The Exorcist: 2.10 Unworthy
"It'd be nice, huh? If this was all a dream." Oh Andy, if only. Fear not, dear reader the writers didn't pull a Dallas although there were moments that had me wishing they had. The final episode of season two, heads-up, is great and devastating.
**Spoilers to follow**
Unworthy opens with Father Bennett. When we last saw him, he was in an induced coma recuperating from septic shock. Now, he appears to be having a religious experience in which he converses with the sister he hasn't seen for 22 years. Ana (Kelcey Mawema) claims she has been waiting for him to return to her - is he drifting in and out of consciousness or is it far worse that that? The camera angle and scene hue belies real life and sure enough, the cut confirms that Devon Bennett is still in the land of the living. For now. The two "Priests" sitting at his bedside have other ambitions however.
Marcus, having temporarily subdued Andy, drags his body through the woods before bumping into Tomas and new-found saviour Mouse. It's not a friendly reunion for the former Nun and Priest but she's determined to help her old mentor in spite of him leaving her in hell for six months. Rose and the children leave the island in the middle of the brewing storm, the sea crashing around their vessel, cracks of thunder and lightning forking up ahead as the three exorcists get to work on Andy. The demon's hold grows ever stronger as it toys with Marcus, adopting the voice of his late abusive father at one point to mess with his head. We don't learn who this demon is or where it came from or why it murders children other than it chooses to - the motiveless are usually the more terrifying.
Mouse pulls a gun on Andy and believes that in order to complete their mission they must kill the host and therefore kill the demon. Marcus thinks she's crazy and reminds her they aren't executioners, it is Tomas who makes them realise that the only thing keeping the evil from leaving is Andy, he's keeping it at bay so that the exorcists can kill it and prevent any other families suffering a similar fate. They owe it to the Kim Dad to save him. Tomas knows what he must do and that's fight it from the inside, offer himself as bait and deliver Andy from the evil holding him hostage. It's so risky, he may never return, Marcus knows the dangers and and it is in those moments that we see just how much the old grey lion has grown to love his beautiful cub.
Tomas does his thing i.e. his eyes lose their irises and pupils and looks mucho disturbing. He finds Andy in a version of the Kim home via a single beam of torchlight (the lighting has always been key to this series), stuck in his own vicious circle of hell as continually destroys the demon with a baseball bat before it returns time and again, stronger than before - "if I leave, the demon runs." Andy makes Tomas promise to deliver a message to his children should things go wrong. This is where Unworthy comes into its own in terms of storytelling, it really has upped the ante on the whole exorcism stakes - the evolution beyond the possessed kid's bedroom has been great to see, though the home still plays an integral role.
The tension and atmosphere is nerve-racking which in itself is quite an achievement when so many films of the same genre fail to strike this chord. The evil is everywhere, it morphs from the shadows into the rotten Alicia Witt-shaped rotten wraith. At one point there are four versions of it, one of which crab-walks down the landing. Once locked in the art studio, Tomas can now see the physical toll Andy's latest bout with the demon has taken. It is now Tomas' turn to fight and for Andy to go home to this kids. As Tomas repeats the rite, the paintings (aptly, portraits of the kids) on the wall start to melt and run into a pooling black, viscous liquid on the floor - just like Tomas saw in an earlier vision in episode one. From it, a figure forms, once all in white it takes on a more literal sense of dripping, disgusting evil. Tomas insists it takes him.
Only, it can't. Andy is too far gone - he has abused, lied, murdered - there is no way he'll ever regain custody of his children if he comes out of this, the least he can hope for is his soul and Marcus, well, he cannot allow Tomas to make the ultimate sacrifice. As such, the father we have grown to love, the man whose grief weakened his soul to such a degree that it let evil in and forced him to hurt his beloved children must save the day and Marcus Keane is the one to pull the trigger. It doesn't hurt any less especially when Tomas relays the messages Andy insisted on leaving his children - get the tissues out, it's heart-wrenching. Not quite the ending I wanted for the Kims necessarily but the one expected. Keep watching though, at least there is an uplifting conclusion.
Not content to have us mourn a beloved character, we also have to deal with the inevitable band break-up (thanks, Jeremy) as Marcus deems himself unworthy and must walk away from the cause. He's no longer pure and has failed as God's instrument, passing the responsibility along to his mentee - thankfully he keeps the hat for himself - leaving him in the very capable hands of Mouse who assures Tomas that he is not alone. Marcus started him on this mission and she's the woman who will help her finish it. It's the changing of the guard so to speak as the teacher leaves the pupils to journey on , trust in God and each other if they are to succeed in their cause.
This season of The Exorcist has surpassed the first, not only in the dread-building haunting horror but in its psychological and body horror moments too - there's that power of three thing again, the trinity of exorcists, three overarching narratives which were destined to converge and boy, did they ever. Featuring a family you grew to love, all the children of which were a little broken and yet continually healed by a doting father until an evil force ripped them apart. In spite of its supernatural themes and horror grounding, this season felt more realistic than the last, there was far more to it with so many more perspectives to consider. There has been no mention of season three yet, no renewal confirmation but the reimagining of an integral scare from The Exorcist III has whet the appetite, and it's certainly continuing and extending the Blatty legacy. The writing has been brilliant, producing some outstanding televisual drama and horror. It also worth noting that there has been a 10% increase in female writers and directors on the show which is also incredibly encouraging.
John Cho has led amazingly from the front, his range outside of comedy has been particularly impressive, supported rather brilliantly by Li Jun Li and Alicia Witt. Brianna Hildebrand is always worth the price of admission and as Verity she exuded an understated anger and determined strength. The other kids played by Alex Barima (Shelby), Cyrus Arnold (Truck), Hunter Dillon (Caleb), Beatrice Kitsos (Harper) and Amélie Eve (Grace) have been extremely good too. Zuleikha Robinson is also a welcome addition to the team, as tenacious as a Church mouse and yet far more ruthless. As for Ben Daniels and Alfonso Herrera, they're a match made in heaven - the Merrin and Karras of the 21st century and we therefore require a third season to ensure they meet again.
If, for whatever reason, you're unsure about starting this series, don't be (also, you shouldn't be reading this). It doesn't "mess with" or "ruin" Friedkin's masterpiece at all but regularly consults the source material and remains respectful and yet completely fresh. This season definitely riffs on Amityville and Poltergeist and the next? Well, I have high hopes for a serial killer storyline as per Blatty's Legion. Hey Fox, make it happen.
The Exorcist aired on Syfy UK Wednesdays at 9pm. Season one is available to stream on Amazon Prime.