After another break, The Exorcist is back for the penultimate episode of the season, and it’s a doozy. While “The Griefbearers” established a bad situation gone worse, with Pazuzu having jumped from Casey to Angela, “162” unleashes the full forces of hell on Chicago, the Rance family, and the rest of the cast.
When we left off last week, Pazuzu’s reclaimed Angela, and he’s happily enjoying his time in her body. I’ve previously complained that the problems of the Rance family were annoyingly disconnected from the plans of the Friars of the Ascension to assassinate the Pope. “162” resolves that by having Pazuzu-as-Angela walk straight into the conspiracy and declaring him/herself in control of it and forcing the other demons and conspirators to–humiliatingly–submit to him. “Pazuzela” specifically singles out Maria Walters–the always-a-bridesmaid, never-a-bride conspirator–and tells her that she’s just not ambitious enough to get her own demon. Ouch.
We get a sense of Pazuzu playing the master chess player here, taking care of loose ends and putting the final pieces into place before the final checkmate. Kris MacNeil’s death is summarily ignored (he/she winces when Kat offers some prayers in her honor), and Pazuzela spends her days summarily humilating her family. S/he reminds Casey, now a shell of her formerly possessed self, that the demon loved, then rejected her. S/he comes close to sexually molesting Kat in her sleep, interrupted only by Casey when she smells something wrong. S/he sexually taunts Henry, offering love and then playfully choking him. Oh, and she also personally goes off to slaughter Sister Bernadette and the Sisters of Mercy.
All the while, Pazuzu openly delights in his new body, enjoying physical sensations and delightfully licking foods and drink. This all gets very well explained in the episode’s climax, when Pazuzela holds the Rances hostage. Remaining consistent with Catholic mythology, Pazuzu explains his ultimate yet depressingly petty motives. Angels are pure spirit, meaning, quite literally, that they have no bodies. So when God created humans and the Earth, the angels became jealous that God’s secondary creations got a paradise to play in and the angels had nothing. So the rebels–the demons–ultimately plan to conquer the Earth for themselves so they can have the playground they feel is owed to them.
The Exorcist continues to show the fine, difficult line human beings have to walk between being good people who suffer or bad people who delight in pleasure. Theists and nontheists alike can agree that the world is a place where the cruel often profit and good people needlessly suffer. It’s the eternal struggle between integrity and satisfaction. So “162” gives us constant contrasts between the forces of evil in this story, who are mixing it up at an expensive Church party with wine and food, and the good, who are constantly crushed underfoot by the jerks at the party.
We haven’t mentioned Marcus (Ben Daniels) much yet. He’s still a heavy presence in the story too, hoping to close in on the Pope assassination conspiracy. It’s not going well, and in fact, Marcus learns that he’s been leading his own allies into a trap. His backup cast is picked off through the episode–aside from Sister Bernadette, he also learns that Brother Bennett is probably a goner, and his “Lone Gunmen” pals are unfortunately taken out as well. Marcus does manage to confront the secondary demon possessing Brother Simon, but by the time he finds out everything, he’s captured by Simon’s goons.
Our hope lies with Tomas (Alfonso Herrera), who’s been offered a promotion to a better church, and the Bishop will politely cover up his indiscretions with Jessica, and forget about your stupid little impoverished parish. It’s very tempting…except that ultimately, Tomas cares first and foremost about serving his people. He loves Jessica, but his collar comes first. As he says, he can’t take all these things and still look at himself in the mirror.
As it is, though, the choice to go back to his poor little parish pays dividends and reminds him of his priestly duties. Earlier in the episode, Henry tells Tomas that the word “162” has been stuck in his head for awhile, inexplicably. This doesn’t come home until Tomas’ assistant back at the Church finds herself engrossed in a copy of Kris MacNeil’s book. It turns out that “162” is a subtle clue–likely left by God–when he discovers that it’s the page number where Kris wrote her realization that Pazuzu would never stop trying to get Angela. Hence, the episode ends with Tomas breaking in on the hostage situation–he’s there to go full priest on this demon.
One last point: a lot of credit has to go to both Geena Davis and Hannah Kasulka this episode for demonstrating their acting range. With Casey, Kasulka has constantly had to channel Robert Emmett Lunney‘s Pazuzu. This is the first week we seem to get a “pure” Casey, broken as she is. It’s authentic and impressive, demonstrating a “new” character that Kasulka hasn’t had much of a chance to play yet. Davis, meanwhile, is fully unleashed as Lunney’s Pazuzu, and it’s scary. While Davis’ Angela has mostly played the shrinking violet and victim, this week, she’s a dangerous, demonic predator. If Davis has been underutilized this season, “162” more than makes up for it.
Rating: Five prayers out of five.