The Exorcist: 2.01 Janus
The opener to the second season of The Exorcist is dedicated to the memory of its original author William Peter Blatty and so named for the Roman God of beginnings and doorways, symbolised with a face looking to the future and the other to the past.
In Janus, it has been six months since the unclean spirit Pazazu was cast out of Angela Rance’s broken body and Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera) is a little thinner and there are dark circles under those chocolate-pool-eyes, his exorcism apprenticeship is clearly taking its toll. The visions he began experiencing at the end of season one appear to be more prevalent as we experience the latest with him - it involves an old song, black viscous goo, and a piñata. With a shake of the head (and an abrupt cut) we are thrust back into reality in Jefferson County, rural Montana as he and the excommunicated Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels) race to save Cindy (Zibby Allen), the wife of the local sheriff who, following the devastating loss of a child, has opened up her grieving soul to a demon.
Two states over on Nachburn Island Washington, Andrew Kim (John Cho) is getting his foster kids ready for school. There's Verity (Brianna Hildebrand) who is three months away from ageing out of the system, and Andy’s home. She’s big sister to religious Shelby (Alex Barima), “Truck” (Cyrus Arnold) a gentle giant who’s on the Autistim spectrum, cripplingly-shy Grace (Amélie Eve) and newest addition to the family, Caleb (Hunter Dillion) who’s visually impaired. They are all awaiting a visit from social worker Rose Cooper (Li Jun Li), who has the power to ensure the family can stay together.
For the remainder of the episode we cut back and forth between the two places. Tomas and Marcus have had to kidnap Cindy in order to complete her exorcism and have her strapped down in the middle of a barn, graffiti on the doors declare “Jesus Saves” as, lets face it, the best pairing since Merrin and Karras get to work, not only, before Sheriff Jordy finds his wife but before the two Holy men come to blows over ritual and technique. Tomas is adamant he can fight the demon “inside” despite its obvious danger and risk, Marcus vehemently disagrees as the Cindy-demon discharges shitty-brown drool and grins maniacally about the younger Priest “I will have him. He’s a very beautiful man…” (yup, no argument from me there, sister).
Back on the island, the kids are taking their time getting home from school, there’s an initiation for the new guy to prove he’s “one of them” which involves standing on some rotting wood which covers a dilapidated well. Rumour has it, it’s where the Island Witch dropped the bodies of her children after poisoning them. How lovely. The vacant cabin on the edge woods and surrounding area does have that witchy-vibe i.e. Robert Eggers may have scouted that exact location for his film and technically, they’re not that far from Salem. It does seem like there’s a malevolent force hanging over this family, not least in Verity’s acerbic tongue - Negasonic Teenage Warhead is still the greatest at sass - and then made all the more apparent when Caleb wanders off in the dead of night (after spinning a vinyl record backwards, as you do) prompting a torchlit search party.
The other two are still squabbling in The Treasure State over Tomas’ ability to connect with Cindy and his dipping in and out of reality. Which begs the question: is Marcus really concerned about Tomas’ mortal soul or does he just like being the one in control? Heather Bellson's script plays nicely with elements of Blatty’s novel/screenplay, Father Karras (Jason Miller) also had the power to let the demon in, however, it was less of a gift and sadly, ended him. As the real world and Tomas’ vision collides and a creepy visual motif appears in that realm and on a wall of Andy’s house, the tension and underlying sense of unease builds to a crescendo of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. It’s a nice touch but apparently one that won’t be happening too often as it costs a small fortune to use it.
After a surprisingly affecting and thoroughly enjoyable first season, Janus, is a promising start to the second. Predictably, Tomas and Marcus have to find a way to Nachburn Island but we still don’t know what or who will coax them there, although, I’m guessing Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) has to turn up again sooner or later; brother in arms, third wheel, and their only trustworthy ally in the Church. Also, leaving the urbanised American East of Chicago with its corruptive power and dodgy dealings demon-wise behind and heading to the rural Pacific North-West is an interesting change of pace, looking forward to seeing how these change of locations are incorporated into the story over the coming weeks.
As for the actual possession, I wonder if they’re going for an Amityville-type set-up where more than one person is effected, or if the pernicious possessor seeks a home in one of the boys. Last season, and filmically speaking over the last forty-sum years, we girls seem to have been the more susceptible to an evil takeover, despite the fact that Blatty transposed the 1949 possession of a 14-year-old boy into Regan MacNeil. A She-in-Him situation (or even two males or two women) would make a refreshing change from a “weakened” woman being controlled by a male malevolent, and well, Caleb has been acting somewhat strangely…
The second season of The Exorcist continues Wednesdays, 9pm on Syfy UK.