Bless me, readers, for I have sinned.
I missed Episode 4 of The Exorcist two weeks ago, as I had a prior commitment the night it aired. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get FOX’s website to work on my computer, so I haven’t been able to watch the online rebroadcast. So that leaves a hole in our coverage, and I’m sorry.
Although there’s a fringe benefit there. One of the struggles of season-long epic shows is accessibility to new viewers: how readily can someone walk into a series and understand what’s going on? Or, like me, can they miss an episode and not be too messed up by it?
I’ll say that for this week, I wasn’t too hurt by missing a single episode. The show is mostly at the same status as it was from episode 3: Andy’s home for wayward children is still having internal tension and demonic happenstance; off in Europe, Bennett and Mouse are still dealing with the possessed nun, Delores; and our two Priests have made our way to Andy’s isolated island (after helping bring over the new girl, Harper, who had been tortured by her mom the other week) and have become aware that something’s up at Andy’s house.
Oh, and turns-out-Andy’s-daughter-Grace-doesn’t-exist-and-she’s-actually-the demon.
Wham. OK, now that’s a doozy of a revelation which I don’t know if it was clearly revealed on the last episode. It certainly was a jarring thing to walk into at the beginning of this week’s episode. It starts innocuously enough, with Andy walking through the house to talk to the shy girl in the cleanly decorated room where she’s always hiding under a pillowcase mask. The scene quickly distorts, and Grace’s cute little girl’s room quickly distorts into a dirty, abandoned attic which serves as a shrine to Andy’s dead wife. Verity has snuck in there, and she’s questioning who “Grace” is and why Andy is calling for her.
Credit to the show: this is one of those delightful slights-of-hand which will make it worthwhile to go back and question “Grace’s” earlier appearances in the show. That’s part of the fun of watching something like The Sixth Sense on a second viewing, to watch for all the points at which we thought Bruce Willis’ dead character was “real.” Did Grace ever interact with the other foster kids? Did Andy ever talk to her in their presence? Did she show any sinister intent early on? Because, to date, we’ve only been led to believe that Caleb is the possessed kid here.
The larger question The Exorcist is going to have to address moving forward is what, exactly, “Grace” is. She’s a little different from the demons we’ve seen last season (the theme of which continues to spill over in Bennett’s European adventures). Not-inconsistent with Catholic theology, the show’s demons are ancient fallen spirits who seek to possess human souls for the sake of experiencing the corporeal world. “Grace” doesn’t quite seem to be into that. Season one’s Pazuzu appeared as a creepy old salesman, and this fit the classical notion of demons trying to make deals with people.
“Grace,” in contrast, really acts like a petulant child with a torture fixation. Andy, at least, has begun to recognize the unreality of Grace and spends much of the episode trying to ignore or escape her, going so far as to take the other kids out of the house on a camping trip and even attempting to confess his visions to the social worker, Rose. But Grace isn’t hearing it, and she’s descended from acting like a sweet child to acting like a jealous one who can’t stand the lack of Andy’s attention. In a particularly depraved move, she possesses one of the other kids, Truck, first forcing him to slam his head against a wall repeatedly, and then has him attempt to choke Verity to death. “Grace” takes on a new manifestation at the end of the episode that’s particularly cruel, and I’ll leave that one to shock the viewers.
What’s going on here, anyway? Marcus and Tomas engage in some undercover Priest detective work to figure that out. For Tomas, this merely involves breaking and entering into Andy’s home during the camping trip and having to experience the dark side of what’s intended to be a safe haven for lost kids. It’s creepy as heck, though it doesn’t reveal much beyond the depths of Grace’s depravity. Marcus, on the other hand, learns that demonic evil has been on this island for at least 50 years, going back to an old murder at a slumber party which shook the island community. Indeed, Tomas experiences visions of the island’s long history of murders, and learns a key phrase which suggests the demon’s motive: aeternum vale, in the English, “farewell forever.” What this means, we don’t know–but it’s creepy enough when you see it on screen, and even creepier when you run it through Google translate.
I’d wager that where The Exorcist is going this season is a little more exploration of human connections and how the demons attempt to disrupt those for the sake of offering a cheap substitute. This was generally how Pazuzu operated last season: he played on Casey Rance’s isolation from her family as an opportunity to get into her head and offer himself as a lover, while playing divide-and-conquer with the rest of the Rances. “Grace” is doing much the same, causing internal conflict and isolation among the kids, and even making a play that gets Child Protective Services involved.
The clue to the show’s possible solution comes in Marcus having a momentary romantic encounter with another man who, like him, is driven by a lot of pain at the horrors he’s witnessed in his life. Marcus, we’re reminded, has seen a lot of demon-driven horrors in his life, and they’re constantly with him when he shuts his eyes. The island’s boat master, Peter (Christopher Cousins), gives him a moment’s isolation in the middle of the lake which lets him experience a blissful solitude of nothingness. In sharing their pain, they’re able to move past it and experience a genuine human connection. This kind of love is probably how Andy and the kids need to overcome their own demons–real and metaphorical.
(Oh, and P.S., the show had a pop-up ad for Lucifer appear during a key scene where Tomas is investigating the house. Coincidental, I’m sure, but VERY, VERY CHEESY, FOX. Ad-guy really needs to think through that one.)
Rating: Four bonfires out of five.