Three episodes in, and The Exoricst is becoming a mashup of a police procedural and Star Wars with strong Christian overtones. We’ve got the good cop in Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera), the rogue cop in Father Marcus (Ben Daniels), and the system which plays by the rules in Father Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan). Except that this isn’t demon-of-the-week; it’s the first signs of Armageddon spilling into the streets of Chicago, and our two hero priests are nearly powerless to stop it, with Marcus getting an excommunication notice from Rome.
Thematically, “Let ‘Em In” has a lot in common with Star Wars to the extent that both really play not just Satanic imagery, but Satanic concepts–namely, that the Devil is out to hurt everyone for his own ends. The prequels showed how Palpatine manipulated things behind the scenes to twist Anakin Skywalker to his favor, even while driving Anakin to hurt himself and those he loved in the process. The Devil is not your friend, but he’ll sure try to convince you that he is, even as he takes away what you want and convinces you that the crappy consolation prize is better. As we discussed earlier this year, last season’s finale of Star Wars Rebels did a great job playing with that concept.
“Let ‘Em In” begins to let us in not just into Casey’s (Hannah Kasulka) head, but also how her demon–“The Salesman” (Robert Emmett Lunney) operates. It turns out there’s a bit of Jacob Have I Loved going on in the Rance household with Katharine (Brianne Howey) being the favored sister over Casey. Turns out Katharine was in an auto accident several months ago, costing her both her ballet career and her girlfriend. Except that the Salesman apparently caused the accident in the first place, being the impetus of the wedge that exists between the sisters.
So Casey is jealously lonely because Katherine, the prettier one, gets all the attention and pity while Casey is left to feel ignored and ordinary. At a memorial service, Casey can’t stand to be in the room because it’s dedicated to the loss of Katherine from her dance company, and the pity is going to one daughter and not the other. It’s petty, but it’s enough to let the Salesman in. And so throughout the episode, he reminds Katherine that she’s pretty, and beautiful, and encourages her to shoplift things, including a dress, which will be sure to attract the attention of men. (More on this in a bit, and holy crap.) Oh, and he also convinces Casey to burn herself in one of the episode’s many disturbing scenes.
But back to Marcus and Tomas, who feel like they’re making some headway on the exorcism when they interview Casey and Marcus taunts the Salesman into revealing himself. But who’s in control here? Marcus gets the Demon out of Casey’s skin just long enough to get under his own, reminding Marcus of his failure with the exorcism in Mexico. Turns out the Salesman isn’t the same as that other demon…but that’s also bad news, because it means the demons are communicating, and plotting something, and it probably involves murdering the Pope on his impending visit to Chicago.
That latter point is the fun thing about this show. The Exorcist has a lot going on, but so far, none of it is to excess. Seeds are being dropped for future plot threads, but the core story of Marcus and Tomas’ struggles and Casey’s possessions are chugging along. Still, there’s this plot of an organ harvesting operation which we’ve learned is to be used in mass demon summoning. And there’s the Vatican’s internal politics, which is trying to coordinate this upcoming Papal visit and Tomas getting wrapped up in a discussion of whether it should go through Chicago’s poorer neighborhoods. And the issue of Henry’s (Alan Ruck) head injury and how he can protect his lost daughter when he keeps blacking out at the worst moments.
But the two big developments this week are these: one, Marcus and Tomas are getting beaten to crap by the world, with Marcus being formally excommunicated at a time when the world really needs an exorcist. (Credit to Ben Daniels for pulling off a priest who both hilariously and depressingly tells Jesus to “shut up.”) Two, Tomas is getting ready to go full Padawan on us. Marcus is forbidden to exorcise, let alone be a priest, but that can’t stop him from training up a new apprentice.
And three, in the episode’s terrifying climax, the demons are going public. Casey is openly unleashed on a rape-culture bro who gropes her on the subway, exposing herself to a train full of people who have cellphones at the ready. The devil convinced the world that he doesn’t exist–what’s going to happen on this show when he reveals that he’s still around?
Rating: Five collars out of five.