The Exorcist: 2.07 Help Me

In contrast to last week's dark closing, this week's episode of The Exorcist opens on the island, at daybreak as Andy wakes from slumber. He rolls to the right side of the bed and inhales the neighbouring pillowcase deeply before rising and heading to the kitchen in search of his bed-buddy. The kids are getting ready for school and while Dad is getting coffee, Truck finds a note with his lunch, "Don't forget, I will always love you," it reads. "I don't get it, why would I forget that?" Andy smiles and head outside. Given the golden hues to the idyll, we're unsure if it's a dream or flashback, until a Dutch angle skews the image and we see Nikki wading into the lake and disappearing beneath the surface. Her husband rushes to save her but she is gone, only the rescue services are able to pull her lifeless body from the water - her dress weighed down - so *that* rock is significant and now we know why. Or do we?

In 'reality', Andy is tied to a bed presumably in the abandoned cottage by the well on the property, wooden planks are haphazardly nailed across the windows  allowing the odd beam of light to bounce through. It creates atmosphere but then, this show is all about that. The palette here, as the Priest and his mentor utter rites and flick holy water, is icy; cold blues and greys as they fight to save Andy Kim's soul. They need to know what form 'it' took when it first came to him in order to unravel its history and plan, and prevent it from burrowing deeper into him. Grace. For God's sake, it's Grace! We're treated to more flashes of memory as the Kims celebrate Christmas, or when Andy and Nikki decide to bring home their first child: Verity, or when he is surrounded by his four children as they scatter their mother's ashes. The demon is hiding its true face from the possessed, as Andy still believes that his dead wife has returned to him and Tomas and Marcus play Good Priest/Bad Priest begging and commanding the gentle child psychologist and father to fight.

The title of Help Me immediately brings to mind those raised letters on Regan MacNeil's adolescent navel all those decades ago. There is another nod to those amazing Dick Smith (still sorely missed) effects although clearly completed via computer graphics and aren't in the least groundbreaking (or should that be head-spinning?) and far more humorous than I'd guess was originally intended. The action flits in and out of Andy's subconscious so often, it causes whiplash but it's an interesting concept and one we're not used to seeing in other exorcism-heavy texts; yet another unreliable narrator in which we all question what the hell is 'real' and what is demon manipulation. Each memory/vision of Andy's become more distorted. The Nikki-shaped demon is twisting, not only his perceptions but ours, especially when it manifests within what we've been led to believe is the 'safe-space' where those men of God will compel Christ and deliver you from the soul-consuming evil.

When she/it appears to possess the two saviours, all bets are off and poor Marcus and Tomas not only struggle to hold it off but also to get their mouths around the hindering and hideous dental appliances they're forced to wear. There is one moment, however, which stands out above the rest in which the slow motion freeze frames and the camera moves to a wide shot, the holy water droplets suspended in mid-air as ecclesiastical music plays, It's stunning and reminiscent of a Renaissance painting via The Matrix - if that's where the majority of the budget went this week, then I can forgive the unfortunate nashers.

Given the ending of Help Me and the fact that there are only three episodes remaining, we have to wonder if the Padres are in over their heads, this force seems stronger than even Pazazu - and he was ancient - and the kids, will they be able to save them as they're the ones now in imminent danger. All-in-all, this episode plays out like an emotionally exhausting Groundhog Day as Andy is forced to relive his final moments with Nikki while fighting against the demon with the appetite for children. The entire 45 minutes is dedicated to the ritual of exorcism and while it never loses its focus per se, it does become a little convoluted; sanity is questioned and everyone is disturbed.

Until December...

The Exorcist airs on Syfy UK Wednesdays at 9pm. Season one is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

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