetical situations about what if a cell phone was your dad, or should you steal a bunch of money in exchange for a swimming pool full of hot babes? or whatever. It goes deeper than that. What made it unappealing to viewers is what makes it worth believing in.
But a show that talks about those themes I mentioned above doesn’t have the right to insult your intelligence at every turn. It can’t be like “Really makes you think” but then not itself think about the most rudimentary aspects of the narrative.
Merry Exorcistmas, Pazuzu bless us, everyone, and I’ll see you on the other side (this is my bid for if the show comes back, to be the Cryptkeeper-style narrator who opens and closes every episode).