After last week’s disjointed episode, The Exorcist returns with greatly improved storytelling and a plot that’s got a little more focus than its predecessor. “Father of Lies” doesn’t quite get to be the narrowly-tailored episode it needs to be, but the story fairly balances itself between the two priests and Angela’s own struggles, while still devoting enough spare time to the conspiracy of the Friars of the Ascension.
“Father of Lies” picks up from last week with Father Marcus (Ben Daniels) having intercepted Casey (Hannah Kasulka), and he and Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) are rushing her off to the Abbey from Episode 3 to proceed with the exorcism. Turns out that Pazuzu is still inside of Casey, but Marcus damaged him enough that she’s got a fighting chance.
Problem is, Marcus demands that the exorcism proceed in secret. Nobody can know about this: not the Bishop, not Angela (Geena Davis), nobody. Since Pazuzu possessed Angela decades ago, it’s clear that Casey’s possession is an act of revenge long in coming, and he needs to keep them the hell apart. “That is a demon with a forty year grudge,” Marcus warns in all his British-accented might.
Thematically, then, “Father of Lies” becomes an episode that spends much of its time dealing with sin and compromise in the face of a desire to do good. In many respects, Catholicism is a religion of absolutes: sin is death, so to compromise with sin leads to disaster. But the worst kind of temptation comes when we feel like a little compromise here would lead to a greater result elsewhere. So Tomas struggles through the episode, as he’s torn between his conscience and his lies to his Bishop and to Angela when he tells them that he knows where neither Marcus nor Casey are.
This is probably the closest we’ve come to the Tomas-centric episode we’ve needed, as for much of the show, he’s sort of uselessly hung around in the background. For once, we’re really getting into Tomas’ head as he struggles between duty and desire, between justice and pain. Tomas desires to do good, but he feels himself being dirtied by his compromises. Indeed, “Father of Lies” is a delightful play on words—a traditional name for the Devil is, clearly, being applied to a Priest who hopes to do right. This is grating on him—he’s no longer enjoying his affair with Jessica, and Tomas is finally driven over the edge when he gets into a fight with a selfie-happy guy in a store.
Angela’s story is still a bit sidelined, and just as Tomas is getting some focus this week, so does she really need her own spotlight in a future episode. (The preview suggests this may be coming next week.) Casey’s absence is clearly taking its toll on Angela, and things are coming to a head as she’s increasingly surrounded by the press, the public, and the angry mother of a paramedic that Casey killed during her escape. But Angela’s struggling to remember her own fight with Pazuzu forty years earlier. She’s forgotten much of it, but she remembers how unclean the possession made her feel. She swears that for all Casey’s done, she will never let her feel dirty for what happened to her.
Lastly, we spend some time with Marcus and the nuns, who are doing their best to save Casey before she gives way to total integration with Pazuzu. It’s not going well, and Casey’s body is rotting away in the process. It turns out that when the nuns fail to save their possessed from integration, they poison them as an act of mercy. Marcus refuses to give up. He swears he felt the power of God strike Pazuzu last week, so he can’t believe that Casey’s time is done.
“Father of Lies” does take the time to briefly wax philosophical and ask where, exactly, God has been for most of this show. He’s been a mention and occasional presence, but we’ve had none of the domination that the demons have been showing. Mother Bernadette asks why it is God allows suffering, and Marcus can only philosophically speculate that it’s to give college freshmen something to argue about in their dormitory. But if Marcus can’t find God, he’s at least willing to come to terms that he has a greater purpose for Casey’s possession—he refuses to go through with euthanizing her, believing there’s more at stake her. Which is well-timed, because that’s when Tomas finally brings Angela into the room.
We’ll hopefully find out Casey and Pazuzu’s final fate next week, as it looks like that episode will give us the showdown that “Through My Most Grievous Fault” didn’t accomplish. One last point on this episode: it goes into the side plot of the Friars of the Ascension just enough to show us how their Papal plans are progressing. It seems that they’re plotting to kill the Pope, although if that is their plan, they haven’t entirely let on yet. But Brother Bennett (Kurt Egyiawan) is onto them, and he narrowly escapes being murdered himself in a fun ass-kicking scene. A little action doesn’t hurt this show at all, so let’s hope for more prayer balanced with some brawling priests.
Rating: Four Hail Marys out of five.