Be gone, Exorcist skeptics
The Exorcist returns to TV tonight for its second season, and after an advance screening of the premiere, it’s clear that this is one of the best horror programs to hit network TV in years.
When the series first premiered on Fox in the Fall of 2016, the question on many die-hard horror fans’ minds was, “Why?” Seriously, why reboot this classic horror film for TV? Audiences have previously seen similar attempts fail---the Omen sequel series, Damien, comes to mind. Aside from the fact that re-imagining movies as TV show properties is a popular trend these days, it felt as if an Exorcist series was not only unnecessary--it was a smack to the face of genre film purists everywhere.
Then Episode 3, “Let Them In,” aired, and collective praise from horror nerds began to reverberate across the internet. What started off feeling like a gimmick-filled horror show quickly revealed itself as much more. The Exorcist began to tackle deep societal issues including religion, politics, child abuse, and sexual identity while embedding itself in a horrific world of possession-hungry demons and the few priests out to keep utter chaos from enveloping the planet. To put it bluntly, The Exorcist is a genre diamond in the television rough.
Season 1 followed the story of The Rance Family and the possession of their youngest daughter Casey (Hannah Kasulka). While this storyline felt familiar, a huge twist was eventually revealed: Angela Rance (Geena Davis) was actually Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair), the pea soup-spewing girl from William Friedkin’s original film. It turned out that Fox’s The Exorcist wasn’t a reboot or remake at all, but a direct sequel to the 1973 horror classic.
The struggles of the Rance family were only one part to an intricate puzzle show creator Jeremy Slater and crew were out to piece together. While Geena Davis’s addition to the cast brought buzz and cinematic clout to the series, the introduction of exorcist duo Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) and Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) added extra stakes to the mix. And as a deep-seated church conspiracy took root--with some evil priests gaining power in a growing partnership with an army of demons--a bigger world began presenting itself. It’s this larger landscape that Season 2 sets out to explore in the premiere episode, “Janus.”
A Creepy New Possession
A six-month time jump puts Marcus and Tomas on the road with the sole mission of ridding the country of every pesky demon they can get their grizzled, holy hands on. While that formula may sound similar to the likes of The CW’s Supernatural or even Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead, there’s a grounded realism that keeps the tale of these rogue priests from venturing into any sort of campiness.
As Slater explained to THR during the TCA Summer Tour, The Exorcist was never meant to be a monster-of-the-week show. Instead, the point of the series has always been to follow Marcus and Tomas on their adventures as the story steadily dives deeper into the ongoing church conspiracy. With a plan to keep the series going for six seasons, each one focusing on a different case, it feels like this strategy will provide a delightfully unpredictable freshness to the formulaic network TV structure.
Gone from Season 2 is the claustrophobic horror that made the city streets of Chicago so foreboding. Instead, viewers are presented with a traveling horror show across the rural Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style back roads that make America so, uh, great. It’s only been six months since in this new journey, but there are cracks already forming in the bond between Marcus and Tomas, foreshadowing a big conflict on the horizon. As the episode follows their mission to save a possessed woman from certain death, the episode’s B-story introduces a brand new family story to the mix.
John Cho plays Andrew Kim, a foster father of five troubled kids. It becomes clear pretty quickly that one of them will end up falling prey to the intrusion of a new demonic entity. When Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool) was first added to the cast, she was eyed her as the season’s possible victim. However, the show continues to do an excellent job at sprinkling clues and red herrings along the way, prompting the viewer to constantly question these surroundings, as threats can (and will) appear from any corner.
Audiences have yet to see how the demon conspiracy at the Vatican is shaping up--according to Slater, more will be coming on that front--but there’s something to be said for the drastic tonal shift already on display in Season 2. Marcus and Tomas can only stay on this bloody road trip for so long, and once their journey leads them to Andy’s troubled foster home, the story components that has made FOX’s series an unexpected powerhouse in the genre will most certainly come together in the best and bloodiest way.
The Exorcist Season 2 premieres Friday, Sept. 29 at 9pm on Fox.